AIR-SOAR: Intelligent Multi-Level Control

Douglas J. Pearson, Randolph M. Jones, John E. Laird

Autonomous systems must be able to deal with dynamic, unpredictable environments in real time. Our video describes a system for intelligent control of an airplane, within a realistic flight simulator (the Silicon Graphics flight simulator). The simulator allows asynchronous control of the plane’s throttle, ailerons, elevator and other control surfaces by an external system, and it provides limited asynchronous sensing of the plane’s motion. The result is a highly dynamic, real time domain in which models of the plane (and, potentially, other aircraft) are updated 20 times a second. Control of flight is complex. Unexpected events such as wind or turbulence must be responded to in a timely fashion. Further, identical control movements have different effects depending on the plane’s position and environmental conditions, making precise prediction of action effects difficult. The agent must also deal with delays in feedback from its actions, waiting for the plane to respond to changes in the control surfaces. The domain requires simultaneous execution of a range of tasks at different levels of complexity and granularity, from high level maneuvers like takeoff, landing and banked turns to low level tasks such as maintaining altitude, keeping the wings level and controlling the stick.

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