AlphaPilot – Lockheed Martin AI Drone Racing Innovation Challenge

AlphaPilot – Lockheed Martin AI Drone Racing Innovation Challenge

AlphaPilot is the first large-scale open innovation challenge of its kind focused on advancing artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy. Read Overview...



Calling all coders, gamers, race fans, and drone enthusiasts...


Lockheed Martin and The Drone Racing League (DRL) challenge you to participate in AlphaPilot, an open innovation challenge, developing artificial intelligence (AI) for high-speed racing drones.  


Enter the AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge today for your chance to master autonomous flight and win more than $2,000,000 in cash prizes.


AlphaPilot will challenge teams of up to 10 participants each to design an AI framework, powered by the NVIDIA Jetson platform for AI at the edge, that is capable of flying a drone -- without any human intervention or navigational pre-programming. Autonomous drones will race head-to-head through complex, three-dimensional tracks in DRL’s new Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) Circuit, starting in 2019.

AlphaPilot aims to unite a diverse community of practicing and emerging AI experts, researchers and students to inspire the next generation of autonomous drone technology. By participating in this challenge, your knowledge and ideas can contribute directly toward the future of autonomous transportation, delivery, disaster relief, and even space exploration!



Why Drones?

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 are targeting U.S. undergraduate and graduate students to apply for AlphaPilot; however, the competition is open to drone enthusiasts, coders and technologists of all ages from around the world.


Why is Lockheed Martin doing this?

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.



  • Click ACCEPT CHALLENGE above to apply for AlphaPilot.
  • Read the Challenge Guidelines to learn about competition.
  • Share this challenge on social media using the icons above. Show your friends, your family, or anyone you know who has a passion for discovery.
  • Start a conversation in our Forum to join the discussion, ask questions or connect with other innovators.


Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 100,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. This year, the company received three Edison awards for groundbreaking innovations in autonomy, satellite technology and directed energy. 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. In 2018 DRL hosted a global series of seven races, the Allianz World Championship, that is airing on ESPN, Sky Sports, ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE, Groupe AB, Disney XD, OSN, and FOX Sports Asia. For more information, please visit www.drl.io

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You can find the Q&A log from the webinar and the recording in the resources section here.

The Overview

  • AlphaPilot is a Lockheed Martin open-innovation challenge 
  • It is focused on advancing artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy 
  • The format is drone racing

The Details

  • Teams will design AI to pilot drones through professional drone racing courses
  • Teams will receive specially designed drones containing the latest GPU devices
  • No offloading of data is permitted – teams must perform 100% edge computation

Exciting Sport

  • The Drone Racing League (DRL) is the sport of the future, combining the thrill of pod-racing from Star Wars with the real-world adrenaline of Formula 1
  • DRL airs on premier sports networks in 75+ countries and has been watched by more than 55 million fans across the globe

Incredible Partners

  • AlphaPilot teams will compete on DRL’s professional Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) Circuit
  • Teams will have access to the latest in GPU technology from NVIDIA, and mentoring expertise from Lockheed Martin


  • AlphaPilot teams will be featured in DRL’s innovative media content, including a digital documentary series 

Compete as a Team

  • Teams of 1-10 people are permitted
  • Teams must be able to send at least 1 representative to compete at each designated AIRR race
  • Teams can be independent or sponsored 
  • Register via the AlphaPilot website through February 28 

Sponsor a Team

  • Legal entities may choose to sponsor one or more teams competing in AlphaPilot
  • Sponsorship can be in-kind, monetary (labor and travel), or both 
  • For additional information, click on the sponsorship tab above

Sponsor the AIRR Circuit

  • DRL has reserved slots for tier-two sponsors
  • Sponsorship includes branding and signage, activations, event tickets, VIP activities to be determined in coordination with DRL 

Host an AlphaPilot Race

  • If you have a unique venue with over 80,000 square feet and are interested in hosting an AlphaPilot race, please contact DRL: venues@drl.io
  • AlphaPilot is a Lockheed Martin "Innovation Challenge”
  • AIRR is DRL’s new global autonomous drone-racing circuit
  • In 2019 and 2020 selected teams from the Lockheed Martin AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge will compete in the AIRR Circuit. 

