Learning vehicular dynamics, with application to modeling helicopters

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 18 (NIPS 2005)

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Pieter Abbeel, Varun Ganapathi, Andrew Ng


We consider the problem of modeling a helicopter's dynamics based on state-action trajectories collected from it. The contribution of this paper is two-fold. First, we consider the linear models such as learned by C I F E R (the industry standard in helicopter identification), and show that the linear parameterization makes certain properties of dynamical systems, such as inertia, fundamentally difficult to capture. We propose an alternative, acceleration based, parameterization that does not suffer from this deficiency, and that can be learned as efficiently from data. Second, a Markov decision process model of a helicopter's dynamics would explicitly model only the one-step transitions, but we are often interested in a model's predictive performance over longer timescales. In this paper, we present an efficient algorithm for (approximately) minimizing the prediction error over long time scales. We present empirical results on two different helicopters. Although this work was motivated by the problem of modeling helicopters, the ideas presented here are general, and can be applied to modeling large classes of vehicular dynamics.