In this article, a novel dense underwater 3-D mapping paradigm based on pose graph simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) using an acoustic camera mounted on a rotator is proposed. The demands of underwater tasks, such as unmanned construction using robots, are growing rapidly. In recent years, the acoustic camera, which is a state-of-the-art forward-looking imaging sonar, has been gradually applied in underwater exploration. However, distinctive imaging principles make it difficult to gain an intuitive perception of an underwater environment. In this study, an acoustic camera with a rotator was used for dense 3-D mapping of the underwater environment. The proposed method first applies a 3-D occupancy mapping framework based on the acoustic camera rotating around the acoustic axis using a rotator at a stationary position to generate 3-D local maps. Then, scan matching of adjacent local maps is implemented to calculate odometry without involving internal sensors, and an approximate dense global map is built in real time. Finally, based on a graph optimization scheme, offline refinement is performed to generate a final dense global map. Our experimental results demonstrate that our 3-D mapping framework for an acoustic camera can achieve dense 3-D mapping of underwater environments robustly and accurately.
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