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Nonlinear flight controllers for fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can potentially be developed using deep reinforcement learning. However, there is often a reality gap between the simulation models used to train these controllers and the real world. This study experimentally investigated the application of deep reinforcement learning to the pitch control of a UAV in wind tunnel tests, with a particular focus of investigating the effect of time delays on flight controller performance. Multiple neural networks were trained in simulation with different assumed time delays and then wind tunnel tested. The neural networks trained with shorter delays tended to be susceptible to delay in the real tests and produce fluctuating behaviour. The neural networks trained with longer delays behaved more conservatively and did not produce oscillations but suffered steady state errors under some conditions due to unmodeled frictional effects. These results highlight the importance of performing physical experiments to validate controller performance and how the training approach used with reinforcement learning needs to be robust to reality gaps between simulation and the real world.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding: A part of this work was funded by JSPS KAKENHI (grant number JP19K04850). This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 679355).
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