A data-driven indirect method for nonlinear optimal control

Gao Tang, Kris Hauser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nonlinear optimal control problems are challenging to solve due to the prevalence of local minima that prevent convergence and/or optimality. This paper describes nearest-neighbors optimal control (NNOC), a data-driven framework for nonlinear optimal control using indirect methods. It determines initial guesses for new problems with the help of precomputed solutions to similar problems, retrieved using k-nearest neighbors. A sensitivity analysis technique is introduced to linearly approximate the variation of solutions between new and precomputed problems based on their variation of parameters. Experiments show that NNOC can obtain the global optimal solution orders of magnitude faster than standard random restart methods, and sensitivity analysis can further reduce the solving time almost by half. Examples are shown on optimal control problems in vehicle control and agile satellite reorientation demonstrating that global optima can be determined with more than 99% reliability within time at the order of 10–100 milliseconds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-359
Number of pages15
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • data-driven approach
  • indirect method
  • optimal control
  • sensitivity analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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