Automated Planning and Scheduling using Calculus of Variations in Discrete Space

Yixin Chen and Benjamin W. Wah

In this paper, we propose new dominance relations that can speed up significantly the solution process of planning problems formulated as nonlinear constrained dynamic optimization in discrete time and space. We first show that path dominance in dynamic programming cannot be applied when there are general constraints that span across multiple stages, and that node dominance, in the form of Euler-Lagrange conditions developed in optimal control theory in continuous space, cannot be extended to that in discrete space. This paper is the first to propose efficient node-dominance relations, in the form of local saddle-point conditions in each stage of a discrete-space planning problem, for pruning states that will not lead to locally optimal paths. By utilizing these dominance relations, we present efficient search algorithms whose complexity, despite exponential, has a much smaller base as compared to that without using the relations. Finally, we demonstrate the performance of our approach by integrating it in the ASPEN planner and show significant improvements in CPU time and solution quality on some spacecraft scheduling and planning benchmarks.

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