Three‐dimensional reconstruction of underwater objects using wide‐aperture imaging SONAR

Thomas Guerneve, Kartic Subr, Yvan Petillot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)
225 Downloads (Pure)


The estimation of the geometric structure of objects located underwater underpins a plethora of applications such as mapping shipwrecks for archaeology, monitoring the health of coral reefs, detecting faults in offshore oil rigs and pipelines, detection and identification of potential threats on the seabed, etc. Acoustic imaging is the most popular choice for underwater sensing. Underwater exploratory vehicles typically employ wide‐aperture Sound Navigation and Ranging (SONAR) imaging sensors. Although their wide aperture enables scouring large volumes of water ahead of them for obstacles, the resulting images produced are blurry due to integration over the aperture. Performing three‐dimensional (3D) reconstruction from this blurry data is notoriously difficult. This challenging inverse problem is further exacerbated by the presence of speckle noise and reverberations. The state‐of‐the‐art methods in 3D reconstruction from sonar either require bulky and expensive matrix‐arrays of sonar sensors or additional narrow‐aperture sensors. Due to its low footprint, the latter induces gaps between reconstructed scans. Avoiding such gaps requires slow and cumbersome scanning by the vehicles that carry the scanners. In this paper, we present two reconstruction methods enabling on‐site 3D reconstruction from imaging sonars of any aperture. The first of these presents an elegant linear formulation of the problem, as a blind deconvolution with a spatially varying kernel. The second method is a simple algorithmic approach for approximate reconstruction, using a nonlinear formulation. We demonstrate that our simple approximation algorithms perform 3D reconstruction directly from the data recorded by wide‐aperture systems, thus eliminating the need for multiple sensors to be mounted on underwater vehicles for this purpose. Additionally, we observe that the wide aperture may be exploited to improve the coverage of the reconstructed samples (on the scanned object's surface). We demonstrate the efficacy of our algorithms on simulated as well as real data acquired using two sensors, and we compare our work to the state of the art in sonar reconstruction. Finally, we show the employability of our reconstruction methods on field data gathered by an autonomous underwater vehicle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)890-905
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Field Robotics
Issue number6
Early online date31 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


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