ACI Journal Articles
Explaining Autonomous Drones: An XAI Journey
USMA Research Unit Affiliation
Army Cyber Institute
COGLE (COmmon Ground Learning and Explanation) is an explainable artificial
intelligence (XAI) system where autonomous drones deliver supplies to
field units in mountainous areas. The mission risks vary with topography,
flight decisions, and mission goals. The missions engage a human plus AI team
where users determine which of two AI-controlled drones is better for each
mission. This article reports on the technical approach and findings of the project
and reflects on challenges that complex combinatorial problems present
for users, machine learning, user studies, and the context of use for XAI systems.
COGLE creates explanations in multiple modalities. Narrative “What”
explanations compare what each drone does on a mission and “Why” based on
drone competencies determined from experiments using counterfactuals.
Visual “Where” explanations highlight risks on maps to help users to interpret
flight plans. One branch of the research studied whether the explanations helped
users to predict drone performance. In this branch, a model induction user
study showed that post-decision explanations had only a small effect in teaching
users to determine by themselves which drone is better for a mission. Subsequent
reflection suggests that supporting human plus AI decision making
with pre-decision explanations is a better context for benefiting from explanations
on combinatorial tasks.
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