Navigation Around an Unknown Obstacle for Autonomous Surface Vehicles Using a Forward-Facing Sonar

Date of Submission: 
April 16, 2015
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A robotic boat is moving between two points when it encounters an obstacle of unknown size. The boat must find a short path around the obstacle to resume its original course. How should the boat move when it can only sense the proximity of the obstacle, and does not have prior information about the obstacle’s size? We study this problem for a robotic boat with a forward-facing sonar. We study two versions of the problem. First, we solve a simplified case when the obstacle is a rectangle of known orientation but unknown dimensions. Second, we study a more general case where an arbitrarily shaped obstacle is contained between two known parallel lines. We study the performance of the algorithms analytically using competitive analysis and present results from field experiments. The experimental setup is relevant for harbor patrol or autonomous navigation in shallow water.