Integrated design-sense-plan architecture for autonomous geometric-semantic mapping with UAVs

Rui Pimentel de Figueiredo*, Jonas Le Fevre Sejersen, Jakob Grimm Hansen, Martim Brandão

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article presents a complete solution for autonomous mapping and inspection tasks, namely a lightweight multi-camera drone design coupled with computationally efficient planning algorithms and environment representations for enhanced autonomous navigation in exploration and mapping tasks. The proposed system utilizes state-of-the-art Next-Best-View (NBV) planning techniques, with geometric and semantic segmentation information computed with Deep Convolutional Neural Networks (DCNNs) to improve the environment map representation. The main contributions of this article are the following. First, we propose a novel efficient sensor observation model and a utility function that encodes the expected information gains from observations taken from specific viewpoints. Second, we propose a reward function that incorporates both geometric and semantic probabilistic information provided by a DCNN for semantic segmentation that operates in close to real-time. The incorporation of semantics in the environment representation enables biasing exploration towards specific object categories while disregarding task-irrelevant ones during path planning. Experiments in both a virtual and a real scenario demonstrate the benefits on reconstruction accuracy of using semantics for biasing exploration towards task-relevant objects, when compared with purely geometric state-of-the-art methods. Finally, we present a unified approach for the selection of the number of cameras on a UAV, to optimize the balance between power consumption, flight-time duration, and exploration and mapping performance trade-offs. Unlike previous design optimization approaches, our method is couples with the sense and plan algorithms. The proposed system and general formulations can be be applied in the mapping, exploration, and inspection of any type of environment, as long as environment dependent semantic training data are available, with demonstrated successful applicability in the inspection of dry dock shipyard environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number911974
JournalFrontiers in Robotics and AI
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Autonomous Aerial Vehicles (AAV)
  • deep learning
  • design-optimization
  • multi-camera systems
  • next-best-view planning
  • semantic volumetric representation


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