Fully autonomous drone outperforms two ‘world-class’ human drone racers

The bleeding edge: Researchers at the University of Zurich (UZH) developed a machine-learning algorithm for controlling a quadcopter drone that can outperform professional drone racing pilots. The algorithm calculates “time-optimal trajectories” while also factoring in the drone’s limitations.

The feat seems obvious at first glanceā€”a machine learning system beat a human again, so what? However, pro drone racers are outstanding at what they do, and this marks the first time an autonomous system has beaten not one but two world-class human pilots.

To test the system, the UZH researchers set up a drone flight course (below). Both the autonomous drone and the human pilots were allowed to train on the course. Not only was the AI able to achieve the fastest lap time, but it also beat the two pro pilots through every waypoint by significant margins.

The AI uses external cameras to…