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Active Search for Sparse Signals with Region Sensing

Last modified: 2017-02-13

#### Abstract

Autonomous systems can be used to search for sparse signals in a large space; e.g., aerial robots can be deployed to localize threats, detect gas leaks, or respond to distress calls. Intuitively, search algorithms may increase efficiency by collecting aggregate measurements summarizing large contiguous regions. However, most existing search methods either ignore the possibility of such region observations (e.g., Bayesian optimization and multi-armed bandits) or make strong assumptions about the sensing mechanism that allow each measurement to arbitrarily encode all signals in the entire environment (e.g., compressive sensing). We propose an algorithm that actively collects data to search for sparse signals using only noisy measurements of the average values on rectangular regions (including single points), based on the greedy maximization of information gain. We analyze our algorithm in 1d and show that it requires $\tilde{O}(\frac{n}{\mu^2}+k^2)$ measurements to recover all of $k$ signal locations with small Bayes error, where $\mu$ and $n$ are the signal strength and the size of the search space, respectively. We also show that active designs can be fundamentally more efficient than passive designs with region sensing, contrasting with the results of Arias-Castro, Candes, and Davenport (2013). We demonstrate the empirical performance of our algorithm on a search problem using satellite image data and in high dimensions.

#### Keywords

active search; Bayesian optimization; design of experiments; statistical complexity; information theory

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