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


The AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge will push the boundaries of AI “edge computing” far beyond current achievements. It takes humans years to master high-speed, precision drone flight. Lockheed Martin and DRL are aiming to exceed human capabilities in under two years. 


The Challenge

Lockheed Martin and DRL are challenging teams to develop an AI-enabled framework, powered by the NVIDIA Jetson platform for AI at the edge, that can navigate a fully autonomous drone through complex, multi-dimensional racing courses – without any pre-programming or human intervention. 

Teams will develop AI that has an accurate representation of a drone operator’s goals and desires, so it can make inferences about current and future needs, limiting the need for explicit direction. 

This is a competition of AI quality – all other racing variables, including the drone hardware, are controlled.



AlphaPilot will award more than $2,000,000 in prizes for its top performers!

  • The grand prize winner will take home $1 million.
  • The first AlphaPilot team to beat a human-piloted drone in head-to-head competition will take home an extra $250,000.


How can I Participate?

The Virtual Qualifier will run from January 18th to March 18th, 2019. Teams will be required to complete three different tests and their combined score will determine who advances to the next phase.

Test 1: The first component of AlphaPilot qualifications will focus on team knowledge, experience, readiness, and cohesion. This is your chance to convince AlphaPilot judges that you have what it takes to tackle a difficult, year-long challenge. Your goal is to inspire confidence in your team’s ability to develop novel approaches to drone racing, bring the resources needed to compete, and mitigate real-world uncertainty. Read the complete details on Test 1 here.

Test 2: The second component of AlphaPilot qualifications will focus on machine vision. Drone racing requires efficient, low-latency visual processing in order to autonomously navigate through gates at high speeds. Therefore, effective machine vision approaches will be critical for teams to be successful at AlphaPilot. Read the complete details on Test 2 here.

Test 3: The third component of AlphaPilot qualifications will focus on a team’s ability to design algorithms for the guidance, navigation, and control of an autonomous drone. The test will utilize a simulator framework that provides 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 is considered a precursor to work conducted by Finalist teams in preparation for each AIRR race event. Read the complete details on Test 3 here.

Submissions to Test 1 and Test 2 are due on March 11th, 2019 at 5 pm ET. Submissions to Test 3 are due on March 22th, 2019 at 5 pm ET.


Who can Participate?

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 ages 18+ from around the world. If you believe autonomy will shape our future, now’s your chance to help create that future. This is a great opportunity for some of the world’s most creative minds to go head-to-head and show what their technologies can do.

Work with professional mentors and industry-leading technical partners. Lockheed Martin engineers and AI specialists will serve as mentors to Challenge teams. DRL will supply Challenge teams with standardized drones, and their drone experts will collaborate with teams and Lockheed Martin technical mentors throughout the multi-year partnership. Contestants will also have access to products from NVIDIA, the leader in AI computing.



  • The Contest is open to applicants who are at least 18 years of age.
  • Teams may enter independently or as representatives of a university or business entity.
  • Teams may also pursue sponsors to assist with computing infrastructure and travel costs.


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