For the first time, AI-powered drone beats world champions in a real-world sport

In a game-changing moment for sports, a drone powered by artificial intelligence, named Swift, has raced ahead of top human pilots. This is a big deal in the tech world, similar to when computers first beat humans in chess and the game of Go.

Historical AI Milestones

Back in the day, in 1996, a computer called IBM’s Deep Blue made news by winning against chess pro Gary Kasparov. Fast forward to 2016, and Google’s AlphaGo did the same by beating Lee Sedol, a master of the game of Go. Those wins were huge, but they were all about strategy games.

New Achievement in Drone Racing

Now, Swift’s win is different. It’s in the world of drone racing, a sport where pilots control fast-flying drones using a special headset. It’s a bit like watching a Formula One race from the driver’s seat. It takes a lot of skill and quick thinking.

Photograph: Leonard Bauersfeld

AI in Physical Sports

Physical sports, like drone racing, are tricky for computers because they’re unpredictable. But Swift was built with special tech tools. It has a camera and sensors that help it fly, turn, and speed up just right.

Training Process

How did Swift learn to race? It practiced in a computer simulation, kind of like a video game. This “game” was designed using real-world data to make it as close to a real race as possible. Swift also used a camera, just like human pilots, to “see” during the race. In a short time, Swift practiced what would be a month’s worth of flying for a human.

Race Details

The big race took place near Zurich, where Swift went head-to-head with famous pilots like Alex Vanover and Thomas Bitmatta. Swift did great, even setting a speed record. But, it did have one hiccup: it got a bit confused when the sunlight changed. This shows that humans still have an edge in some areas because we can adapt quickly.

Human vs. AI

Why does this win matter? Fast drones can be super useful. They can help in monitoring forests, exploring space, filming movies, and even in rescue missions. While Swift showed that computers can be super fast and precise, humans still have the upper hand in handling unexpected situations.

To wrap it up, Swift’s win is a big step for technology. It shows how computers are getting better at real-world tasks, but also how humans and machines each have their own strengths.

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