Students at Montreal's École Polytechnique are hoping their drone will be the first to fly without a GPS or a human at the controls. The team is the only Canadian one still in the running for the top prize at the International Aerial Robotics Competition (IARC).

Team Élikos has built a drone that is operated by artificial intelligence. The goal is to have the drone not only take off, fly and land on its own but also have it corral little robot vacuum cleaners that are circling on the ground.

Elikos drone

The drone uses the squares on the ground to navigate and find the robot vacuum cleaners that circle around in the area. (Élikos/Facebook)

"We try to rely as little as possible on pre-manufactured components," says Alexandre Borowczyk, the team member in charge of the robotics of the drone.

"On our drone, the goal is to put new sensors, new capacities."

The team caught the judges' eyes at IARC held in Atlanta, Georgia in August. But the competition is far from over; the team to be the first to complete their objectives comes out on top.

But the team of students says they are realistic about their goal: they expect it will take at least two more years before they have a fully functioning autonomous drone.