The DRL RacerAI is the circuit’s first-ever autonomous drone.
Drone Racing League
There’s a new and exciting pilot set to take the Drone Racing League by storm. The DRL RacerAI is the league’s first-ever autonomous racing drone, designed to be the first autonomous robot to defeat a human pilot while closing the gap between artificial intelligence and human performance.
The DRL RacerAI will debut on October 8 as the league begins its inaugural Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) Circuit at Addition Financial Arena in Orlando. The four-race AIRR Circuit will feature nine identical DRL RacerAI drones operated by AI—without GPS, data relay or human intervention—developed by nine teams as part of the Lockheed Martin AlphaPilot Challenge.
“It’s really exciting,” DRL CEO/founder Nicholas Horbaczewski said. “It’s been a long journey from when we first announced the program. It’s always challenging when you’re developing new technology and trying to bring it to life, and I couldn’t be more excited about beginning this process of putting that technology into the field.”
The AlphaPilot Challenge was announced in September 2018, pitting teams of engineers, students, coders and drone enthusiasts against each other as they raced to develop AI drone technology. More than 400 teams from nearly 80 countries signed up for the challenge with just nine teams comprised of 69 members earning the coveted spots on the AIRR Circuit and a chance to win $1 million.
The DRL RacerAI features a radical drone configuration to provide its computer vision with a non-obstructive frontal view during racing. Each autonomous drone, which generates 20 pounds of thrust, is equipped with the NVIDIA Jetson AGX Xavier, a powerful AI-at-the-edge computing platform, as well as four onboard stereoscopic cameras which enables the AI to detect and identify objects with twice the field of view as human pilots.
“This will put a face, so to speak, on this process,” Horbaczewski said. “We’ve always found the drones themselves are something people are fascinated by.”
Similar to Formula 1 and Formula E which are used as testing grounds for racing and driver technology, the Drone Racing League is a platform that not only serves as entertainment and competition, but also to drive innovation and technology.
The end goal for the autonomous drone in DRL is to defeat a human pilot, similarly to IBM supercomputer Deep Blue topping Garry Kasparov in chess or Watson competing on Jeopardy.
The autonomous drone technology can also be utilized in real-world settings in lieu of human-intensive or unsafe tasks including search and rescue, transportation, delivering aid and relief, construction, reconnaissance and more.
“There were other moments when you saw AI defeat a person when we thought it was too complicated before, and when this happens, it will really be a watershed moment,” Horbaczewski said. “There’s a lot still to do to get there though. We’re talking probably a couple of years, realistically, but I’m excited to build this foundation and begin this long journey.”