While drones have been becoming more and more useful over the last couple of years, doing cool things like following GPS waypoints or chasing their owner's vehicles, all while capturing epic video footage, most of this tech was only for the military or big companies with massive budgets. If you told a drone to go somewhere or do something, you were the one who needed to make sure nothing was in the way.
That's no longer the case today after China's DJI, widely regarded as the market leader in consumer drones, announced a new model that features the first guidance system available to regular consumers. The system is a combination of ultrasonic sensors and stereo cameras which enable the drone to detect objects up to 65 feet away and then keep the aircraft at a pre-set distance.
If there's now a big tree in between two waypoint, the drone will go over or around it, without an additional input from the owner required.
This technology is called 'sense and avoid' and is key to many sophisticated drone projects, like urban package delivery or low-level photography. Its especially useful around populated areas, where plenty of man made structures need to be negotiated. DJI says that research teams are already using the new guidance platform to build "unique applications, including an aerial solution created at Fudan University in Shanghai that uses Intel processors to detect illegally parked cars from the air."
The guidance system is available for DJI's new Matrice 100 drone. The new model is designed for developers looking to test our theoretical drone designs across a wide range of industries.
But the real significance of today's announcement is it shows DJI is not content to just be a hardware manufacturer. The company sees itself and its technology as being but as a platform for the entire drone industry, where it controls both the software inside each vehicle and builds the outer airframes.
Like its peers Xiaomi, Alibaba and Baidu, DJI has big ambitions and isn't afraid to go chase them. Exect to hear a lot more about DJI in the coming months, particularly around the fall, as it launches new models in time for the important holiday season.