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Lockheed Martin drones are on display during the 2019 SXSW Trade Show on March 12, 2019. Photo: Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty Images

In an attempt to drive interest and research into autonomous vehicles, the Drone Racing League and Lockheed Martin have partnered up to create the AlphaPilot competition.

How it works: 430 teams, each armed with an autonomous drone, are currently participating in qualifying rounds. Nine make the Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing Circuit finals, where the winners will go home with $1 million. If a team's A.I. drone can also beat a human pilot head-to-head, they get an extra $250,000.

Why it matters: Autonomous drones are part of our future. And for them to be useful in places like disaster areas, they need to be able to fly fast, far and without human oversight.

  • Right now, that's a huge challenge, as they lack the ability to detect real-world environments and can be thrown off by something as simple as a shadow, which limits their top speed.
  • The hope is that the AlphaPilot competition leads to increased awareness about the future of not just autonomous drones, but all autonomous vehicles. And maybe even a technological breakthrough.

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
3 hours ago - Sports

European soccer is at war

Liverpool celebrating its 2019 Champions League victory. Photo: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

2021's expected earnings blowout begins

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

3 hours ago - Science

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

Ingenuity on the surface of Mars, filmed by NASA's Perseverance rover. Photo: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hovering the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.