Air Learning

Open-source simulator and a gym environment for deep reinforcement learning research on resource-constrained aerial robots

Released in: Air Learning: An AI Research Platform for Algorithm-Hardware Benchmarking of Autonomous Aerial Robots



Air Learning is an open-source simulator and a gym environment for deep reinforcement learning research on resource-constrained aerial robots. Equipped with domain randomization, Air Learning exposes a UAV agent to a diverse set of challenging scenarios. We seed the toolset with point-to-point obstacle avoidance tasks in three different environments and Deep Q Networks (DQN) and Proximal Policy Optimization (PPO) trainers. Air Learning assesses the policies’ performance under various quality-of-flight (QoF) metrics, such as the energy consumed, endurance, and the average trajectory length, on resource-constrained embedded platforms like a Raspberry Pi. The authors find that the trajectories on an embedded Ras-Pi are vastly different from those predicted on a high-end desktop system, resulting in up to 40% longer trajectories in one of the environments. To understand the source of such discrepancies, they use Air Learning to artificially degrade high-end desktop performance to mimic what happens on a low-end embedded system and then propose a mitigation technique that uses the hardware-in-the-loop to determine the latency distribution of running the policy on the target platform (onboard compute on the aerial robot). A randomly sampled latency from the latency distribution is then added as an artificial delay within the training loop. Training the policy with artificial delays allows to minimize the hardware gap (discrepancy in the flight time metric reduced from 37.73% to 0.5%). Thus, Air Learning with hardware-in-the-loop characterizes those differences and exposes how the onboard compute’s choice affects the aerial robot’s performance. The authors also conduct reliability studies to assess the effect of sensor failures on the learned policies. All put together, Air Learning enables a broad class of deep RL research on UAVs.


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Year Released

Key Links & Stats


@article{krishnan2021air, title={Air Learning: a deep reinforcement learning gym for autonomous aerial robot visual navigation}, author={Krishnan, Srivatsan and Boroujerdian, Behzad and Fu, William and Faust, Aleksandra and Reddi, Vijay Janapa}, journal={Machine Learning}, pages={1--40}, year={2021}, publisher={Springer} }



  1. Still Image
  2. Video
  3. 3D Asset


  1. A/V

ML Task

  1. Object Detection
  2. Semantic Segmentation
  3. Instance Segmentation
  4. Autonomous Vehicles
  5. Depth Estimation
  6. Scene Understanding

Related organizations

Harvard University