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Robust Reinforcement Learning

Abstract: A reinforcement learning (RL) control policy could fail in a new/perturbed environment that is different from the training environment, due to the presence of dynamic variations. For controlling systems with continuous state and action spaces, we propose an add-on approach to robustifying a pre-trained RL policy by augmenting it with an L1 adaptive controller (L1AC). Leveraging the capability of an L1AC for fast estimation and active compensation of dynamic variations, the proposed approach can improve the robustness of an RL policy, which is trained either in a simulator or in the real world without consideration of a broad class of dynamic variations. Numerical and real-world experiments empirically demonstrate the efficacy of the proposed approach in robustifying RL policies trained using both model-free and model-based methods.

Paper Links:

IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters (RA-L): Improving the Robustness of Reinforcement Learning Policies With - Adaptive Control | IEEE Journals & Magazine | IEEE Xplore

arXiv: [2112.01953] Improving the Robustness of Reinforcement Learning Policies with $\mathcal{L}_{1}$ Adaptive Control (

Safe Reinforcement Learning

Abstract: Safe reinforcement learning (RL) with assured satisfaction of hard state constraints during training has recently received a lot of attention. Safety filters, e.g., based on control barrier functions (CBFs), provide a promising way for safe RL via modifying the unsafe actions of an RL agent on the fly. Existing safety filter-based approaches typically involve learning of uncertain dynamics and quantifying the learned model error, which leads to conservative filters before a large amount of data is collected to learn a good model, thereby preventing efficient exploration. This paper presents a method for safe and efficient RL using disturbance observers (DOBs) and control barrier functions (CBFs). Unlike most existing safe RL methods that deal with hard state constraints, our method does not involve model learning, and leverages DOBs to accurately estimate the pointwise value of the uncertainty, which is then incorporated into a robust CBF condition to generate safe actions. The DOB-based CBF can be used as a safety filter with model-free RL algorithms by minimally modifying the actions of an RL agent whenever necessary to ensure safety throughout the learning process. Simulation results on a unicycle and a 2D quadrotor demonstrate that the proposed method outperforms a state-of-the-art safe RL algorithm using CBFs and Gaussian processes-based model learning, in terms of safety violation rate, and sample and computational efficiency.

Paper Links:

The Conference on Learning for Dynamics and Control (L4DC): cheng23a.pdf (

arXiv: [2211.17250] Safe and Efficient Reinforcement Learning Using Disturbance-Observer-Based Control Barrier Functions (

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