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IEEE Trans Cybern. 2014 Dec;44(12):2719-32. doi: 10.1109/TCYB.2014.2314294. Epub 2014 Apr 18.

A learning-based semi-autonomous controller for robotic exploration of unknown disaster scenes while searching for victims.


Semi-autonomous control schemes can address the limitations of both teleoperation and fully autonomous robotic control of rescue robots in disaster environments by allowing a human operator to cooperate and share such tasks with a rescue robot as navigation, exploration, and victim identification. In this paper, we present a unique hierarchical reinforcement learning-based semi-autonomous control architecture for rescue robots operating in cluttered and unknown urban search and rescue (USAR) environments. The aim of the controller is to enable a rescue robot to continuously learn from its own experiences in an environment in order to improve its overall performance in exploration of unknown disaster scenes. A direction-based exploration technique is integrated in the controller to expand the search area of the robot via the classification of regions and the rubble piles within these regions. Both simulations and physical experiments in USAR-like environments verify the robustness of the proposed HRL-based semi-autonomous controller to unknown cluttered scenes with different sizes and varying types of configurations.

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