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Troi Williams, Po-Lun Chen, Sparsh Bhogavilli, Vaibhav Sanjay, Pratap Tokekar

We present DyFOS, an active perception method that Dynamically Finds Optimal States to minimize localization error while avoiding obstacles and occlusions. We consider the scenario where a ground target without any exteroceptive sensors must rely on an aerial observer for pose and uncertainty estimates to localize itself along an obstacle-filled path. The observer uses a downward-facing camera to estimate the target's pose and uncertainty. However, the pose uncertainty is a function of the states of the observer, target, and surrounding environment. To find an optimal state that minimizes the target's localization uncertainty, DyFOS uses a localization error prediction pipeline in an optimization search. Given the states mentioned above, the pipeline predicts the target's localization uncertainty with the help of a trained, complex state-dependent sensor measurement model (which is a probabilistic neural network in our case). Our pipeline also predicts target occlusion and obstacle collision to remove undesirable observer states. The output of the optimization search is an optimal observer state that minimizes target localization uncertainty while avoiding occlusion and collision. We evaluate the proposed method using numerical and simulated (Gazebo) experiments. Our results show that DyFOS is almost 100x faster than yet as good as brute force. Furthermore, DyFOS yielded lower localization errors than random and heuristic searches.

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Vishnu Dutt Sharma, John P. Dickerson, Pratap Tokekar

Green Security Games with real-time information (GSG-I) add the real-time information about the agents' movement to the typical GSG formulation. Prior works on GSG-I have used deep reinforcement learning (DRL) to learn the best policy for the agent in such an environment without any need to store the huge number of state representations for GSG-I. However, the decision-making process of DRL methods is largely opaque, which results in a lack of trust in their predictions. To tackle this issue, we present an interpretable DRL method for GSG-I that generates visualization to explain the decisions taken by the DRL algorithm. We also show that this approach performs better and works well with a simpler training regimen compared to the existing method.

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Shamak Dutta, Nils Wilde, Pratap Tokekar, Stephen L. Smith

We study the sample placement and shortest tour problem for robots tasked with mapping environmental phenomena modeled as stationary random fields. The objective is to minimize the resources used (samples or tour length) while guaranteeing estimation accuracy. We give approximation algorithms for both problems in convex environments. These improve previously known results, both in terms of theoretical guarantees and in simulations. In addition, we disprove an existing claim in the literature on a lower bound for a solution to the sample placement problem.

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Vishnu Dutt Sharma, Lifeng Zhou, Pratap Tokekar

Centralized approaches for multi-robot coverage planning problems suffer from the lack of scalability. Learning-based distributed algorithms provide a scalable avenue in addition to bringing data-oriented feature generation capabilities to the table, allowing integration with other learning-based approaches. To this end, we present a learning-based, differentiable distributed coverage planner (D2COPL A N) which scales efficiently in runtime and number of agents compared to the expert algorithm, and performs on par with the classical distributed algorithm. In addition, we show that D2COPlan can be seamlessly combined with other learning methods to learn end-to-end, resulting in a better solution than the individually trained modules, opening doors to further research for tasks that remain elusive with classical methods.

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Ahmad Bilal Asghar, Guangyao Shi, Nare Karapetyan, James Humann, Jean-Paul Reddinger, James Dotterweich, Pratap Tokekar

We study a resource allocation problem for the cooperative aerial-ground vehicle routing application, in which multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) with limited battery capacity and multiple Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) that can also act as a mobile recharging stations need to jointly accomplish a mission such as persistently monitoring a set of points. Due to the limited battery capacity of the UAVs, they sometimes have to deviate from their task to rendezvous with the UGVs and get recharged. Each UGV can serve a limited number of UAVs at a time. In contrast to prior work on deterministic multi-robot scheduling, we consider the challenge imposed by the stochasticity of the energy consumption of the UAV. We are interested in finding the optimal recharging schedule of the UAVs such that the travel cost is minimized and the probability that no UAV runs out of charge within the planning horizon is greater than a user-defined tolerance. We formulate this problem ({Risk-aware Recharging Rendezvous Problem (RRRP))} as an Integer Linear Program (ILP), in which the matching constraint captures the resource availability constraints and the knapsack constraint captures the success probability constraints. We propose a bicriteria approximation algorithm to solve RRRP. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our formulation and algorithm in the context of one persistent monitoring mission.

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Souradip Chakraborty, Amrit Singh Bedi, Alec Koppel, Pratap Tokekar, Dinesh Manocha

In this paper, we present a novel Heavy-Tailed Stochastic Policy Gradient (HT-PSG) algorithm to deal with the challenges of sparse rewards in continuous control problems. Sparse reward is common in continuous control robotics tasks such as manipulation and navigation, and makes the learning problem hard due to non-trivial estimation of value functions over the state space. This demands either reward shaping or expert demonstrations for the sparse reward environment. However, obtaining high-quality demonstrations is quite expensive and sometimes even impossible. We propose a heavy-tailed policy parametrization along with a modified momentum-based policy gradient tracking scheme (HT-SPG) to induce a stable exploratory behavior to the algorithm. The proposed algorithm does not require access to expert demonstrations. We test the performance of HT-SPG on various benchmark tasks of continuous control with sparse rewards such as 1D Mario, Pathological Mountain Car, Sparse Pendulum in OpenAI Gym, and Sparse MuJoCo environments (Hopper-v2). We show consistent performance improvement across all tasks in terms of high average cumulative reward. HT-SPG also demonstrates improved convergence speed with minimum samples, thereby emphasizing the sample efficiency of our proposed algorithm.