Open Registration (November 2018 – February 2019)

  • Register online, build your teams and connect with sponsors
  • Receive updates on AlphaPilot challenges, rules, timelines, technology, and more

Virtual Qualifying Round (March 2019)

  • Watch an informational webinar on the AlphaPilot qualification challenge
  • Develop code for the qualifier and submit it to a specified location on or before the given deadline 
  • The qualification challenge will close and AlphaPilot will announce the top scoring teams

Workshop (June 2019 – July 2019)

  • The top teams will be issued a simulation kit to develop and train their code for AIRR racing
  • The top teams will be paired with a Lockheed Martin mentor to assist in their code development ▪ A workshop will be held to 
  • introduce teams to AIRR and engage with leading AI experts

Race in the 2019 AIRR Season (August 2019 – December 2019)

  • The top teams will participate in a series of DRL AIRR race events
  • A grand prize will be awarded to the team with the best cumulative score (DRL scoring system)
  • An additional $250,000 prize will be awarded to the winner if they can outfly a professional DRL pilot

In preparation for the virtual qualifier challenge and AIRR League, we urge participants to practice solving challenges related to computer-vision, creation of neural networks, and image classification. Developing an in-depth understanding of the Xavier Jetson is also encouraged, as is utilization of free autonomous vehicle related simulators - all of which will be valuable experience in preparation for the AlphaPilot Challenge and AIRR League. 

The virtual qualifier will consist of three parts: Test 1 will be a 3-5 minute video submission accompanied by several written responses. It will be used to assess each team’s knowledge level, relevant experience, and cohesiveness. Tests 2 and 3 will be made available simultaneously shortly after, and will be designed as objective tests of applicant skill. Test 2 will consist of a computer vision exam, where teams must develop and submit image classifier algorithms for a specific race-related object (using a provided image library). Test 3 will involve an open-source Unity-based simulator, where teams must develop and submit algorithms for guidance and control of drones. The simulator provided in Test 3 will be separate from DRL’s simulation environment, which will only be available to finalist teams as part of a development kit. However, the Test 3 simulator will remain available for public use as tool for training and testing autonomous control algorithms following the 2019 AlphaPilot qualifier. Details on the qualifier challenges, timelines, and scoring criteria will be made available in mid-January. 

No. Following the qualifier challenge, the final teams selected will be provided with kits including software and hardware development assets. They 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.  

  • Please see section 3a of the Terms and Conditions for complete details on eligibility requirements
  • The contest is open to applicants who are at least the age of majority in their country of residence or at least 18 years of age, whichever is older as of the start of the challenge.
  • Individuals who are a citizen of a country listed under 3a(ii) are not eligible to compete, even if they reside in or are a citizen of another country due to heightened U.S. and other country export control regulatory compliance risks or other restrictions. Applicants holding dual citizenship in a restricted country will not be allowed to participate.
  • Individuals can enter on behalf of Entities, but the Entities must comply with the restrictions set for in section 3a(iii).
  • All team members and any entities they represent must comply with contest regulations as they relate to these restrictions. 
  • Yes, employees from all companies, besides Lockheed Martin and its subsidiaries, are welcome to compete
  • AlphaPilot is about advancing the state of autonomous technology and being done in the spirit of communal progress 
  • 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.

Teams can be formed through the HeroX forum, through in-person contacts with other challenge participants, or any way you see fit to approach the challenge. Regardless of which team you’re on, we encourage collaboration between participants in the forum.  

  • Teams may add, remove, or substitute official team members so long as the change is reported (via the team’s AlphaPilot profile or through direct communication with AlphaPilot administrators if in the finalist phase) and in compliance with AlphaPilot’s terms and conditions for participation 
  • Yes, and we recommend keeping it short (15 characters or less), easy to understand and memorable to maximize fan engagement
  • Team names cannot contain expletives or language that’s not suitable for public use
  • Each team's name must be unique; in the event that two teams hold the same name, the team registered first will have the right to use that name
  • Lockheed Martin and DRL reserve the right to ask teams to change their name at any given time
  • 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 
  • All teams are encouraged to develop their own legal arrangements in advance of the competition 
  • Teams may have between 1-10 members, but only a subset will be permitted to attend each race (based on venue capacities)
  • Teams are encouraged to have enough members such that at least 1 person can attend each event
  • 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

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.

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.

There are a few keys things we are looking for in the technical report: teams to explain clearly what they did, how their approach would (or would not) be used in AlphaPilot, and any challenges they ran into how and how they overcame them.

The competition is designed to minimize team expenses. There are no fees or travel requirements for the Qualifier. The only cost that Finalists will incur is travel to AIRR events. Only one member of each Finalist team is required to attend each AIRR event. Teams are permitted to train however they see fit, including the purchase of additional resources beyond the development kit. However, this is not required and is at the discretion (and expense) of teams. 

Lockheed Martin and DRL will work with teams to secure sponsorships. This could be from universities, companies, or other organizations. We will leverage our connections and distribute team media to the extent possible.

Yes! Teambuilding is encouraged and can include team mergers. The Team Matching function is there to help. Please solidify any such changed by the end of registration.

The Qualification judges are a mix of experts from academia, industry, and government. Many experts in drones, GNC, machine learning, machine vision, and more support AlphaPilot.

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