In this paper, we propose a novel approach to obtain accurate 3D reconstructions of large-scale environments by means of a mobile acquisition platform. The system incorporates a Velodyne LiDAR scanner, as well as a Point Grey Ladybug panoramic camera system. It was designed with genericity in mind, and hence, it does not make any assumption about the scene or about the sensor set-up. The main novelty of this work is that the proposed LiDAR mapping approach deals explicitly with the inhomogeneous density of point clouds produced by LiDAR scanners. To this end, we keep track of a global 3D map of the environment, which is continuously improved and refined by means of a surface reconstruction technique. Moreover, we perform surface analysis on consecutive generated point clouds in order to assure a perfect alignment with the global 3D map. In order to cope with drift, the system incorporates loop closure by determining the pose error and propagating it back in the pose graph. Our algorithm was exhaustively tested on data captured at a conference building, a university campus and an industrial site of a chemical company. Experiments demonstrate that it is capable of generating highly accurate 3D maps in very challenging environments. We can state that the average distance of corresponding point pairs between the ground truth and estimated point cloud approximates one centimeter for an area covering approximately 4000 m
. To prove the genericity of the system, it was tested on the well-known Kitti vision benchmark. The results show that our approach competes with state of the art methods without making any additional assumptions.
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