Launching the AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge, Lockheed Martin and The Drone Racing League (DRL) have challenged teams of coders, engineers, and technologists to take on developing artificial intelligence (AI) for high-speed racing drones.
The AlphaPilot challenge tests teams of up to 10 participants on their ability to design an AI framework - powered by the NVIDIA Xavier GPU for autonomous systems - capable of flying a drone through three-dimensional race courses using only machine vision and guidance, navigation, and control algorithms. Teams will not have prior knowledge of the exact course layouts, nor will they benefit from GPS, data offboarding, or human intervention of any kind. Designed by DRL, the autonomous drone will provide the sensing, agility, and speed needed for competitive racing as part of DRL’s new Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) Circuit, starting in fall 2019.
Drone racing is a futuristic sport and a big draw for millennials and K-12 students with an interest in technology — many of whom will become future STEM professionals, drone pilots, and engineers. Lockheed Martin recognizes the important role in helping to develop a workforce with skills to compete in a 21st century high-tech economy. Lockheed Martin and DRL targeted U.S. undergraduate and graduate students to apply for AlphaPilot; however, the competition was open to drone enthusiasts, coders and technologists of all ages from around the world.
For more than 100 years, Lockheed Martin has been redefining flight — from the fastest speeds, to the edge of space, to unmatched maneuverability, and stealth. AI-enabled autonomy promises to fundamentally change the future of flight, and we are actively developing disruptive new AI technologies that will help our customers accomplish their most important missions – from reaching Mars to fighting wildfires.
Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 105,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. For more information, please visit www.lockheedmartin.com/alphapilot.
DRL is the professional drone racing circuit for elite FPV pilots around the world. A technology, sports and media company, DRL combines world-class media and proprietary technology to create thrilling 3D drone racing content with mass appeal. The 2019 DRL Allianz World Championship Season will feature races in iconic venues across the globe that'll stream on Twitter and Youku and air on the best sports programs worldwide, including NBC, Sky Sports and ProSieben. For more information, please visit www.drl.io
The AlphaPilot challenge tests teams of up to 10 participants on their ability to design an AI framework - powered by the NVIDIA Xavier GPU for autonomous systems - capable of flying a drone through three-dimensional race courses using only machine vision and guidance, navigation, and control algorithms. Teams will not have prior knowledge of the exact course layouts, nor will they benefit from GPS, data off-boarding, or human intervention of any kind. Designed by DRL, the autonomous drone will provide the sensing, agility, and speed needed for competitive racing as part of DRL’s new Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) Circuit, starting in fall 2019.
The AlphaPilot Challenge
AlphaPilot is a Lockheed Martin open-innovation challenge. Focused on advancing artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy - Lockheed chose drone racing as that format. AlphaPilot challenges teams of up to 10 participants to design AI framework that is capable of flying a drone without any human intervention or navigational pre-programming.
The AIRR League
AIRR is DRL’s new global autonomous drone racing series where teams of technologists, engineers, and drone enthusiasts develop artificial intelligence for high-speed racing drones. Each AIRR event in 2019 will feature five heat of AI drone racing on courses designed by DRL’s drone racing experts. The season will culminate in a worldwide AIRR Championship, where one winning teams will receive a $1,000,000 grand prize from Lockheed Martin and have a chance for their algorithm to face off against a world-class human pilot.
Drone racing is a futuristic sport, and a big draw for millennials and K-12 students with an interest in technology — many of whom will become future STEM professionals, drone pilots, and engineers. Lockheed Martin recognizes the important role in helping to develop a workforce with skills to compete in a 21st century high-tech economy and recognizes the Drone Racing League as the leader in the professional drone racing space.
AlphaPilot is about building community and trust in autonomy. Our goal is to bring together users from all walks of life and create a fun, common challenge that pushes the state-of-the-art.
For this year, the final 9 teams have been chosen and the program is now closed to new applicants. To follow the final qualifying teams through the challenge and get the latest news on the 2019 AIRR circuit and 2020 AlphaPilot open applications, hit the “Follow” button in the top right corner.
