The Drone Racing Leagueâ€”yes, that became a thing a couple years backâ€”is launching a new competition in conjunction with the aerospace-and-weaponry giant Lockheed Martin. And no, armed drones arenâ€™t involved.
This is an â€śinnovation competitionâ€ťâ€”Lockheed (lmt) and the league are challenging teams to develop an AI that can beat human drone pilots without human intervention. Itâ€™s called the AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge and thereâ€™s $2 million in prize money on offer, with $1 million set aside as the grand prize for the developer of the winning AI.
â€śYour challenge is to design an artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) framework capable of flying a drone through several professional drone racing courses without human intervention or navigational pre-programing,â€ť reads the challengeâ€™s webpage on Lockheedâ€™s site. â€śBy participating in this competition, your knowledge and ideas can contribute directly toward the future of autonomous transportation, delivery, disaster relief, and even space exploration!â€ť
All of which sounds great, but might the resulting technology not also be used in a military context? Many techies donâ€™t like that prospectâ€”after all, Googleâ€™s employees successfully revolted over the idea of their AI efforts being used to power military dronesâ€™ video analysis, and there is widespread pushback within the AI community against the concept of autonomous weaponry.
Drone Racing League (DRL) founder Nicholas Horbaczewski told The Verge that the leagueâ€™s new Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) circuit, where the challenge will play out, â€śhas no ties to the military.â€ť
â€śTo suggest that advancing AI piloting would be intrinsically linked to the military would be very short-sighted,â€ť Horbaczewski said.
Lockheed said it was funding the challenge using the money it saved from President Donald Trumpâ€™s tax reform last year, which slashed corporate tax bills.