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Volume 620 Issue 7976, 31 August 2023

Drone racer: AI pilot beats human champions in aerial contest

Artificial intelligence has taken on and beaten human competitors in many games, including chess, StarCraft and Gran Turismo. But such successes have largely been limited to board games or virtual worlds. In this week’s issue, researchers from the University of Zurich present an autonomous system that can compete in the physical world of drone racing. Professional-level drone races involve piloting aircraft around a complex 3D circuit, which presents a significant challenge to a robot because it has to fly fast while estimating speed and location using onboard sensors. The researchers combined deep reinforcement learning with data from the physical world to create their autonomous drone, which they named Swift. In competition against human pilots, including world champions, Swift won 15 out of 25 races and recorded the fastest race time.

Cover image: Ella Maru Studio Inc.

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Amendments & Corrections

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Focal Point

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