Lockheed and drone racing league launch US$2m competition to develop drone AI


Lockheed Martin has launched a competition with the Drone Racing League that asks entrants to design software that will enable a drone to fly autonomously around professional drone racing courses.

The autonomous drones teams selected for the competition will compete in a series of challenges to win a share of a US$2m prize fund.

The teams must aim to develop an artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) framework that enables a drone to race against a pilot-operated drone and win. The AI/ML software used by the teams should also use the Nvidia Jetson platform.

The drone must also be able to race around several professional drone racing courses without navigational pre-programing.

The competition is the first part of a multi-year partnership with the Drone Racing League (DRL), the global professional circuit for drone racing. The AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge aims to enlist students, technologists, coders and drone enthusiasts to push the boundaries of AI, machine learning and fully autonomous flight.

Lockheed Martin’s chief technology officer, Keoki Jackson, said, “We are inviting the next generation of AI innovators to join us with our AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge. Competitors will have an opportunity to define the future of autonomy and AI and help our world leverage these promising technologies to build a brighter future.”

The DRL’s CEO and founder Nicholas Horbaczewski said, “Since 2016, DRL has been the proving ground for the world’s most talented human pilots, showcasing their abilities to race remotely piloted drones at high speeds.

“This challenge changes the game. How close is AI performance to the world’s best human piloting?”

The Lockheed Martin AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge will open for entries in November. People interested in learning more and applying to participate can visit lockheedmartin.com/alphapilot.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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