The term drone has become a bit of a buzzword lately, for a number of reasons. On one hand, we have hovering drones that can deliver packages or assist with search and rescue missions. On the other hand, we have the questionable ramifications of unmanned military drones destroying targets from afar. No matter what your opinion of the technology is, aerial drones are definitely here to stay.

Drone-to-Car Communications

A recon drone like this one from DJI will be launched from a moving vehicle.

At the forefront of technological growth, Ford has announced a new partnership with drone manufacturer DJI to launch the Drone-to-Vehicle Developer Challenge. This challenge is designed to encourage software developers to “create a rapidly deployable surveying system for use by the United Nations in emergency zones.” As incentive, the winning developer who accomplishes the challenge will receive a prize of $100,000.

So, what exactly is the Drone-to-Vehicle Developer Challenge? According to DJI, developers must program emergency recon drones that can complete the following tasks:

  • Quickly take off from a moving vehicle
  • Autonomously enter the “disaster area”
  • Survey the area, recognize objects, and create a map of the scene
  • Gather information on the location of “survivors”
  • Transmit the information back to a computer system in the launch vehicle (potentially using Ford SYNC AppLink or OpenXC technology)
  • Return and land on the moving vehicle

Emergency recon drones Ford F150

The Ford F-150 launch vehicle could be driven near a disaster zone by United Nations personnel, then the drone could take off to survey areas hit hard by earthquakes, tsunamis, or floods. The U.N. personnel would be able to control the drone remotely and receive real-time updates, all without leaving the safety of the F-150's cab.

According to Ford, future applications of this semi-autonomous vehicle-launched drone technology “could include agriculture, forestry, construction, bridge inspection and other work.” The contest ends on March 10th, 2016, so we should be seeing more updates on this technology later this year.

For more information, click here to read the full Ford press release.

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