Date of Award

Summer 2013

Access Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Factors & Systems


Human Factors and Systems

Committee Chair

Dahai Liu, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

Albert Bouquet, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Andrei Ludu, Ph.D.


Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) today are fulfilling more roles than ever before. There is a general push to have these systems feature more advanced autonomous capabilities in the near future. To achieve autonomous behavior requires some unique approaches to control and decision making. More advanced versions of these approaches are able to adapt their own behavior and examine their past experiences to increase their future mission performance. To achieve adaptive behavior and decision making capabilities this study used Reinforcement Learning algorithms. In this research the effects of sensor performance, as modeled through Signal Detection Theory (SDT), on the ability of RL algorithms to accomplish a target localization task are examined. Three levels of sensor sensitivity are simulated and compared to the results of the same system using a perfect sensor. To accomplish the target localization task, a hierarchical architecture used two distinct agents. A simulated human operator is assumed to be a perfect decision maker, and is used in the system feedback. An evaluation of the system is performed using multiple metrics, including episodic reward curves and the time taken to locate all targets. Statistical analyses are employed to detect significant differences in the comparison of steady-state behavior of different systems.