AI-powered drone racing may be the next big sport

Drone technology has struck a chord in the world of artificial intelligence and has found a multitude of uses from delivery tools to military weapons.

The Drone Racing League uses drone technology as a recreational sporting device, encouraging engineers and techies to program and race their technology against one another.


For the first time ever, the Drone Racing League has released autonomous, AI-powered drones. What does that mean? It means there is no manual operation required.

“Normally, human pilots are racing [the drones], but these are actually entirely raced by AI,” Drone Racing League CEO and founder Nicholas Horbaczewski said on FOX Business’ “Mornings with Maria.” “The drone sees just the way we see. So, it's got these cameras, and it's looking at the world in front of it, looking at the racecourse and deciding how to navigate.”

“We're using sport to drive innovation.”

- Nicholas Horbaczewski, Drone Racing League CEO and founder

The autonomous racing drones have four stereoscopic cameras on it and a high powered processor, Horbaczewski said. Teams are invited to program AI pilots that get loaded on it and then race in complex, three-dimensional courses at high speeds. The drone goes up to 70 mph.

“It's really fun," Horbaczewski said. "The drones are incredibly loud and race really fast. Our human racing circuit has thousands of people in attendance. These [AI] events are a little bit smaller.”

Drone Racing League events are streamed and televised, and garner over "tens of millions" of viewers. The league also holds live races that any fan to attend.

“We've created a whole new sport,” Horbaczewski said. “And we're trying to push the boundaries of technology … We compete with all sports. But I think we're really special because we really are a true merger of technology, sports and entertainment.”

Horbaczewski said the fastest AI pilot team at their world championship in Austin, Texas, will be awarded $1 million.

"We're trying to really use sport to encourage AI innovation, as well as to create a visible platform that will track young people to technology, engineering and autonomous programming."

- Nicholas Horbaczewski, Drone Racing League CEO and founder


“Most of the teams are from research universities," Horbaczewski said. "We had over 400 teams apply from 81 countries. We've selected nine of them, and they are competing to design the best AI pilot.”