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 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 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.
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 through 2020!
In the program’s inaugural season, AlphaPilot Teams were challenged to a barrage of tests in the Virtual Challenge Qualifier including development of image classification algorithms and performance in simulated racing environments, where their technical strategies were evaluated by a panel of industry experts.
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.
The 2019 Virtual Qualifier
The 2019 Challenge Qualifier consisted of three different tests of which their combined scores determined who moved forward in the competition.
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.
Lockheed Martin and DRL have targeted U.S. undergraduate and graduate students to apply for AlphaPilot; however, the competition was open to drone enthusiasts, coders and technologists ages 18+ from around the world. The final qualifying teams in 2019 have come from all across the globe including Sweden, the Netherlands, South Korea, Brazil, Poland, Switzerland, and three different states within the U.S.
AlphaPilot Teams will work with professional mentors and industry-leading technical partners. Lockheed Martin engineers and AI specialists will serve as mentors to AlphaPilot Teams. DRL will supply AlphaPilot 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.