Autonomous stair climbing for tracked vehicles

Anastasios I. Mourikis, Nikolas Trawny, Stergios I. Roumeliotis, Daniel M. Helmick, Larry Matthies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


In this paper, an algorithm for autonomous stair climbing with a tracked vehicle is presented. The proposed method achieves robust performance under real-world conditions, without assuming prior knowledge of the stair geometry, the dynamics of the vehicle's interaction with the stair surface, or lighting conditions. The approach relies on fast and accurate estimation of the robot's heading and its position relative to the stair boundaries. An extended Kalman filter is used for quaternion-based attitude estimation, fusing rotational velocity measurements from a 3-axial gyroscope, and measurements of the stair edges acquired with an onboard camera. A two-tiered controller, comprised of a centering- and a heading-control module, utilizes the estimates to guide the robot rapidly, safely, and accurately upstairs. Both the theoretical analysis and implementation of the algorithm are presented in detail, and extensive experimental results demonstrating the algorithm's performance are described.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)737-758
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Robotics Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Attitude estimation
  • Autonomous robots
  • Computer vision
  • Inertial sensing
  • Stair climbing


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