Autonomous Air Vehicle Racing


As a new offering in 2017, students may participate in an experimental program to build and race autonomous air vehicles. First-person view drone racing is a new and rapidly expanding sport, but completely autonomous air vehicle (drone) racing is also becoming possible. In this pilot program, students will build, program, and race an autonomous flying drone through an aerial race course. These students, working with advanced sensors and processors and implementing computer vision techniques, will demonstrate and perhaps even innovate the cutting edge of airborne autonomy.

This program consists of two components: (1) on-line course from January to May 2017, open to all interested and committed students and (2) 4-week summer program at MIT for small group of students July 10 to August 4, 2017. All students will learn how to use the software development environments that are a part of the summer course through a series of prerequisite on-line exercises from January to May 2017. The skills they develop will be demonstrated on a small toy quadcopter enabling rapid testing while being more forgiving of crashes–and students will be able to demonstrate basic vision-based autonomy after completing the exercises.

Students who have successfully completed the on-line course will be considered for participation in the summer program. Assisted by associate instructors, teams of students will learn how to construct, program, and fly autonomous racing drones. Every week ends with a mini-challenge, in which teams will demonstrate their advanced platforms and software build and compete for points (and bragging rights!). The event ends with a final challenge—an autonomous drone race through a 3D race course. The team with the most points will be crowned the MIT Autonomous Air Vehicle Champion!