Legal entities may choose to sponsor one or more teams competing in the AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge and 2019 AIRR season and there is still an opportunity to do so. Sponsorship can be in-kind, monetary (labor and travel), or both. For additional information, click on the sponsorship tab above.
Phase I: Open Registration
Phase II: Virtual Qualifying Round
Phase III: Pre-Season Code Development
Phase IV: Race in the AIRR Circuit
The virtual qualifier consisted of three parts:
Test 1: The first component of the AlphaPilot Virtual Qualifier - a series of questions focused around the team’s strategic approach to autonomy programming, tested each team’s knowledge, experience, readiness, and cohesion. The goal was to inspire confidence in the team’s ability to develop novel approaches to drone racing, bring the resources needed to compete, and mitigate real-world uncertainty.
Test 2: The second component of the AlphaPilot qualification focused on machine vision - challenging teams to develop an image classifier algorithm capable of detecting key racing elements. Drone racing requires efficient, low-latency visual processing in order to autonomously navigate through gates at high speeds. Therefore, effective machine vision approaches are critical for teams to be successful at AlphaPilot.
Test 3: The third component of the AlphaPilot qualification focused on a team’s ability to design algorithms for the guidance, navigation, and control of an autonomous drone. This test utilized a simulator framework that provided users with the tools needed to test their drone racing algorithms using realistic dynamics and exteroceptive sensors. These skills are essential for competition in AlphaPilot and the test was considered a precursor to work conducted by finalist teams in preparation for each AIRR race event.
The AlphaPilot team assembled a diverse panel of judges from academia, government, and industry; all top in their respective fields and considered thought-leaders in autonomous systems and artificial intelligence. The AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge leveraged their expert opinions and experience working in the field to identify the top AlphaPilot teams.
While the final race schedule is still being determined including dates and locations, there will be four races in 2019 and at least one race in 2020.
No. Following the virtual qualifier challenge, the final teams selected will be provided with kits including software and hardware development assets. Teams do not need to supply any of their own equipment to write or test competition code. Onsite, all drones, technology, and associated components will be provided by the AIRR League.
The final teams selected for the AlphaPilot challenge will have access to a development kit - one component of which will be a simulator for code deployment and testing. Unfortunately, contest administrators will only be able to provide this AIRR League development kit for the final qualifying teams.
Racing will take place on AIRR League courses - designed and produced by the Drone Racing League. Competition elements such as gates, length, and flight path complexity are being developed by the same course designers that shape DRL’s cutting edge courses. However, they will incorporate a visual fiducial system and be designed specifically with the intention of hosting autonomous drone competition.
While the 2019 AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge is closed for new entries, please see below the criteria required to be able to participate. Interested potential participants can hit the "Follow" button in the top right corner to get information in the coming months regarding the 2020 AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge.
By submitting entry code in order to participate in the Challenge, Participants do not transfer ownership of the code to Lockheed Martin or The Drone Racing League. During or after the Challenge, Lockheed Martin or the Drone Racing League may seek to negotiate licenses with participants for the entry code or code developed during the Challenge by participants. In the course of collaborating with participants, Lockheed Martin or the Drone Racing League may gain certain general knowledge, skills, know-how, methodologies, procedures, and techniques from participants that may be useful in Lockheed Martin’s or the Drone Racing League’s operations, which Lockheed Martin and the Drone Racing League are free to use.
Each team will have a designated Team Captain who will be the sole recipient of award money. Lockheed Martin and DRL are not responsible for distribution of award money amongst the team. Therefore, all teams are encouraged to develop their own legal arrangements in advance of the competition.
Teams that represent a legal entity or university may pursue a direct sponsorship from those organizations. Teams are encouraged to promote their activity online and may crowdsource a sponsorship within user communities. For additional information, click on the Sponsors tab above.
Unfortunately, team members must be the age of majority in their country or residence or at least 18 years of age, whichever is older as of the start of the Challenge. You can view the complete details on eligibility in the legal agreement.