Who wins: AI piloted drone vs human racer? New race will decide

By Luke Geiver | October 09, 2019

Can a robot-controlled drone beat the best human-piloted drone team in the world? A team of researchers from Lockheed Martin believe it is possible. Working with the Drone Racing League, nine teams working through Lockheed Martin’s AlphaPilot Challenge will put their artificial intelligence powered systems to the test at four events held by the DRL.

The AlphaPilot Challenge teams reconstructed racing drones with a radical new design. The set-up allows for better computer vision with a non-obstrcutive view. Using four onboard stereoscopic cameras, the robot drones are flown completely through AI and have no need for data relay to humans or GPS. The systems can detect and identify objects with twice the field of view as the human pilots.

“: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," said DRL CEO/Founder Nicholas Horbaczewski. "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. 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."

DRL has four events planned to pit robot drones versus those piloted by humans.

"The RacerAI drone, built by DRL and powered by the NVIDIA Jetson AGX Xavier, is a critical component of our Lockheed Martin AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge. 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," said Lockheed Martin Chief Technology Officer Keoki Jackson. "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."

To see a video on the development of the drone, click here.