Online learning algorithms: For passivity-based and distributed control

Subramanya Nageshrao

    Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

    41 Downloads (Pure)


    Over the last couple of decades the demand for high precision and enhanced performance of physical systems has been steadily increasing. This demand often results in miniaturization and complex design, thus increasing the need for complex nonlinear control methods. Some of the state of the art nonlinear methods are stymied by the requirement of full state information, model and parameter uncertainties, mathematical complexity, etc. For many scenarios it is nearly impossible to consider all the uncertainties during the design of a feedback controller. Additionally, while designing a modelbased nonlinear control there is no standard mechanism to incorporate performance measures. Some of the mentioned issues can be addressed by using online learning.
    Animals and humans have the ability to share, explore, act or respond, memorize the outcome and repeat the task to achieve a better outcome when they encounter the same or a similar scenario. This is called learning from interaction. One instance of this approach is reinforcement learning (RL). However, RL methods are hindered by the curse of dimensionality, non-interpretability and non-monotonic convergence of the learning algorithms. This can be attributed to the intrinsic characteristics of RL, as it is a modelfree approach and hence no standard mechanism exists to incorporate à priori model information.
    In this thesis, learning methods are proposed which explicitly use the available system knowledge. This can be seen as a new class of approaches that bridge model-based and model-free methods. These methods can address some of the hurdles mentioned earlier. For example, i) a prior system information can speed up the learning, ii) new control objectives can be achieved which otherwise would be extremely difficult to attain using only model-based methods, iii) physical meaning can be attributed to the learned controller.
    The developed approach is as follows: themodel of the given physical system is represented in the port-Hamiltonian (PH) form. For the system dynamics in PH form a passivity-based control (PBC) law is formulated, which often requires the solution to a set of partial differential equations (PDEs). Instead of finding an analytical solution, the PBC control law is parameterized using an unknown parameter vector. Then, by using a variation of the standard actor-critic learning algorithm, the unknown parameters can be learned online. Using the principles of stochastic approximation theory, a proof of convergence for the developed method is shown. The proposedmethods are evaluated for the stabilization and regulation ofmechanical and electro-mechanical systems. The simulation and experimental results show comparable learning curves.
    In the final part of the thesis a novel integral reinforcement learning approach is developed to solve for the optimal output tracking control problem for a set of linear heterogeneous multi-agent systems. Unlike existing methods, this approach does not need to solve either the output regulator equation or requires a p-copy of the leader’s dynamics in the agent’s control law. A detailed numerical evaluation has been conducted to show the feasibility of the developed method.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Delft University of Technology
    • Babuska, R., Supervisor
    • Delgado Lopes, Gabriel, Advisor
    Award date18 Apr 2016
    Place of PublicationDelft, The Netherlands
    Print ISBNs9789461866219
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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