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# Real-Time Robotic Search using Structural Spatial Point Processes

*Proceedings of The 35th Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence Conference*, PMLR 115:995-1005, 2020.

#### Abstract

Aerial robots hold great potential for aiding Search and Rescue (SAR) efforts over large areas, such as during natural disasters. Traditional approaches typically search an area exhaustively, thereby ignoring that the density of victims varies based on predictable factors, such as the terrain, population density and the type of disaster. We present a probabilistic model to automate SAR planning, with explicit minimization of the expected time to discovery. The proposed model is a spatial point process with three interacting spatial fields for i) the point patterns of persons in the area, ii) the probability of detecting persons and iii) the probability of injury. This structure allows inclusion of informative priors from e.g. geographic or cell phone traffic data, while falling back to latent Gaussian processes when priors are missing or inaccurate. To solve this problem in real-time, we propose a combination of fast approximate inference using Integrated Nested Laplace Approximation (INLA), and a novel Monte Carlo tree search tailored to the problem. Experiments using data simulated from real world Geographic Information System (GIS) maps show that the framework outperforms competing approaches, finding many more injured in the crucial first hours.