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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

3 hours ago - Health

Biden: Americans with long-COVID symptoms may qualify for disability resources

President Biden speaking in Arlington, Virginia, on July 23. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Americans experiencing long-term symptoms of COVID-19 may qualify for disability resources from the federal government, President Biden announced Monday during an event to mark the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Driving the news: The departments of Justice and Health and Human Services released new guidance Monday that categorizes “long COVID" as a physical or mental impairment, entitling people with the illness to discrimination protections under the the ADA.

Study: Get ready for many more record-shattering heatwaves

NASA computer model image of temperature departures from average on June 27 during the Pacific Northwest heat wave. (NASA Earth Observatory)

The recent deadly heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, during which all-time temperature records were shattered by several degrees, is a prologue to what is coming across much of the U.S., Europe and Asia, a new study finds.

Why it matters: The study shows that the rate of climate change is an under-appreciated driver of extreme heat, and that today's quickening pace of warming virtually guarantees more extreme temperature records in coming decades.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

UN: Civilian casualties in Afghanistan hit record high amid U.S troop withdrawal

Afghan security force members inspect the site of an explosion in Kabul. Photo: Sayed Mominzadah/Xinhua via Getty Images

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan have hit record highs amid the U.S. troop withdrawal from the country, the UN said in a report released Monday.

Why it matters: The report, which documented more than 1,650 civilians deaths in the first half of 2021, provides a "clear warning" that an unprecedented number of Afghan civilians "will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed," Deborah Lyons, the secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement.