Technology News: Since 2016, the human pilots of the Drone Racing League have competed to see who could whip a quadcopter around pylons and through hoops the fastest. On Tuesday, they’ll get a new challenge: the fully autonomous RacerAI, a drone programmed to fly itself.
Nine teams of programmers from around the world have been coding for months to come up with the best software to control the Drone Racing League-designed RacerAI. Their work, along with the drone itself, will debut at the Addition Financial Arena in Orlando, Florida. The software needs to take advantage of the drone’s four cameras, four propellers, and Nvidia processor.
The Racer AI looks more like a flying fish or bird of prey than a conventional quadcopter. Its arrow-like body emphasizes its purpose: full speed ahead.
The race will be the first in the new Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing series, which uses simpler courses that pit computer-piloted drones against each other. The series culminates on Dec. 6, when the best AI-piloted drone will take on a human pilot in Austin, Texas.
“We’re here to watch as robotics evolve beyond humanity,” said Ryan Gury, DRL’s chief technology officer and designer of the league’s current racing drones. “We believe in the future of autonomous robotics.”
Competitions that pit humans against machines can be compelling. IBM computers famously vanquished humans at chess and Jeopardy, and Google’s AlphaGo kicked up the difficulty level with its wins against the best players of the Go board game. We all know computers have us beat when it comes to doing the math and remembering anniversaries, but it’s somewhere between fun and scary to watch the bots win in other domains.
The physical world is a less cerebral AI challenge than translating French into English or playing Starcraft. Boston Dynamics’ humanoid Atlas robot can do backflips and its doglike Spot Mini can open doors. Similarly, the DRL’s RacerAI is designed to physically navigate on its own in the real world. Granted, it’s the limited domain of a race course inside a big arena, but it isn’t hard to see how this technology can apply to self-driving cars, passenger aircraft or delivery drones that have to deal with their surroundings.
Gury is a drone racing pilot himself, one of those people who dons a headset to see what the drone sees over a wireless link. But he thinks AI-powered drones will ultimately prove superior. When? “2023 is our bet,” he said. “Everything really begins to shape up when you see robots outperform humans physically.”
Source : https://www.cnet.com