Complex Missions and Artificial Intelligence: Sant’Anna School Emerges Victorious in Leonardo’s Drone Contest

Drones collaborating with autonomous terrestrial vehicles, empowered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms for localization and navigation, showcased their prowess during the second edition of Leonardo’s Drone Contest held in Turin. The primary challenge was to enable these drones to execute intricate missions independently, even in the absence of human or satellite GPS guidance.

The prestigious competition is the inaugural chapter of a series set to culminate in 2025. The victory in this year’s contest was secured by the exceptional team from Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies.

The competition heralds a new era of collaborative strategies among platforms, leading to the development of an integrated system that significantly enhances operational scenario awareness, expedites decision-making processes, and reduces response times during emergencies. The synergy among these platforms results in more efficient and effective operations.

The applications of these solutions are far-reaching. They can be employed in complex situations like inspecting natural disaster sites, accessing remote locations, surveilling high-risk areas, or performing reconnaissance where conventional vehicles and personnel struggle to reach. Leonardo’s involvement in this venture underscores the company’s commitment to applying the knowledge gleaned from these experimental scenarios on a broader scale in the near future.

In addition to fostering AI’s development in aerial and terrestrial drones, the event, organized by Leonardo in partnership with seven Italian universities, aims to facilitate the creation of a nationwide network. This network will unite experts from prominent enterprises, universities, SMEs, spin-offs, and startups in Italy, harnessing their collective technological capabilities.

The participating institutions at Leonardo’s Piedmont site included Politecnico di Torino, Politecnico di Milano, Alma Mater Studiorum-University of Bologna, Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Tor Vergata University of Rome, University of Naples Federico II, and a new addition: Politecnico di Bari.

Furthermore, the Drone Contest has begun attracting the interest of universities beyond Italy, with several expressing their intention to participate as observers for the first time in this year’s competition. This international attention hints at the event’s potential for global expansion. The 2023 edition introduced a broader range of challenges to assess the maturity of AI solutions developed by different teams.

In support of the Drone Contest, Leonardo sponsors a research contract spanning from 2023 to 2025 for each of the seven universities involved. The difficulty level of the competition has grown progressively since its inception in 2019, leading to the incorporation of select students and their research contributions within the company.

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