Multi-sensor fusion is a fundamental problem in Robot Perception. For a robot to operate in a real world environment, multiple sensors are often needed. Thus, fusing data from various sensors accurately is vital for robot perception. In the first part of this thesis, the problem of fusing information from a LIDAR, a color camera and a thermal camera to build RGB-Depth-Thermal (RGBDT) maps is investigated. An algorithm that solves a non-linear optimization problem to compute the relative pose between the cameras and the LIDAR is presented. The relative pose estimate is then used to find the color and thermal texture of each LIDAR point. Next, the various sources of error that can cause the mis-coloring of a LIDAR point after the cross- calibration are identified. Theoretical analyses of these errors reveal that the coloring errors due to noisy LIDAR points, errors in the estimation of the camera matrix, and errors in the estimation of translation between the sensors disappear with distance. But errors in the estimation of the rotation between the sensors causes the coloring error to increase with distance.
On a robot (vehicle) with multiple sensors, sensor fusion algorithms allow us to represent the data in the vehicle frame. But data acquired temporally in the vehicle frame needs to be registered in a global frame to obtain a map of the environment. Mapping techniques involving the Iterative Closest Point (ICP) algorithm and the Normal Distributions Transform (NDT) assume that a good initial estimate of the transformation between the 3D scans is available. This restricts the ability to stitch maps that were acquired at different times. Mapping can become flexible if maps that were acquired temporally can be merged later. To this end, the second part of this thesis focuses on developing an automated algorithm that fuses two maps by finding a congruent set of five points forming a pyramid.
Mapping has various application domains beyond Robot Navigation. The third part of this thesis considers a unique application domain where the surface displace- ments caused by an earthquake are to be recovered using pre- and post-earthquake LIDAR data. A technique to recover the 3D surface displacements is developed and the results are presented on real earthquake datasets: El Mayur Cucupa earthquake, Mexico, 2010 and Fukushima earthquake, Japan, 2011.