Harnessing traditional controllers for fast-track training of deep reinforcement learning control strategies

Md Shadab Alam*, Ignacio Carlucho

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, Autonomous Ships have become a focal point for research, specifically emphasizing improving ship autonomy. Machine Learning Controllers, especially those based on Reinforcement Learning, have seen significant progress. However, addressing the substantial computational demands and intricate reward structures required for their training remains critical. This paper introduces a novel approach, “Harnessing Traditional Controllers for Fast-Track Training of Deep Reinforcement Learning Control Strategies,” aimed at bridging conventional maritime control methods with cutting-edge DRL techniques for vessels. This innovative approach explores the synergies between stable traditional controllers and adaptive DRL methodologies, known for their complexity handling capabilities. To tackle the time-intensive nature of DRL training, we propose a solution: utilizing existing traditional controllers to expedite DRL training by cloning behavior from these controllers to guide DRL exploration. We rigorously assess the effectiveness of this approach through various ship maneuvering scenarios, including different trajectories and external disturbances like winds. The results unequivocally demonstrate accelerated DRL training while maintaining stringent safety standards. This approach has the potential to bridge the gap between traditional maritime practices and contemporary DRL advancements, facilitating the seamless integration of autonomous systems into naval operations, with promising implications for enhanced vessel efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and overall safety.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Marine Engineering and Technology
Early online date18 Jun 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jun 2024


  • Autonomous vehicle
  • Behavioural cloning
  • MMG model
  • Path following
  • Reinforcement learning
  • Traditional control


Dive into the research topics of 'Harnessing traditional controllers for fast-track training of deep reinforcement learning control strategies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this