The first season of the Drone Racing League, which featured professional drones to compete in Artificial Intelligence driven races, had MAVLab as the winner. The team that makes up the research laboratory at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands received the $ 1 million prize.
The racing season lasted three months, with nine teams selected from over 400 candidates. It took four race steps to define the winner. Although the race time of AI pilots is far behind humans, it is still an impressive time.
Distribution is scheduled to begin in 2020 and deliveries will be made worldwide.
The final round was between the MAVLab team against the Austin, Texas Indoor course. The equipment of both teams was identical, as were the obstacles and paths followed, what changed was the software that was running. The drones were able to reach a top speed of 140km / h. The winning system was able to make the circuit in 12 seconds, a time 25% faster than the second-placed group, UZH Robotics & Perception Group from Switzerland.
The $ 1 million prize was paid by the event sponsor Lockheed Martin. In an interview, the MAVLab leader stated that "The team worked very hard on this," he concluded by saying, "I can't wait to see how the innovation of standalone drone technology will continue to evolve in the coming years."
After the end of the competition, MAVLab's AI system competed with human driver Gabriel Kocher, who is competing in the DRL Allianz World Championship season of professional racing. This time, the circuit time for the AI system was improved by one second, ending the race by 11 seconds. Despite the improvement, it lagged far behind Gabriel's six seconds.
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The team faced problems throughout the competition. The drone used by the team crashed in the first race, which took place in October, in Orlando Florida. MAVLab used the problem to improve its software, make some corrections and follow the competition. The result was first place in the championship race in Austin.