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Ford envisions car and drone co-operation

Posted January 7, 2016

Drones are a great fun – you can pilot one yourself and shoot a video of your local surroundings from up high. However, they are very useful tools too – they can be used to assess wildfires and other natural disasters, take a wider look at the farming fields, constructions and so on. Not to mention their potential in military.

F150 would become a base for the drone. This tandem is going to be very useful for monitoring locations hard to reach for the on-land vehicles. Image credit:

F150 would become a base for the drone. This tandem is going to be very useful for monitoring locations hard to reach for the on-land vehicles. Image credit:

Now Ford and drone-maker DJI have an idea that car and drone could work together to accomplish certain tasks and are launching a challenge to create suitable software for that.

The DJI Developer Challenge is calling innovators from around the globe to develop drone-to-vehicle communications. The ultimate goal is to give such drone and car combinations to the United Nations Development Program for the inspection of emergency zones inaccessible to even the most versatile vehicles, such as earthquakes or tsunamis.

Ken Washington, Ford vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering, said: “At Ford, we are driving innovation in every part of our business to help make people’s lives better. 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”. Inspectors should be able to monitor these disaster-struck zones by drones, operating them from the cabin of Ford F150 pickup truck.

Participants in the challenge have to create software that would allow F-150 truck and a drone to communicate in real time. Ford plans that United Nations inspectors will drive up to the scene with a truck and then they would use Ford SYNC® 3 touch screen and app, created by winner of the challenge, to identify a target area and launch the drone.

The drone should fly over the designated zone, following the path, capturing the video and creating a map of survivors with associated close-up pictures of each. Meantime truck can move to another location. Using data from driver’s smartphone, truck would establish link to the drone, so it would catch up and dock at the back of the truck in a new location.

Although this system already has a specific purpose, it will be versatile and other fields and specialists would benefit from it too. It could be used in agriculture, forestry, construction, bridge inspection, search and rescue, and many other areas.


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