TitleA Fast Markov Decision Process based Algorithm for Collision Avoidance in Urban Air Mobility
Publication TypeJournal Articles
AuthorsBertram, J., P. Wei, and J. Zambreno
JournalIEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems (T-ITS)

Multiple aircraft collision avoidance is a challenging problem due to a stochastic environment and uncertainty in the intent of other aircraft. Traditionally a layered approach to collision avoidance has been employed using a centralized air traffic control system, established rules of the road, separation assurance, and last minute pairwise collision avoidance. With the advent of Urban Air Mobility (air taxis), the expected increase in traffic density in urban environments, short time scales, and small distances between aircraft favor decentralized decision making on-board the aircraft. In this paper, we present a Markov Decision Process (MDP) based method, named FastMDP, which can solve a certain subclass of MDPs quickly, and demonstrate using the algorithm online to safely maintain separation and avoid collisions with multiple aircraft (1-on-n) while remaining computationally efficient. We compare the FastMDP algorithm’s performance against two online collision avoidance algorithms that have been shown to be both efficient and scale to large numbers of aircraft: Optimal Reciprocal Collision Avoidance (ORCA) and Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS). Our simulation results show that under the assumption that aircraft do not have perfect knowledge of other aircraft intent FastMDP outperforms ORCA and MCTS in collision avoidance behavior in terms of loss of separation and near mid-air collisions while being more computationally efficient. We further show that in our simulation FastMDP behaves nearly as well as MCTS with perfect knowledge of other aircraft intent. Our results show that FastMDP is a promising algorithm for collision avoidance that is also computationally efficient.