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TU Delft scientists create world’s smallest autonomous racing drone

Nieke Roos
Leestijd: 3 minuten

The Micro Air Vehicle Laboratory (MAVLab) of Delft University of Technology has created the currently smallest autonomous racing drone in the world. It measures 10 centimeters in diameter and weighs 72 grams. It uses only a single camera and very little onboard processing in order to autonomously fly through a racing track with a speed that rivals that of the fastest, bigger autonomous racing drones.

Drone racing by human pilots is becoming a major e-sport. In its wake, autonomous drone racing has become a major challenge for artificial intelligence and control. Over the years, the speed of autonomous race drones has been gradually improving, with some of the fastest ones in recent competitions now moving at 2 m/s. Most of them are equipped with high-performance processors, with multiple, high-quality cameras and sometimes even with laser scanners. This allows for state-of-the-art visual perception solutions, like building maps of the environment or accurately tracking movement over time. However, it also adds weight and cost.

At the MAVLab, the aim is to make light-weight and cheap autonomous racing drones. These could be used by many drone racing enthusiasts to train with or fly against. If they become small enough, they could even be used for racing at home.

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