Semantic-based adaptive mission planning for unmanned underwater vehicles
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Current underwater robotic platforms rely upon waypoint-based scripted missions which are described by the operator a-priori. This renders systems incapable of reacting to the unexpected. In this thesis, we claim that the ability to autonomously adapt the decision making process is the key to facilitating the change over from human intervention to intelligent autonomy. We identify goal-based declarative mission planning as an attractive solution to autonomous adaptability because it combines autonomous decision making with higher levels of human interaction. Goal-based mission planning requires the use of abstract knowledge representation and situation awareness to link the prior knowledge provided by the operator with the information coming from the processed sensor data. To achieve this, we propose a semantic-based knowledge representation framework that allows this integration of prior and processed information among all different agents available in the platform. In order to evaluate adaptive mission planning techniques, we also introduce a novel metric which measures the proximity between plans. We demonstrate that this metric is better informed than previous metrics for measuring the adaptation process. In this thesis we implement three different approaches to goal-based mission planning in order to investigate which approach is most appropriate under different circumstances. The first approach, continuous mission planning, focusses on long-term deployment. This approach is based on a continuous re-assessment of the status of the mission environment. Using our proximity metric, we evaluated this approach and show that there is a high degree of similarity between our approach and the humanly driven adaptation, both in a known static environment and in a partially-known dynamic discoverable environment. The second, service-oriented mission planning, makes use of the semantic framework to provide autonomous mission planning for the dynamic discovery of the services published by the different agents in the system. This allows platform independence, easing the manual creation of mission plans, and robustness to changes. We show that this approach produces the same plans as the baseline which was explicitly provided with the platform configuration. The last approach, mission plan repair, handles the scenario where small changes occur in the mission environment and there are limited resources for planning. We develop and deploy a mission plan repair approach within a semantic-based autonomous planning system in a real underwater vehicle. Experiments demonstrate that the integrated system is capable of providing mission adaptation for maintaining the operability of the host platform in the face of unexpected events.