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Souradip Chakraborty, Amrit Singh Bedi, Alec Koppel, Brian M. Sadler, Furong Huang, Pratap Tokekar, Dinesh Manocha

In this work, we propose a novel ${\bf K}$ernelized ${\bf S}$tein Discrepancy-based Posterior Sampling for ${\bf RL}$ algorithm (named $\texttt{KSRL}$) which extends model-based RL based upon posterior sampling (PSRL) in several ways: we (i) relax the need for any smoothness or Gaussian assumptions, allowing for complex mixture models; (ii) ensure it is applicable to large-scale training by incorporating a compression step such that the posterior consists of a \emph{Bayesian coreset} of only statistically significant past state-action pairs; and (iii) develop a novel regret analysis of PSRL based upon integral probability metrics, which, under a smoothness condition on the constructed posterior, can be evaluated in closed form as the kernelized Stein discrepancy (KSD). Consequently, we are able to improve the $\mathcal{O}(H^{3/2}d\sqrt{T})$ {regret} of PSRL to $\mathcal{O}(H^{3/2}\sqrt{T})$, where $d$ is the input dimension, $H$ is the episode length, and $T$ is the total number of episodes experienced, alleviating a linear dependence on $d$ . Moreover, we theoretically establish a trade-off between regret rate with posterior representational complexity via introducing a compression budget parameter $\epsilon$ based on KSD, and establish a lower bound on the required complexity for consistency of the model. Experimentally, we observe that this approach is competitive with several state of the art RL methodologies, with substantive improvements in computation time. Experimentally, we observe that this approach is competitive with several state of the art RL methodologies, and can achieve up-to $50\%$ reduction in wall clock time in some continuous control environments.

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Guangyao Shi, Nare Karapetyan, Ahmad Bilal Asghar, Jean-Paul Reddinger, James Dotterweich, James Humann, Pratap Tokekar

We study a chance-constrained variant of the cooperative aerial-ground vehicle routing problem, in which an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) with limited battery capacity and an Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) that can also act as a mobile recharging station need to jointly accomplish a mission such as monitoring a set of points. Due to the limited battery capacity of the UAV, two vehicles sometimes have to deviate from their task to rendezvous and recharge the UAV\@. Unlike prior work that has focused on the deterministic case, we address the challenge of stochastic energy consumption of the UAV\@. We are interested in finding the optimal policy that decides when and where to rendezvous such that the expected travel time of the UAV is minimized and the probability of running out of charge is less than a user-defined tolerance. We formulate this problem as a Chance Constrained Markov Decision Process (CCMDP). To the best knowledge of the authors, this is the first CMDP-based formulation for the UAV-UGV routing problems under power consumption uncertainty. We adopt a Linear Programming (LP) based approach to solve the problem optimally. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our formulation in the context of an Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) mission.

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Vishnu Dutt Sharma, Jingxi Chen, Abhinav Shrivastava, Pratap Tokekar

In the typical path planning pipeline for a ground robot, we build a map (e.g., an occupancy grid) of the environment as the robot moves around. While navigating indoors, a ground robot's knowledge about the environment may be limited by the occlusions in its surroundings. Therefore, the map will have many as-yet-unknown regions that may need to be avoided by a conservative planner. Instead, if a robot is able to correctly infer what its surroundings and occluded regions look like, the navigation can be further optimized. In this work, we propose an approach using pix2pix and UNet to infer the occupancy grid in unseen areas near the robot as an image-to-image translation task. Our approach simplifies the task of occupancy map prediction for the deep learning network and reduces the amount of data required compared to similar existing methods. We show that the predicted map improves the navigation time in simulations over the existing approaches.

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Amrit Singh Bedi, Souradip Chakraborty, Anjaly Parayil, Brian Sadler, Pratap Tokekar, Alec Koppel

We focus on parameterized policy search for reinforcement learning over continuous action spaces. Typically, one assumes the score function associated with a policy is bounded, which fails to hold even for Gaussian policies. To properly address this issue, one must introduce an exploration tolerance parameter to quantify the region in which it is bounded. Doing so incurs a persistent bias that appears in the attenuation rate of the expected policy gradient norm, which is inversely proportional to the radius of the action space. To mitigate this hidden bias, heavy-tailed policy parameterizations may be used, which exhibit a bounded score function, but doing so can cause instability in algorithmic updates. To address these issues, in this work, we study the convergence of policy gradient algorithms under heavy-tailed parameterizations, which we propose to stabilize with a combination of mirror ascent-type updates and gradient tracking. Our main theoretical contribution is the establishment that this scheme converges with constant step and batch sizes, whereas prior works require these parameters to respectively shrink to null or grow to infinity. Experimentally, this scheme under a heavy-tailed policy parameterization yields improved reward accumulation across a variety of settings as compared with standard benchmarks.

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