Professional drone racing circuit the Drone Racing League (DRL), has unleashed its first autonomous racing drone. Called RacerAI, the innovative new drone changes the drone racing game by flying itself, rather than requiring a human to steer it. Resembling a stealth aircraft with its angular, arrow-shaped body, RacerAI is built for speed — and possibly for joining Jeopardy, chess, Go, and myriad other games that machines can whoop us puny humans at.
The sleek RacerAI drone is powered by the NVIDIA Jetson AGX Xavier compute platform, is capable of generating 20 pounds of thrusts, and boasts four onboard stereoscopic cameras. These give it the ability 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,” DRL CEO and founder Nicholas Horbaczewsk said in a statement. “A.I. 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.”
The DRL RacerAI debuts today as the Drone Racing League kicks off its first Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) Circuit at Addition Financial Arena in Orlando. The four-race course will pit nine physically identical DRL RacerAI drones against each other. What separates the drones are the artificial intelligence algorithms that control each one. These were developed by separate teams of (human) programmers as part of the Lockheed Martin AlphaPilot Challenge. The autonomous drone which racks up the fastest time — achieved without the benefit of GPS, data relay or human intervention — will then go head-to-head against the fastest 2019 DRL Allianz World Champion pilot with the goal of winning. This is the racing league’s main championship contest.
While drone racing is still a relatively niche sport, this is nonetheless exciting work. Better autonomous drones will help make things like drone deliveries and other similarly helpful applications more compelling. Ultimately, this is going to be a win for humanity. Even if having yet another reminder that A.I. can kick our butts at seemingly every leisure activity doesn’t necessarily sound like it on the surface!