$2 Million AI Drone Dangle

Lockheed Martin’s Stalker XE, a small, silent unmanned aerial system

Truth be told, there’s every chance that the Drone Racing League was thought up in somebody’s mom’s basement.

It was founded in 2015, according to a recent profile in the Washington Post, growing from a network of drone racing organizations that met in fields and parking lots, a 21st century version of hot rodding. Drone enthusiasts in these races use models capable of going 80 mph, navigated with virtual reality goggles.

The appeal caught on and soon ESPN2, that catch basin of sporting events that aren’t college football, began televising the races.

Now defense contractor Lockheed Martin, a top aerospace concern in Alabama, is sponsoring a competition with the Drone Racing League, offering a $2 million prize fund for software designers who can deliver a product that flies drones better than carbon-based life.

The software must use artificial intelligence and machine learning on the Nvidia Jetson platform and the drone must be able to operate without navigational preprogramming. In other words, it has to think for itself.

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