SIMULATION EXPERIMENT ON LANDING SITE SELECTION USING A SIMPLE GEOMETRIC APPROACH
Safe landing is an important part of the planetary exploration mission. Even fine scale terrain hazards (such as rocks, small craters, steep slopes, which would not be accurately detected from orbital reconnaissance) could also pose a serious risk on planetary lander or rover and scientific instruments on-board it. In this paper, a simple geometric approach on planetary landing hazard detection and safe landing site selection is proposed. In order to achieve full implementation of this algorithm, two easy-to-compute metrics are presented for extracting the terrain slope and roughness information. Unlike conventional methods which must do the robust plane fitting and elevation interpolation for DEM generation, in this work, hazards is identified through the processing directly on LiDAR point cloud. For safe landing site selection, a Generalized Voronoi Diagram is constructed. Based on the idea of maximum empty circle, the safest landing site can be determined. In this algorithm, hazards are treated as general polygons, without special simplification (e.g. regarding hazards as discrete circles or ellipses). So using the aforementioned method to process hazards is more conforming to the real planetary exploration scenario. For validating the approach mentioned above, a simulated planetary terrain model was constructed using volcanic ash with rocks in indoor environment. A commercial laser scanner mounted on a rail was used to scan the terrain surface at different hanging positions. The results demonstrate that fairly hazard detection capability and reasonable site selection was obtained compared with conventional method, yet less computational time and less memory usage was consumed. Hence, it is a feasible candidate approach for future precision landing selection on planetary surface.