Improving Autonomous Separation Assurance through Distributed Reinforcement Learning with Attention Networks


  • Marc W. Brittain MIT Lincoln Laboratory
  • Luis E. Alvarez MIT Lincoln Laboratory
  • Kara Breeden MIT Lincoln Laboratory



Distributed AI , Track: Emerging Applications, Transportation, Deep Learning and Neural Networks


Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) introduces a new, efficient mode of transportation with the use of vehicle autonomy and electrified aircraft to provide increasingly autonomous transportation between previously underserved markets. Safe and efficient navigation of low altitude aircraft through highly dense environments requires the integration of a multitude of complex observations, such as surveillance, knowledge of vehicle dynamics, and weather. The processing and reasoning on these observations pose challenges due to the various sources of uncertainty in the information while ensuring cooperation with a variable number of aircraft in the airspace. These challenges coupled with the requirement to make safety-critical decisions in real-time rule out the use of conventional separation assurance techniques. We present a decentralized reinforcement learning framework to provide autonomous self-separation capabilities within AAM corridors with the use of speed and vertical maneuvers. The problem is formulated as a Markov Decision Process and solved by developing a novel extension to the sample-efficient, off-policy soft actor-critic (SAC) algorithm. We introduce the use of attention networks for variable-length observation processing and a distributed computing architecture to achieve high training sample throughput as compared to existing approaches. A comprehensive numerical study shows that the proposed framework can ensure safe and efficient separation of aircraft in high density, dynamic environments with various sources of uncertainty.




How to Cite

Brittain, M. W., Alvarez, L. E., & Breeden, K. (2024). Improving Autonomous Separation Assurance through Distributed Reinforcement Learning with Attention Networks. Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 38(21), 22857-22863.