Qualcomm showcased the latest version of the company’s Snapdragon Flight Drone Program, which includes a new technology that enables drones to learn about the environment around them while they're in the air, reports Recode.
The technology, which uses flight control and machine learning, allows a drone to fly autonomously and adjust to unforeseen obstacles in real time. This technology could pave the way for smarter drones and varied use cases.
The ability to adeptly maneuver around potential obstacles would give drones more applications. Many drones already use artificial intelligence technologies to help locate a moving object and avoid it, but Qualcomm’s technology uses more advanced computing to not just detect and avoid an object, but also to create an alternate flight path for the drone. This could enable drones to conduct services in places they have not yet been, such as a dense forest, where unforeseen objects can be quite common.
Here’s what this technology could mean for drone services moving forward:
- This will likely only serve as one building block for a company seeking to integrate this into a drone service. Qualcomm is a designer, not a manufacturer; it specializes in designing microchips and developing associated programs. If a company wants to use this technology, it would also need to solicit the services of a drone manufacturer or service provider.
- Further, regulatory barriers could prevent this technology from being deployed commercially anytime soon. Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration forbids consumer and enterprise drones from flying beyond the line of sight of the operator. Though this technology could be helpful in expanding service use cases, it will not be integrated into a drone fleet unless those barriers are broken.
- But this design could serve as a glimpse into a future where companies roll out commercialized drone services. If drones are able to dynamically negotiate their way around obstacles, it may incentivize companies to explore ways in which they can integrate drones powered by Qualcomm’s technology more regularly into their operations.
Drones turned the corner in 2015 to become a popular consumer device, while a framework for regulation that legitimizes drones in the US began to take shape. Technological and regulatory barriers still exist to further drone adoption.
Drone manufacturers and software providers are quickly developing technologies like geo-fencing and collision avoidance that will make flying drones safer. The accelerating pace of drone adoption is also pushing governments to create new regulations that balance safety and innovation.
Safer technology and better regulation will open up new applications for drones in the commercial sector, including drone delivery programs like Amazon’s Prime Air and Google’s Project Wing initiatives.
BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has compiled a detailed drones report that forecasts sales revenues for consumer, enterprise, and military drones. It also projects the growth of drone shipments for consumers and enterprises.
The report details several of world’s major drone suppliers and examines trends in drone adoption among several leading industries. Finally, it examines the regulatory landscape in several markets and explains how technologies like obstacle avoidance and drone-to-drone communications will impact drone adoption.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:
- We project revenues from drones sales to top $12 billion in 2021, up from just over $8 billion last year.
- Shipments of consumer drones will more than quadruple over the next five years, fueled by increasing price competition and new technologies that make flying drones easier for beginners.
- Growth in the enterprise sector will outpace the consumer sector in both shipments and revenues as regulations open up new use cases in the US and EU, the two biggest potential markets for enterprise drones.
- Technologies like geo-fencing and collision avoidance will make flying drones safer and make regulators feel more comfortable with larger numbers of drones taking to the skies.
- Right now FAA regulations have limited commercial drones to a select few industries and applications like aerial surveying in the agriculture, mining, and oil and gas sectors.
- The military sector will continue to lead all other sectors in drone spending during our forecast period thanks to the high cost of military drones and the growing number of countries seeking to acquire them.
In full, the report:
- Compares drone adoption across the consumer, enterprise, and government sectors.
- Breaks down drone regulations across several key markets and explains how they’ve impacted adoption.
- Discusses popular use cases for drones in the enterprise sector, as well as nascent use case that are on the rise.
- Analyzes how different drone manufacturers are trying to differentiate their offerings with better hardware and software components.
- Explains how drone manufacturers are quickly enabling autonomous flight in their products that will be a major boon for drone adoption.
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The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you’ve given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of the world of drones.
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