Skip to Main Content
A new maritime navigation system based on a laser range-finder scanner for obstacle avoidance and precise maneuvering operations is described in this paper. The main novelty of this work is the adaptation and implementation of known technology for laser range finding and algorithms for target tracking into a system that operates in real time and has been tested in different natural sea and inland navigation scenarios. The principal components of this system, namely, 1) the laser range finder, 2) the scanning unit, and 3) the data processing and displaying unit, are described in detail. Ladar images are dense horizontally and sparse vertically as a compromise between capturing relevant features and quick frame formation. Images are processed for range outlier removal, and significant observable patterns are extracted. This multiple-target tracking problem is tackled using robust Kalman filtering techniques for continuous tracking of each detected observation. We minimize unreliable track initializations and preserve tracks from deletion during temporal misobservations. The evaluation in open-sea and inland waterways gave good results, making the system valid for precise maneuvering, fluent navigation, and accident mitigation. Objects of interest, from boats to ships, are detected and robustly tracked; pier and lock chamber sketches are reliable; bridge height estimation is precise; and narrow waterways (river banks and bridge columns) are correctly detected. The prototype developed can be considered to be a very valuable complementary device to traditional radar-based techniques that are not totally valid for accurate short-range exploration, improving efficiency and safety in ship operations.