NASA and Google's Drone Race: Human vs. Artificial Intelligence


Engineers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory  put together a drone race to find which is faster - a drone operated by a human or one operated by artificial intelligence. The race capped two years of research into drone autonomy funded by Google. The company was interested in JPL's work with vision-based navigation for spacecraft - technologies that can also be applied to drones. JPL set up a timed trial between their A.I. and world-class drone pilot Ken Loo. The team built three custom drones and developed the complex algorithms the drones needed to fly at high speeds while avoiding obstacles. These algorithms were integrated with Google's Tango technology, which JPL also worked on. For the official laps, Loo averaged 11.1 seconds, compared to the autonomous drones, which averaged 13.9 seconds. Although, the autonomous drones were more consistent overall - where Loo's times varied, the A.I was able to fly the same racing line every lap.