There are many reasons for drones to be quick. The professional drone racing circuit aside, speed bodes well when you are searching for survivors on a disaster site, or delivering cargo, or even inspecting critical infrastructure. But how do you get something done in the shortest possible time with limited battery life when you have to navigate through obstacles, changing speeds, and altitude? You use an algorithm.

Researchers at the University of Zurich (UZH) have developed an algorithm that can find the quickest trajectory to guide an autonomous drone through a series of waypoints on a circuit.

This algorithm is not just good, it’s extremely good. As Davide Scaramuzza, who heads the Robotics and Perception Group at UZH, explains:

Our drone beat the fastest lap of two world-class human pilots on an experimental race track.

Racing against an AI-driven drone

Here’s how that race went down: The researchers had the algorithm and two human pilots fly the same drone…