DOI: 10.3390/drones7090549 ISSN:

Stepwise Soft Actor–Critic for UAV Autonomous Flight Control

Ha Jun Hwang, Jaeyeon Jang, Jongkwan Choi, Jung Ho Bae, Sung Ho Kim, Chang Ouk Kim
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Information Systems
  • Control and Systems Engineering

Despite the growing demand for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the use of conventional UAVs is limited, as most of them require being remotely operated by a person who is not within the vehicle’s field of view. Recently, many studies have introduced reinforcement learning (RL) to address hurdles for the autonomous flight of UAVs. However, most previous studies have assumed overly simplified environments, and thus, they cannot be applied to real-world UAV operation scenarios. To address the limitations of previous studies, we propose a stepwise soft actor–critic (SeSAC) algorithm for efficient learning in a continuous state and action space environment. SeSAC aims to overcome the inefficiency of learning caused by attempting challenging tasks from the beginning. Instead, it starts with easier missions and gradually increases the difficulty level during training, ultimately achieving the final goal. We also control a learning hyperparameter of the soft actor–critic algorithm and implement a positive buffer mechanism during training to enhance learning effectiveness. Our proposed algorithm was verified in a six-degree-of-freedom (DOF) flight environment with high-dimensional state and action spaces. The experimental results demonstrate that the proposed algorithm successfully completed missions in two challenging scenarios, one for disaster management and another for counter-terrorism missions, while surpassing the performance of other baseline approaches.

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