Abstract: Obstacle avoidance for small unmanned aircraft is vital for the safety of
future urban air mobility (UAM) and Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic
Management (UTM). There are many techniques for real-time robust drone
guidance, but many of them solve in discretized airspace and control, which
would require an additional path smoothing step to provide flexible commands
for UAS. To provide a safe and efficient computational guidance of operations
for unmanned aircraft, we explore the use of a deep reinforcement learning
algorithm based on Proximal Policy Optimization (PPO) to guide autonomous UAS
to their destinations while avoiding obstacles through continuous control. The
proposed scenario state representation and reward function can map the
continuous state space to continuous control for both heading angle and speed.
To verify the performance of the proposed learning framework, we conducted
numerical experiments with static and moving obstacles. Uncertainties
associated with the environments and safety operation bounds are investigated
in detail. Results show that the proposed model can provide accurate and robust
guidance and resolve conflict with a success rate of over 99%.