article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette describes a growing debate
over the use of robots to map abandoned mines. Inaccurate maps of the
abandoned Saxman Mine were partly to blame for the recent flooding of
Quecreek mine. Now some US Senators are calling for the use of robots to
make precise maps of other abandoned mines. Some traditional mining
engineers, however, are calling the idea of robot mine mappers "ridiculous".
At AAAI this year we saw several robots making very accurate maps of
their environments using laser sensors in the RoboRescue competition.
One of the big problems with making good maps is registering the laser
data to your wheel encoders. This can be a bit difficult in small
spaces, but for a mine map you'd be fine with resolutions of about a
foot, so a little encoder float wouldn't be a problem. You could also
use GPS for localization rather than encoders.
Another idea might be having the robot operator identify features in the
laser data, which would allow the robot to relocalize, and would bypass
the need for super accurate encoders.