Station-keeping tasks for high-altitude balloons show promise in areas such as ecological surveys, atmospheric analysis, and communication relays. However, identifying the optimal time and position to launch a latex high-altitude balloon is still a challenging and multifaceted problem. For example, tasks such as forest fire tracking place geometric constraints on the launch location of the balloon. Furthermore, identifying the most optimal location also heavily depends on atmospheric conditions. We first illustrate how reinforcement learning-based controllers, frequently used for station-keeping tasks, can exploit the environment. This exploitation can degrade performance on unseen weather patterns and affect station-keeping performance when identifying an optimal launch configuration. Valuing all states equally in the region, the agent exploits the region's geometry by flying near the edge, leading to risky behaviours. We propose a modification which compensates for this exploitation and finds this leads to, on average, higher steps within the target region on unseen data. Then, we illustrate how Bayesian Optimisation (BO) can identify the optimal launch location to perform station-keeping tasks, maximising the expected undiscounted return from a given rollout. We show BO can find this launch location in fewer steps compared to other optimisation methods. Results indicate that, surprisingly, the most optimal location to launch from is not commonly within the target region. Please find further information about our project at https://sites.google.com/view/bo-lauch-balloon/.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2024

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