Nonmyopic Adaptive Informative Path Planning for Multiple Robots

Many robotic path planning applications, such as search and rescue, involve uncertain environments with complex dynamics that can be only partially observed. When selecting the best subset of observation locations subject to constrained resources (such as limited time or battery capacity) it is an important problem to trade off exploration (gathering information about the environment) and exploitation (using the current knowledge about the environment most effectively) for efficiently observing these environments. Even the nonadaptive setting, where paths are planned before observations are made, is NP-hard, and has been subject to much research. In this paper, we present a novel approach to adaptive informative path planning that addresses this exploration-exploitation tradeoff. Our approach is nonmyopic, i.e. it plans ahead for possible observations that can be made in the future. We quantify the benefit of exploration through the “adaptivity gap” between an adaptive and a nonadaptive algorithm in terms of the uncertainty in the environment. Exploiting the submodularity (a diminishing returns property) and locality properties of the objective function, we develop an algorithm that performs provably near-optimally in settings where the adaptivity gap is small. In case of large gap, we use an objective function that simultaneously optimizes paths for exploration and exploitation. We also provide an algorithm to extend any single robot algorithm for adaptive informative path planning to the multi robot setting while approximately preserving the theoretical guarantee of the single robot algorithm. We extensively evaluate our approach on a search and rescue domain and a scientific monitoring problem using a real robotic system.

Amarjeet Singh, Andreas Krause, William J. Kaiser