Autonomous racing drone league takes flight

The AI was developed by the nine teams from Lockheed Martin's AlphaPilot Challenge.

DRL's AI-powered racing drone.
DRL's AI-powered racing drone.

NEW YORK - The Drone Racing League (DRL) launched the DRL RacerAI, the league's first-ever autonomous racing drone. Designed to be the first autonomous robot to defeat a human in a physical sport, the DRL RacerAI will help close the gap between artificial intelligence (AI) and human performance.

The news comes out ahead of DRL's inaugural Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) Circuit, which kicks off its four-event, autonomous drone racing series October 8 in Orlando, Florida. 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 fasting 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.

Customized by DRL's team of world-class drone technicians, 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.

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