We present Plume Localization under Uncertainty using Maximum-ValuE information and Search (PLUMES), a planner for localizing and collecting samples at the global maximum of an a priori unknown and partially observable continuous environment. This “maximum seek-and-sample” (MSS) problem is pervasive in the environmental and earth sciences. Experts want to collect scientifically valuable samples at an environmental maximum (e.g., an oil-spill source), but do not have prior knowledge about the phenomenon's distribution. We formulate the MSS problem as a partially-observable Markov decision process (POMDP) with continuous state and observation spaces, and a sparse reward signal. To solve the MSS POMDP, PLUMES uses an information-theoretic reward heuristic with continuous-observation Monte Carlo Tree Search to efficiently localize and sample from the global maximum. In simulation and field experiments, PLUMES collects more scientifically valuable samples than state-of-the-art planners in a diverse set of environments, with various platforms, sensors, and challenging real-world conditions.



author = {Flaspohler, Genevieve and Preston, Victoria and Michel, Anna Pauline Miranda and Girdhar, Yogesh and Roy, Nicholas},
doi = {10.1109/LRA.2019.2929997},
issn = {2377-3766},
journal = {IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters},
month = {oct},
number = {4},
pages = {3782--3789},
title = {{Information-Guided Robotic Maximum Seek-and-Sample in Partially Observable Continuous Environments}},
url = {https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8767964/},
volume = {4},
year = {2019}}