Unmanned aerial vehicle–human collaboration route planning for intelligent infrastructure inspection

Yue Pan, Linfeng Li, Jianjun Qin, Jin‐jian Chen, Paolo Gardoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motivated by the strengths of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the UAV–human collaboration route planning (UHCRP) for intelligent infrastructure inspection is a problem worthy of discussion to help reduce human costs and minimize the risk of noninspected infrastructures under limited resources. To facilitate UHCRP, this paper proposes a novel deep reinforcement learning (DRL)-based approach to well handle multi-source uncertain features and constraints at a fast speed. To begin with, UHCRP is mathematically described and reformulated as a dual interdependent deep reinforcement learning (diDRL) framework to reflect real-world scenarios. Afterward, a novel policy network named the attention-based deep neural network (A-DNN) is introduced to learn the route planning decisions for the combinatorial optimization problem. In particular, A-DNN is made up of an encoder and a dual decoder for UAV and human inspection, where the multi-head attention mechanism is incorporated to generate richer representations for model performance improvement. Performance of the proposed dual multi-head attention model (DAM) has been tested in simulations and a real-world case study regarding wind farm inspection. Results indicate that DAM under the sampling decoding strategy can deliver a high-quality path plan and show better generalizability for larger scale problem sizes compared to single-head attention model (SAM), multi-head attention model (AM), and two baseline models, namely OR-Tools and genetic algorithm. Moreover, DAM trained by randomly generated data can be directly employed to solve the practical problem with standardization of inputs. Overall, DRL integrates decision-making for inspection method selection and inspected infrastructure selection, providing adaptive and intelligent inspection path planning for UAV and human in complex and dynamic engineering environments.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2074-2104
Number of pages31
JournalComputer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering
Issue number14
Early online dateFeb 27 2024
StatePublished - Jul 15 2024


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