High-Speed Drones Use AI to Spoil the Fun

Some people look forward to the day when robots have taken over all our jobs and given us an economy where we can while our days away on leisure activities. But if your idea of play is drone racing, you may be out of luck if this AI pilot for high-speed racing drones has anything to say about it.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab has been working for the past two years to develop the algorithms needed to let high-performance UAVs navigate typical drone racing obstacles, and from the look of the tests in the video below, they’ve made a lot of progress. The system is vision based, with the AI drones equipped with wide-field cameras looking both forward and down. The indoor test course has seemingly random floor tiles scattered around, which we guess provide some kind of waypoints for the drones. A previous video details a little about the architecture, and it seems the drones are doing the computer vision on-board, which we find pretty impressive.

Despite the program being bankrolled by Google, we’re sure no evil will come of this, and that we’ll be in no danger of being chased down by swarms of high-speed flying killbots anytime soon. For now we can take solace in the fact that JPL’s algorithms still can’t beat an elite human pilot like [Ken Loo], who bested the bots overall. But alarmingly, the human did no better than the bots on his first lap, which suggests that once the AI gets a little creativity and intuition like that needed to best a Go champion, [Ken] might need to find another line of work.

Thanks for the heads up, [Caroline].

17 thoughts on “High-Speed Drones Use AI to Spoil the Fun

      1. Hizbollah steals a shipment of killer nano drones, so MI5 targets any leftist, pro Plaestine youth at school! Nice video right up the alley of British dystopian sci-fi tradition.

      2. That video reminds me of a British (England) trial to predict which children would be the subjected to child abuse. The prediction was made before the children were born and the children were taken from the parents at birth.

        Of course the predictions were far less than perfect and consequently babies were taken from well meaning and protective parents who would never abuse their children.

        It poses the question of what is more important as it could be argued that there was a net improvement in child safety even though some children were remove without valid reason or cause. But is that more important than processes of justice where it is the individual that is is the focus of assessment rather that statistical probabilities.

        Thankfully we don’t have to ask that question as it has already been answered by the American government with the term “Collateral Damage”, meaning that even when life itself is in the balance, statistical probabilities triumph over the rights of an individual.

        Well that is my perspective as an outsider (non-US). I am not having a dig at American *People*, this is clearly directed at American *Government* and I strongly suspect that many American people feel the same way about their government. I’m interested to know how American people feel about this.

  1. impressive that they used vision only, i assume it’s still remote controlled, as hardware powerful enough to accomplish this is probably still going to be too much for such a little quad..

    1. The room-map looks like it is created with multiple overhead photos/video stills. They likely use that to map out the flight path of the AI vs Loo for analysis, but I don’t think it is used in the actual control of the craft.

      It looks like the camera picks up arc of the lights on top of the arches and adjusts flight parameters so the craft will coincide with the central angle.

  2. To all the paranoid people in the comments, relax, all vision systems that use CCD chips are vulnerable to a form of destructive feedback that permanently blinds them. I can’t tell you more than that, I just thought I should put that out there and encourage the rational folks to tell the fools to STFU.

    1. Do they still make CCD device at all? It’s all CMOS now isn’t it?
      I have an ancient webcam with a CCD and I was thinking it might become valuable as one of the surviving CCD devices.
      That cam won’t work in Windows incidentally, but does work in Linux, drivers are not available for ‘modern’ Windows (7 and up).

  3. It’s odd since the NASA robotics I’ve seen are all so excruciatingly slow, and now for some reason NASA wants to make superfast drones, which as stated by others is mostly handy when using it in nasty ways.

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