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Autonomous AI racing drone designed to defeat humans

Technology News |
By Rich Pell


The DRL RacerAI, says the organization, is designed to be the first autonomous robot to defeat a human in a physical sport and will help close the gap between artificial intelligence (AI) and human performance.

“The DRL RacerAI is a major milestone for The Drone Racing League and the future of sports,” says DRL CEO/Founder Nicholas Horbaczewski. “AI has defeated humans in nearly every digital game we know, but it hasn’t come close to defeating a human in real-life sports – yet.”

“Through the competitive AIRR events, we’ll watch the DRL RacerAI get faster and smarter, catch up to human competitors, and one day, outpace the best pilot in the world,” says Horbaczewski. “This will mark an initial step towards a future when autonomous systems can operate in all complex flying environments, from package delivery to search and rescue missions.”

The DRL RacerAI has a radical drone configuration to provide its computer vision with a non-obstructive frontal view during racing. Generating 20 pounds of thrust, each self-flying drone is equipped with a powerful AI-at-the-edge compute platform – the NVIDIA Jetson AGX Xavier – and is connected to four onboard stereoscopic cameras, enabling the AI to detect and identify objects with twice the field of view as human pilots.

The announcement comes ahead of DRL’s inaugural Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) Circuit, which kicks off its four-event, autonomous drone racing series in Orlando, Florida on October 8. AIRR races will feature nine identical DRL RacerAI drones operated only by AI – specifically, AI developed by the nine teams from Lockheed Martin’s AlphaPilot Challenge.

AlphaPilot teams’ AI will pilot their DRL RacerAI through gates on a course for the fastest time – all without any GPS, data relay, or human intervention. The fastest team’s drone will then go head-to-head against the fastest 2019 DRL Allianz World Champion pilot with an aim to win.

Lockheed Martin Chief Technology Officer Keoki Jackson says, “AlphaPilot is all about going fast, taking risks and pushing the boundaries of AI and autonomous flight – our teams’ AI code, coupled with the new, state-of-the-art RacerAI drone, will help us do just that. Lockheed Martin is providing AlphaPilot teams with hundreds of RacerAIs throughout the competition, helping to remove financial barriers and risk that have previously hindered innovation in this emerging area.”

Drone Racing League
Lockheed Martin AlphaPilot AI Drone Innovation Challenge

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