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$2 Million Drone Race – Lockheed Martin and Drone Racing League Launch A.I. Challenge

Lockheed Martin AlphaPilot AI Drone Innovation Challenge


$2 Million Drone Race – Lockheed Martin and Drone Racing League Launch A.I. Challenge

$2 Million Drone Race – Lockheed Martin and Drone Racing League Launch A.I. Challenge


Lockheed Martin and Drone Racing League (DRL) jointly announced an innovation competition in San Fransico today. Lockheed Martin Chief Technology Officer Keoki Jackson announced the challenge at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco, kicking off a multi-year partnership with DRL, the global professional circuit for drone racing.

The AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge will enlist university students, technologists, coders and drone enthusiasts to push the boundaries of AI, machine learning (ML) and fully autonomous flight. The competition involves pitting human pilots against artificial intelligence in a $2 million drone race.

The challenge basis lies on the fact that computer-driven drones would neither be pre-programmed for the route nor rely on human intervention but instead only depend only on AI and self-learning to navigate through challenging multi-dimensional race courses in DRL’s new Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) Circuit, according to Keoki Jackson.

“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,” Jackson said in a statement.

“Since 2016, DRL has been the proving ground for the world’s most talented human pilots, showcasing their abilities to race remotely piloted drones at high speeds. This challenge changes the game,” said DRL CEO and founder Nicholas Horbaczewski. “Our collaboration with Lockheed Martin will both accelerate AI innovation and redefine the sport of the future,” he added.

The Lockheed Martin AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge will open for entries in November and Drone Racing League (DRL) will host a series of races and competitions in which selected participants will be eligible for over $2 million in cash prizes, including an extra $250,000 award for the first team that outperforms a professional DRL human-piloted drone. DRL is one of the most coveted professional drones racing circuit for elite FPV pilots around the world. Participating teams will be asked to construct their frameworks using Nvidia’s Jetson platform for autonomous vehicles.

The Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) Circuit will produce four AI vs. AI races in its inaugural season. Both the AIRR Circuit and the AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge will be held in the 2019 season.

The 2018 season for human drone pilots will take place at several locations ranging from a biosphere in Arizona and The Adventuredome at Circus Circus Las Vegas to the Allianz Riviera soccer stadium in Nice, France to a BMW factory in Munich, Germany. The last of the championship of the DRL season will be a competition in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“In 2019, we’re fairly certain the human pilot will win. By 2020, it’s anyone’s race,” Horbaczewski told VentureBeat in an email, adding that an autonomous drone could join the DRL as soon as 2021. The DRL could also be the stepping stone for futuristic AI use to help human drone pilots hone their collaborative skills for autonomous drone teams or for working with simulators.

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Cite this article as: Vidi Nene, "$2 Million Drone Race – Lockheed Martin and Drone Racing League Launch A.I. Challenge," in, September 6, 2018,

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