Differential dynamic programming

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Differential dynamic programming (DDP) is an optimal control algorithm of the trajectory optimization class. The algorithm was introduced in 1966 by Mayne[1] and subsequently analysed in Jacobson and Mayne's eponymous book.[2] The algorithm uses locally-quadratic models of the dynamics and cost functions, and displays quadratic convergence. It is closely related to Pantoja's step-wise Newton's method.[3][4]

Finite-horizon discrete-time problems[edit]

The dynamics

\mathbf{x}_{i+1} = \mathbf{f}(\mathbf{x}_i,\mathbf{u}_i)






describe the evolution of the state \textstyle\mathbf{x} given the control \mathbf{u} from time i to time i+1. The total cost J_0 is the sum of running costs \textstyle\ell and final cost \ell_f, incurred when starting from state \mathbf{x} and applying the control sequence \mathbf{U} \equiv \{\mathbf{u}_0,\mathbf{u}_1\dots,\mathbf{u}_{N-1}\} until the horizon is reached:

J_0(\mathbf{x},\mathbf{U})=\sum_{i=0}^{N-1}\ell(\mathbf{x}_i,\mathbf{u}_i) + \ell_f(\mathbf{x}_N),

where \mathbf{x}_0\equiv\mathbf{x}, and the \mathbf{x}_i for i>0 are given by Eq. 1. The solution of the optimal control problem is the minimizing control sequence \mathbf{U}^*(\mathbf{x})\equiv \operatorname{argmin}_{\mathbf{U}} J_0(\mathbf{x},\mathbf{U}). Trajectory optimization means finding \mathbf{U}^*(\mathbf{x}) for a particular \mathbf{x}, rather than for all possible initial states.

Dynamic programming[edit]

Let \mathbf{U}_i be the partial control sequence \mathbf{U}_i \equiv \{\mathbf{u}_i,\mathbf{u}_{i+1}\dots,\mathbf{u}_{N-1}\} and define the cost-to-go J_i as the partial sum of costs from i to N:

J_i(\mathbf{x},\mathbf{U}_i)=\sum_{j=i}^{N-1}\ell(\mathbf{x}_j,\mathbf{u}_j) + \ell_f(\mathbf{x}_N).

The optimal cost-to-go or value function at time i is the cost-to-go given the minimizing control sequence:

V(\mathbf{x},i)\equiv \min_{\mathbf{U}_i}J_i(\mathbf{x},\mathbf{U}_i).

Setting V(\mathbf{x},N)\equiv \ell_f(\mathbf{x}_N), the dynamic programming principle reduces the minimization over an entire sequence of controls to a sequence of minimizations over a single control, proceeding backwards in time:

V(\mathbf{x},i)= \min_{\mathbf{u}}[\ell(\mathbf{x},\mathbf{u}) + V(\mathbf{f}(\mathbf{x},\mathbf{u}),i+1)].






This is the Bellman equation.

Differential dynamic programming[edit]

DDP proceeds by iteratively performing a backward pass on the nominal trajectory to generate a new control sequence, and then a forward-pass to compute and evaluate a new nominal trajectory. We begin with the backward pass. If

\ell(\mathbf{x},\mathbf{u}) + V(\mathbf{f}(\mathbf{x},\mathbf{u}),i+1)

is the argument of the \min[] operator in Eq. 2, let Q be the variation of this quantity around the i-th (\mathbf{x},\mathbf{u}) pair:

\begin{align}Q(\delta\mathbf{x},\delta\mathbf{u})\equiv &\ell(\mathbf{x}+\delta\mathbf{x},\mathbf{u}+\delta\mathbf{u})&&{}+V(\mathbf{f}(\mathbf{x}+\delta\mathbf{x},\mathbf{u}+\delta\mathbf{u}),i+1)

and expand to second order

0 & Q_\mathbf{x}^\mathsf{T} & Q_\mathbf{u}^\mathsf{T}\\
Q_\mathbf{x} & Q_{\mathbf{x}\mathbf{x}} & Q_{\mathbf{x}\mathbf{u}}\\
Q_\mathbf{u} & Q_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{x}} & Q_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{u}}






The Q notation used here is a variant of the notation of Morimoto where subscripts denote differentiation in denominator layout.[5] Dropping the index i for readability, primes denoting the next time-step V'\equiv V(i+1), the expansion coefficients are

