Robot v. Robot: Autonomous Drone Racing Comes to Orlando

Orlando is famous for the Magic Kingdom. So, it’s fitting that a magical melding of autonomous AI and drone racing will soon burst into the Florida metropolis.

The Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing circuit soars into the Addition Financial Arena Tuesday, Oct. 8. The series is the peak of the 2019 AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge – a partnership between the Drone Racing League and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.

The competition blends the precision of AI technology with the thrill of high-speed racing drones. The Orlando match features nine teams who qualified from a field of 420  — and just go ahead and erase the “flying high” tweets, please. You’re all thinking it.

The AIRR series will position four races pitting autonomous drones head-to-head around a complex obstacle course.

Once the drones take off, teams may not intervene during the race. AI drones will use only machine vision as well as guidance, navigation, and control algorithms to compete.

Their human counterparts will not know the exact course layout prior to race time and cannot use GPS or data offboarding. The final circuit winner will take home a purse of more than $1 million.

“Drone racing is a futuristic sport and a big draw for millennials and K-12 students with an interest in technology,” a Lockheed Martin spokesperson said.

“[They] will become future STEM professionals, drone pilots and engineers. Lockheed Martin recognizes the important role in helping to develop a workforce with skills to compete in a 21st century high-tech economy.”

An AI-on-AI racing event can only help DRL’s efforts to bring drone racing into the mainstream. NBC Sports, Sky Sports, Twitter and ProSieben have already agreed to broadcast the league’s Allianz World Championship Season.

During the season. custom racing drones can travel more than 90 mph. Pilots use FPV technology to navigate difficult courses.

Eighteen pilots compete across the season for 10 spots in the championship. Each pilot flies in four of the regular season’s six races. Pilots scoring the highest season points can grab the remaining championship slots.



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