In a work funded by Google, NASA engineers trained an artificial intelligence to race drones in a challenging obstacle course. The AI proved to be a worthy match against one of the world’s best human pilots. While it didn’t have the fastest time, the AI never fatigues and made far safer turns and twists.
The drone-racing AI is the culmination of two years of work by researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The team designed three drones — Batman, Joker, and Nightwing — which were embedded with complex algorithms that instruct the flying gizmos how to navigate obstacles. JPL used some of the visual-based navigation technology it had previously used for spacecraft.
To see how well their drones behave, NASA enlisted world-class pilot Ken Loo who raced against the drones on October 12. The drones could reach a staggering 80 mph (129 kph) in a straight line.
Read more: AI-powered drones race against human pilots