Q_\mathbf{x} &= \ell_\mathbf{x}+ \mathbf{f}_\mathbf{x}^\mathsf{T} V'_\mathbf{x} \\
Q_\mathbf{u} &= \ell_\mathbf{u}+ \mathbf{f}_\mathbf{u}^\mathsf{T} V'_\mathbf{x} \\
Q_{\mathbf{x}\mathbf{x}} &= \ell_{\mathbf{x}\mathbf{x}} + \mathbf{f}_\mathbf{x}^\mathsf{T} V'_{\mathbf{x}\mathbf{x}}\mathbf{f}_\mathbf{x}+V_\mathbf{x}'\cdot\mathbf{f}_{\mathbf{x}\mathbf{x}}\\
Q_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{u}} &= \ell_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{u}} + \mathbf{f}_\mathbf{u}^\mathsf{T} V'_{\mathbf{x}\mathbf{x}}\mathbf{f}_\mathbf{u}+{V'_\mathbf{x}} \cdot\mathbf{f}_{\mathbf{u} \mathbf{u}}\\
Q_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{x}} &= \ell_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{x}} + \mathbf{f}_\mathbf{u}^\mathsf{T} V'_{\mathbf{x}\mathbf{x}}\mathbf{f}_\mathbf{x} + {V'_\mathbf{x}} \cdot \mathbf{f}_{\mathbf{u} \mathbf{x}}.

The last terms in the last three equations denote contraction of a vector with a tensor. Minimizing the quadratic approximation (3) with respect to \delta\mathbf{u} we have

{\delta \mathbf{u}}^* = \operatorname{argmin}\limits_{\delta \mathbf{u}}Q(\delta \mathbf{x},\delta
\mathbf{u})=-Q_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{u}}^{-1}(Q_\mathbf{u}+Q_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{x}}\delta \mathbf{x}),






giving an open-loop term \mathbf{k}=-Q_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{u}}^{-1}Q_\mathbf{u} and a feedback gain term \mathbf{K}=-Q_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{u}}^{-1}Q_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{x}}. Plugging the result back into (3), we now have a quadratic model of the value at time i:

\Delta V(i) &= &{} -\tfrac{1}{2}Q_\mathbf{u} Q_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{u}}^{-1}Q_\mathbf{u}\\
V_\mathbf{x}(i) &= Q_\mathbf{x} & {}- Q_\mathbf{u} Q_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{u}}^{-1}Q_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{x}}\\
V_{\mathbf{x}\mathbf{x}}(i) &= Q_{\mathbf{x}\mathbf{x}} &{} - Q_{\mathbf{x}\mathbf{u}}Q_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{u}}^{-1}Q_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{x}}.

Recursively computing the local quadratic models of V(i) and the control modifications \{\mathbf{k}(i),\mathbf{K}(i)\}, from i=N-1 down to i=1, constitutes the backward pass. As above, the Value is initialized with V(\mathbf{x},N)\equiv \ell_f(\mathbf{x}_N). Once the backward pass is completed, a forward pass computes a new trajectory:

\hat{\mathbf{u}}(i)&=\mathbf{u}(i) + \mathbf{k}(i) +\mathbf{K}(i)(\hat{\mathbf{x}}(i) - \mathbf{x}(i))\\

The backward passes and forward passes are iterated until convergence.

Regularization and line-search[edit]

Differential dynamic programming is a second-order algorithm like Newton's method. It therefore takes large steps toward the minimum and often requires regularization and/or line-search to achieve convergence [6] .[7] Regularization in the DDP context means ensuring that the Q_{\mathbf{u}\mathbf{u}} matrix in Eq. 4 is positive definite. Line-search in DDP amounts to scaling the open-loop control modification \mathbf{k} by some 0<\alpha<1.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mayne, D. Q. (1966). "A second-order gradient method of optimizing non-linear discrete time systems". Int J Control 3: 85–95. doi:10.1080/00207176608921369. 
  2. ^ Mayne, David H. and Jacobson, David Q. (1970). Differential dynamic programming. New York: American Elsevier Pub. Co. ISBN 0-444-00070-4. 
  3. ^ de O. Pantoja, J. F. A. (1988). "Differential dynamic programming and Newton's method". International Journal of Control 47 (5): 1539–1553. doi:10.1080/00207178808906114. ISSN 0020-7179. 
  4. ^ Liao, L. Z.; C. A Shoemaker (1992). "Advantages of differential dynamic programming over Newton's method for discrete-time optimal control problems". Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. 
  5. ^ Morimoto, J.; G. Zeglin; C.G. Atkeson (2003). "Minimax differential dynamic programming: Application to a biped walking robot". Intelligent Robots and Systems, 2003.(IROS 2003). Proceedings. 2003 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on 2. pp. 1927–1932. 
  6. ^ Liao, L. Z; C. A Shoemaker (1991). "Convergence in unconstrained discrete-time differential dynamic programming". IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control 36 (6): 692. doi:10.1109/9.86943. 
  7. ^ Tassa, Y. (2011). Theory and implementation of bio-mimetic motor controllers (PDF) (Thesis). Hebrew University. 

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