NASA Drone Race Pits Human Pilot Against Artificial Intelligence

NASA is currently working on another huge project that tests speeds of both humans and artificial intelligence. This eartbound task involves research into autonomous drones, trying to make these unmanned vehicle capable of navigating the tough terrain on our home planet, so as to be able to make their way around during space missions.

To make this experiment fair, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, invited professional drone racer Ken Loo to see if human pilot is any faster than artificial intelligence.

According to JPL, the AI drones are built to racing specifications and capable of hitting speeds up to 80 miles per hour, but the obstacle course forced them to move at half that speed in order to navigate effectively. It turned out the drones were too cautious, and could have used that extra boost, because Loo ultimately won the day despite growing fatigued toward the end: he averaged 11.1 seconds per lap, while the AI averaged 13.9 seconds.

So, this wasn’t exactly a “slow and steady wins the race” situation since the AI drone lost decisively, but the fact that it could navigate those courses so consistently means it could soon be ready for bigger field tests. JPL wants to see it working in warehouses or aiding in disaster situations soon, but being at NASA could give it an even brighter future than that.

Check out the video below for the race!



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