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Vision-based heading estimation for navigation of a micro-aerial vehicle in GNSS-denied staircase environment using vanishing point

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Micro-aerial vehicles (MAVs) find it extremely difficult to navigate in GNSS-denied indoor staircase environments with obstructed Global navigation satellite system (GNSS) signals. To avoid hitting both static and moving obstacles, MAV must estimate its position and heading in the staircase indoor scenes. In order to detect vanishing points and estimate heading for MAV navigation in a staircase environment, five different input colour space image frames—namely RGB image into a grayscale image and RGB image into hyper-opponent colour space—O1, O2, O3, and Sobel R channel image frames—have been used in this work. To determine the position and direction of the MAV, the Hough transform technique and K-means clustering algorithm have been incorporated for line and vanishing point recognition in the staircase image frames. The position of the vanishing point detected in the staircase image frames indicates the position of the MAV (Centre, left or right) in the staircase. In addition, to compute the heading of MAV, the Euclidean distance between the staircase picture centre, mid-pixel coordinates at the image’s last row, and the detected vanishing point pixel coordinates in the succeeding staircase image frames are used. The position and heading measurement can be utilised to send the MAV a suitable control signal and align it at the centre of the staircase when it deviates from the centre. The integrated Hough transform technique and K-means clustering-based vanishing point detection are suitable for real-time MAV heading measurement using the O2 channel staircase image frames for indoor MAVs with a high accuracy of ± 0.15° when compared to the state-of-the-art grid-based vanishing point detection method heading accuracy of ± 1.5°.

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Availability of data and materials

The data and code used for this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.



Micro-aerial vehicle


Global positioning system


Visual simultaneous localisation and mapping


Monocular simultaneous localisation and mapping


Extended Kalman filter




Vector field histogram


Inertial measurement unit


Root-mean-squared error


Mean absolute error


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Anbarasu B has conducted the experiment and drafted the manuscript of the paper. The author read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to B. Anbarasu.

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Anbarasu, B. Vision-based heading estimation for navigation of a micro-aerial vehicle in GNSS-denied staircase environment using vanishing point. AS 7, 395–418 (2024).

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