An algorithm that produces estimates of the state of a system based on a sequence of noisy observations, making it an important topic in control systems.
Kalman filtering, also known as linear quadratic estimation (LQE), is an algorithm that uses a series of measurements observed over time, containing statistical noise and other inaccuracies, and produces estimates of unknown variables that tend to be more precise than those based on a single measurement alone. The filter is named after Rudolf E. Kálmán, one of the primary developers of its theory. The Kalman filter has numerous applications in technology. A common application is for guidance, navigation and control of vehicles, particularly aircraft and spacecraft. Furthermore, the Kalman filter is a widely applied concept in time series analysis used in fields such as signal processing and econometrics. Kalman filters also are one of the main topics in the field of robotic motion planning and control, and they are sometimes included in trajectory optimization. The algorithm works in a two-step process. In the prediction step, the Kalman filter produces estimates of the current state variables, along with their uncertainties. Once the outcome of the next measurement (necessarily corrupted with some amount of error, including random noise) is observed, these estimates are updated using a weighted average, with more weight being given to estimates with higher certainty. The algorithm is recursive. It can run in real time, using only the present input measurements and the previously calculated state and its uncertainty matrix; no additional past information is required. The Kalman filter does not require any assumption that the errors are Gaussian. However, the filter yields the exact conditional probability estimate in the special case that all errors are Gaussian-distributed. Extensions and generalizations to the method have also been developed, such as the extended Kalman filter and the unscented Kalman filter which work on nonlinear systems. The underlying model is a Bayesian model similar to a hidden Markov model but where the state space of the latent variables is continuous and where all latent and observed variables have Gaussian distributions.