Lockheed Martin teams up with drone racers to add AI

Lockheed Martin and the Drone Racing League are working together to make driverless drones much, much smarter. The project, aimed at bringing AI to commercial drone flyers, is “challenging teams to develop artificial intelligence (AI) technology that will enable an autonomous drone to race a pilot-operated drone – and win.”

The racers can win up to $2 million in prizes. Lockheed Martin Chief Technology Officer Keoki Jackson announced the challenge at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco today.

“At Lockheed Martin, we are working to pioneer state-of-the-art, AI-enabled technologies that can help solve some of the world’s most complex challenges – from fighting wildfires and saving lives during natural disasters to exploring the farthest reaches of deep space,” said Jackson. “Now, 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.”

Contestants will use NVIDIA’s Jetson platform to fly drones “without any pre-programming or human intervention” through a multi-dimensional race course. The contestants can win an extra $250,000 for creating an AI that outperforms a DRL human-piloted drone, a sort drone Turing test that could mean smarter drones for both amateur flyers and Lockheed’s own extensive drone programs.

Lockheed Martin is working with the Drone Racing League to bring the competitors in human-controlled drone racing into the AI future. The goal is to create a drone that flies as well – or better – than a human.

You can learn more here and the challenge opens in November.