This paper presents the development of an underwater omnidirectional multi-camera system (OMS) based on a commercially available six-camera system, originally designed for land applications. A full calibration method is presented for the estimation of both the intrinsic and extrinsic parameters, which is able to cope with wide-angle lenses and non-overlapping cameras simultaneously. This method is valid for any OMS in both land or water applications. For underwater use, a customized housing is required, which often leads to strong image distortion due to refraction among the different media. This phenomena makes the basic pinhole camera model invalid for underwater cameras, especially when using wide-angle lenses, and requires the explicit modeling of the individual optical rays. To address this problem, a ray tracing approach has been adopted to create a field-of-view (FOV) simulator for underwater cameras. The simulator allows for the testing of different housing geometries and optics for the cameras to ensure a complete hemisphere coverage in underwater operation. This paper describes the design and testing of a compact custom housing for a commercial off-the-shelf OMS camera (Ladybug 3) and presents the first results of its use. A proposed three-stage calibration process allows for the estimation of all of the relevant camera parameters. Experimental results are presented, which illustrate the performance of the calibration method and validate the approach.
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