Scientists at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in the U.S. built three custom drones - called Batman, Joker and Nightwing - and developed the algorithms to enable the drones to fly at high speeds while avoiding obstacles. This makes them far safer and reliable in the long run.
"Our autonomous drones can fly much faster". The drones used were called Joker, Batman and Nightwing, and were configured to fly at 129 kph in a straight line.
The drones were built to racing specifications and could easily go as fast as 80 miles per hour (129 kph) in a straight line.
The algorithm, which is still being worked on, sometimes struggled with the speeds, causing the drones to lose track of their surroundings, according to NASA.
To demonstrate the progress of the team, JPL prepared a timed trial between their artificial intelligence and a top-notch drone pilot Ken Loo. The project was part of a two-year research program into drone autonomy, funded by Google. Google's Tango technology was also incorporated into these algorithms.
It's worth noting that the AI drone completed the course with more accuracy than Loo, but let's not allow that small fact to take away from humanity's triumph.
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The team set up an obstacle course in one of JPL's warehouses to put the software to the test. Still, where Loo's times varied from lap to lap, the A.I. stayed consistent.
They pledged that future versions would compete in professional drone race. "You can actually see that the AI flies the drone smoothly around the course, whereas human pilots tend to accelerate aggressively, so their path is jerkier".
The race on October 12 followed two years of AI research by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, Calif. JPL's success in spacecraft navigation attracted Google, who funded the research on drone autonomy, NASA said in the statement accompanying a video they released on Tuesday (Nov. 21). "One day you might see them racing professionally", Reid said. "One of my faults as a pilot is I get exhausted easily". Loo was also able to do more impressive aerial acrobatics, such as corkscrews, which flummoxed the drones. "When I get mentally worn out, I start to get lost, even if I've flown the course 10 times". Loo averaged 11.1 seconds for the drone loop while the autonomous drone averaged 13.9 seconds.
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Following dozens of laps, Loo became more accustomed to the course and, as a result, became more creative and confident. According to Reid, their technology could be used by commercial drones to check inventory in a warehouse, for instance, or assist in rescue operations at disaster sites where there unpredictable and numerous obstacles.
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