AlphaPilot — Lockheed Martin AI Drone Racing Innovation Challenge

Calling all coders, gamers, race fans, and drone enthusiasts…

Lockheed Martin and The Drone Racing League (DRL) challenge you to participate in AlphaPilot, an open innovation challenge, developing artificial intelligence for high-speed racing drones.  

AlphaPilot will challenge teams of up to 10 participants each to design an artificial intelligence (AI) framework, powered by the NVIDIA Jetson platform for AI at the edge, that is capable of flying a drone -- without any human intervention or navigational pre-programming.

Autonomous drones will race head-to-head through complex, three-dimensional tracks in DRL’s new Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) Circuit, starting in 2019.

AlphaPilot aims to unite a diverse community of practicing and emerging AI experts, researchers and students to inspire the next generation of autonomous drone technology. By participating in this challenge, your knowledge and ideas can contribute directly toward the future of autonomous transportation, delivery, disaster relief, and even space exploration!


Challenge Partners

The AlphaPilot Innovation Challenge offers a chance for teams to master autonomous flight and win more than $2,000,000 in cash prizes!

Lockheed Martin Autonomy

Technology is transforming how humans and machines work together. People are relying on machines to help them make better informed decisions, expand reach and access, and increase safety and productivity. This new era of human-machine collaboration depends on trust and understanding—allowing each component of the team to do what it does best.

See how Lockheed Martin experts are changing how humans and machines work together:

How one small VTOL UAS supporting some of the United States’ most critical missions

How autonomy expands force protection for the military:

Challenge Videos

Lockheed Martin Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Keoki Jackson announces the AlphaPilot artificial intelligence (AI) innovation competition at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco.

AlphaPilot AI Drone Innovation Challenge launch video.

The Challenge

Lockheed Martin and DRL are challenging teams to develop an AI-enabled framework, powered by the NVIDIA Jetson platform for AI at the edge, that can navigate a fully autonomous drone through complex, multi-dimensional racing courses – without any pre-programming or human intervention. 

Teams will develop AI that has an accurate representation of a drone operator’s goals and desires, so it can make inferences about current and future needs, limiting the need for explicit direction. 

This is a competition of AI quality – all other racing variables, including the drone hardware, are controlled.

AlphaPilot will award more than $2,000,000 in prizes for its top performers!

  • The grand prize winner will take home $1 million.
  • The first AlphaPilot team to beat a human-piloted drone in head-to-head competition will take home an extra $250,000.

Lockheed Martin and DRL are targeting U.S. undergraduate and graduate students to apply for AlphaPilot; however, the competition is open to drone enthusiasts, coders and technologists ages 18+ from around the world. If you believe autonomy will shape our future, now’s your chance to help create that future. This is a great opportunity for some of the world’s most creative minds to go head-to-head and show what their technologies can do.

Work with professional mentors and industry-leading technical partners. Lockheed Martin engineers and AI specialists will serve as mentors to Challenge teams. DRL will supply Challenge teams with standardized drones, and their drone experts will collaborate with teams and Lockheed Martin technical mentors throughout the multi-year partnership. Contestants will also have access to products from NVIDIA, the leader in AI computing.


  • The Contest is open to applicants who are at least 18 years of age. 
  • Teams may enter independently or as representatives of a university or business entity.
  • Teams may also pursue sponsors to assist with computing infrastructure and travel costs.

All terms and conditions >

2019 AlphaPilot Teams

These nine teams will compete to design an AI framework capable of piloting racing drones through high-speed aerial courses without any GPS, data relay or human intervention. AlphaPilot teams will battle it out during Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) Circuit's inaugural, four-event season later this year for a chance at winning a $1 million cash prize, sponsored by Lockheed Martin. An additional $250,000 reward will be given to the first team whose autonomous drone pushes the limits of performance between man and machine, and bests a human-piloted drone.

The AlphaPilot Challenge launched in November 2019 on the HeroX platform, attracting 424 teams from 81 countries. Teams competed in a series of qualification tests this spring. A panel of industry experts evaluated their technical strategy and abilities in developing image-classification algorithms and performing in simulated racing environments.


ICARUS from Atlanta, Georgia, USA; affiliated with Georgia Tech’s School of Aerospace Engineering

Formula Drone

Formula Drone from Los Angeles, California, USA; affiliated with the University of California, Los Angeles

KEF Robotics

KEF Robotics from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA


MAVLab from Delft, Netherlands; affiliated with the Delft University of Technology


TEAM USRG @ KAIST from Daejeon, Republic of Korea; affiliated with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

Team Puffin

Team Puffin with four team members from the USA, Sweden and Australia

UZH Robotics and Perception Group

UZH Robotics and Perception Group from Zurich, Switzerland; affiliated with the University of Zurich

Warsaw MIMotaurs

Warsaw MIMotaurs from Warsaw, Poland


XQuad from Minas Gerais, Brazil; affiliated with the Federal University of Minas Gerais

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