Date of Award

Fall 2014

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

Christina Frederick, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Andrei Ludu, Ph.D.


The need for Unmanned Aerial System (UASs) is increasing in the fields of science, security, military and others. With an increasing number of challenges faced by mankind the need for system with advance autonomous and intelligent capabilities is growing rapidly. The required intelligent behavior can be achieved in an unmanned system with machine learning methods such as Reinforcement Learning (RL) theory. This theory presents algorithms which have the capability to learn how to adapt to its environment. Using RL methods, autonomous systems have the ability to use past experiences to improve future mission performance. In this research, the effects of rewards on the ability of an autonomous UAV controlled by a Reinforcement Learning agent to accomplish a target localization task were investigated. The numerical values of the reward scheme were varied. It was expected that with an increase in the reward obtained by a learning agent upon correct detection the systems will become more risk tolerant and vice-versa. It was also predicted that the systems will be more efficient and would have a tendency to locate targets faster with an increase in the sensor sensitivity values after the system achieves steady-state performance. The results were analyzed statistically to detect the effects and confirm the hypothesis.