DRL’s RacerAI Drone is Here to Push Boundaries and Take on Human Pilots

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The Drone Racing League (DRL) has unveiled RacerAI, an autonomous (and slightly disconcerting) racing drone. RacerAI is the first autonomous drone designed to take on and defeat human pilots.

The drone is set to be the hardware that gives life to DRL’s inaugural Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) Circuit. The four-event series will see nine identical DRL RacerAI drones controlled by AI system. Each has been designed by nine teams as part of Lockheed Martin’s AlphaPilot Challenge.

The AlphaPilot teams have been tasked with developing an AI pilot capable of flying through gates on a racing course without GPS, data relay or human intervention. The winning team will go on to challenge the fastest 2019 DRL Allianz World Champion pilot.

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AI at the edge

The DRL RacerAI has been built in house by the organization’s team of technicians. It’s been adapted to prioritize its computer vision element

Each drone is equipped with NVIDIA’s Jetson AGX Xavier chip, which is connected to four onboard stereoscopic cameras.

DRL says this combination enabled the AI to detect and identify objects with twice the field of view as human pilots.

“The DRL RacerAI is a major milestone for The Drone Racing League and the future of sports. 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.”

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“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.”


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