Man Vs Drone: Who Wins In Contest That Combines Star Wars Pod-Racing With F1?

Swiss pilot masters Drone Racing League
15:07, 11 Dec 2019

There’s no Arnold Schwarzenegger in sight nor does it appear to be Judgement Day just yet. 

And that postponement of society being completely humbled by technology might have just now come down to one Swiss soldier.

In an event that brings to mind Garry Kasparov beating chess-playing machine Deep Blue, one man has stood up, defied the odds, and given the middle finger to the future.

The Drone Racing League (DRL) finally offered the opportunity of a fast, furious, and frenetic battle between Man and Machine.

In the first of its kind to ever take place the DRL called out for challengers to see whomever could best AI-powered drones in a race through an obstacle course. 

Billing itself as “the global, professional drone racing circuit for elite pilots”, the DRL came up with an absolutely brilliant selling point:

“What happens when you combine the thrill of Star Wars Pod-Racing with the real world adrenaline of Formula 1?’”


The Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing (AIRR) was duly created, with the hero humanity needs stepping up to face the AI, who were competing without the use of any Global Positioning System to help them navigate.

Impressively, pilot Gabriel Kocher from Switzerland completed the unseen course in six seconds, making a mockery of the nine computer-controlled competitors, the best of which could only manage a measly twelve seconds. He wore first-person-view goggles to pilot his drone through the course.

Kocher, known as ‘Gab707’ on the astonishingly photographed videos he has posted across YouTube, zipped his drone around the DRL route at speeds hitting well over 90mph. 

It may not have come as much of a surprise to followers of the sport. As described on the official DRL website, Kocher is frequently called a “robot” by his fellow pilots.

“Gab707 has been the most consistent DRL pilot for the past two seasons,” his bio reads. “Gab is focused, strategic and alert. 

“Despite being the most technically skilled pilot, Gab finished as the runner up in both the 2016 and 2017 DRL Allianz World Championship. In 2018, he took 3rd place after crashing out in the Golden Heat. Gab is determined to make 2019 his year to become the DRL Allianz World Champion.”

The AI successes were dominated by MVLab, of the Delft University of Technology (Netherlands) who claimed a cool $1million prize purse along the way to declaring their own designed AI the crème de la crème at being the fastest robotic racers around the circuit.

Be warned - and sorry to drone on - but the future is here, and the future is really scary.

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