Using LiDAR sensors for tracking and monitoring an operating aircraft is a new application. In this paper, we present data processing methods to estimate the heading of a taxiing aircraft using laser point clouds. During the data acquisition, a Velodyne HDL-32E laser scanner tracked a moving Cessna 172 airplane. The point clouds captured at different times were used for heading estimation. After addressing the problem and specifying the equation of motion to reconstruct the aircraft point cloud from the consecutive scans, three methods are investigated here. The first requires a reference model to estimate the relative angle from the captured data by fitting different cross-sections (horizontal profiles). In the second approach, iterative closest point (ICP) method is used between the consecutive point clouds to determine the horizontal translation of the captured aircraft body. Regarding the ICP, three different versions were compared, namely, the ordinary 3D, 3-DoF 3D and 2-DoF 3D ICP. It was found that 2-DoF 3D ICP provides the best performance. Finally, the last algorithm searches for the unknown heading and velocity parameters by minimizing the volume of the reconstructed plane. The three methods were compared using three test datatypes which are distinguished by object-sensor distance, heading and velocity. We found that the ICP algorithm fails at long distances and when the aircraft motion direction perpendicular to the scan plane, but the first and the third methods give robust and accurate results at 40m object distance and at ~12 knots for a small Cessna airplane.
Z. Koppanyi, C. K. Toth,, "Estimating Taxiing Aircraft Heading Based on Laserscanner Derived Point Clouds", ISPRS Annals of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, Volume II-3/W4, pp.95-102, March 2015, https://doi.org/10.5194/isprsannals-II-3-W4-95-2015