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Neuroevolutionary Reinforcement Learning for Generalized Helicopter Control

Rogier Koppejan and Shimon Whiteson


Helicopter hovering is an important challenge problem in the field of reinforcement learning. This paper considers several neuroevolutionary approaches to discovering robust controllers for a generalized version of the problem used in the 2008 Reinforcement Learning Competition, in which wind in the helicopter's environment varies from run to run. We present the simple model-free strategy that won first place in the competition and also describe several more complex model-based approaches. Our empirical results demonstrate that neuroevolution is effective at optimizing the weights of multi-layer perceptrons, that linear regression is faster and more effective than evolution for learning models, and that model-based approaches can outperform the simple model-free strategy, especially if prior knowledge is used to aid model learning.

Book Title
GECCO 2009: Proceedings of the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference