Ford looks to incorporate drone technology into vehicles

Ford and drone manufacturer DJI have launched a competition to create a system for vehicle-to-drone communication, to be deployed by the United Nations in emergency situations.

(Credit: Ford)
(Credit: Ford)

The DJI Developer Challenge invites participants to create software to enable vehicles and drones to work together more effectively, using either the motor company’s Ford SYNC AppLink or OpenXC. Backed by the United Nations Development Programme, the competition is geared towards a system that can operate in the aftermath of natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

“At Ford, we are driving innovation in every part of our business to help make people’s lives better,” said Ken Washington, Ford vice president of Research and Advanced Engineering. “Working with DJI and the United Nations, there is an opportunity to make a big difference, with vehicles and drones working together for a common good.

A Ford F-150 would be used to transport the drone to the edge of a disaster area, from where it could be launched from the truck’s flatbed. Following a flight path over the disaster zone, the drone would capture video and images, creating a map of survivors.

Real-time information would be relayed back to the driver in the truck, who could send commands via the vehicle’s touch screen or the driver’s smartphone. Data would also be sent back to the drone in the field, so that the driver could continue to a new location, and the drone would be able to track the vehicle and know where to return to dock.

The aim of the DJI Developer Challenge is to create the software that will enable all this to happen seamlessly, and the winner will take home a prize of £70,000. Although the purpose of the competition is specific regarding the particular mission of the UN, Ford says the technology could also have uses in areas such as agriculture, forestry, search and rescue, construction, and bridge inspection.

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