Artificial Intelligence vs Humans has been the theme of many dystopian novels over the years. While AI dominating over humans still feels like a far fetched theory from a crazy science fiction, AI is actually beating humans in many fronts. Basically, AI can do a lot of things that humans do and it can do it better than us! However, a different scenario arose at NASA when a human pilot beat an AI system in a drone race.

Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been researching on drone autonomy. This is a Google funded project. NASA took things to the next level when they organized a race between AI powered drones and one of the most popular drone pilots in the world, Ken Loo.

NASA built three custom drones named Batman, Joker and Nightwing. These drones were equipped with cameras which gave them vision and were powered by Artificial Intelligence driven algorithms which helped them to make appropriate decisions on an obstacle course. The drones made use of Google’s Tango technology which allowed them to map the space around them in 3D.

When flying in a single line, NASA’s drones can fly up to speeds of 80mph. However, considering that this was an obstacle course that they were going through, their speed was limited to about 40mph. Ken Loo, the human drone pilot was able to beat these drones. While the AI Powered drones as well as Ken, both started off with pretty much the same speeds and lap times, Ken won the race with a better average time and speed!

NASA stated in a press release that their AI powered drones are more consistent as well as cautious when compared to the human drone. However, they encountered problems with motion blur at high speeds. While their performance remained the same in all laps, Loo was able to learn the course and gradually improved with time! However, given enough time and technology, these AI powered drones can possibly be a good option for surveillance and emergency response purposes in the future!


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