Virtual worlds

Microsoft proposes to train autonomous drones in virtual worlds

Microsoft offers to train autonomous drones before their first real flight using millions of training flights and scenarios in a virtual world.

The platform is called AirSim project(Opens in a new window) and it runs on Micorsoft Azure. It offers anyone who needs to develop a new autonomous drone the ability to use realistic environments, AI models, and deep learning to fly millions of flights in seconds. By doing so, all possible scenarios that a drone will face can be pre-tested before the first real flight.

Microsoft sees AirSim as being used to pre-train drones for very specific tasks such as aerial infrastructure inspection, last mile delivery, and urban air mobility. And all of the training can be done in a virtual environment that matches the real-world version it will eventually run in.

“Autonomous systems will transform many industries and enable many aerial scenarios, from last-mile cargo delivery in congested cities to inspecting downed power lines 1,000 miles away.” says Gurdeep Pall(Opens in a new window), Microsoft vice president for technology and research business incubations. “But first we need to train these systems safely in a realistic, virtualized world. The AirSim project is an essential tool that allows us to connect the world of bits and the world of atoms, and it shows the power of the industrial metaverse – virtual worlds where companies will build, test and perfect solutions, then bring them to the real world.”

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The AirSim project began as a Microsoft Research project in 2017(Opens in a new window) and used both Unreal Engine and Unity to produce the realistic 3D virtual environments for the drones to fly. It has proven to be very successful over the past five years and the decision was made to make it a commercial project. Starting today, it’s initially being made available as a limited preview for interested customers who simply need to contact the AirSim team(Opens in a new window) to find out how to register.

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