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An improved ant colony algorithm, differential evolution chaos ant colony optimization (DEACO) algorithm, was proposed to plan an optimal collision-free path for mobile robot in 3-D environment. It utilized differential evolution algorithm to update pheromone and chaos disturbance factor was added when pheromone updates for possible stagnation phenomenon. So it enhances escaping capability of algorithm, avoids path-deadlock situations as well as improves the efficiency of planning optimal path. The simulation results indicated that the optimal path on which the robot moves can reach safely and can be rapidly obtained under 3-D space environment, the effect being very satisfactory.