Ford announces $100,000 drone-to-vehicle challenge for United Nations

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Ford is running a drone challenge worth $100,000 to winning entry
Ford is running a drone challenge worth $100,000 for winning entry

Drones often seem to attract bad publicity. Either they are being used to kill people in the Middle East or they are flying into aircraft, potentially endangering lives. But here’s a good news drone story from Ford which has just been announced at the CES Show in Las Vegas.

Working with DJI, the world leader in professional-grade drone systems and software, the car manufacturer is inviting  innovators to participate in the DJI Developer Challenge to create drone-to-vehicle communications using Ford SYNC®AppLink or OpenXC. The goal is a surveying system for the United Nations Development Program to inspect emergency zones which are inaccessible to even the most versatile vehicles.

The technology could, for example, allow first responders to earthquakes or tsunamis to quickly deploy drones able to survey and map hardest-hit areas – all from the cab of an F-150.

Developers are tasked with creating software that would allow an F-150 and a drone to communicate in real time. The United Nations’ rapidly deployable surveying system ideally would work like this:

In a disaster, an emergency response team would drive an F-150 as far as possible into an emergency zone caused by an earthquake or tsunami.

Using the Ford SYNC® 3 touch screen, the driver could identify a target area and launch a drone by accessing an app projected through Ford SYNC AppLink. The drone would follow a flight path over the zone, capturing video and creating a map of survivors with associated close-up pictures of each.

Using the driver’s smartphone, the F-150 would establish a real-time link between the drone, the truck and the cloud, so vehicle data can be shared. Data will be relayed to the drone so the driver can continue to a new destination, and the drone will catch up and dock with the truck.

Says Ken Washington, Ford vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering.“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.”

Applicants to the surveying system challenge can visit http://developer.dji.com/challenge2016. The challenge winner receives $100,000.

The mobility challenge is part of Ford Smart Mobility, the plan to take the company to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience as well as big data and analytics.

Though this challenge has a specific mission, the software eventually could allow drone-to-vehicle applications in agriculture, forestry, construction, bridge inspection, search and rescue, and many other work environments in which vehicles are space-, height- or terrain-limited.

Meanwhile, Ford is tripling its fleet of Autonomous Vehicles used for research and testing. This will give it the largest fleet among all car makers and speed up the development of virtual driver software in urban and suburban environments.

For more information on the drone challenge see the YouTube video below:

 

 

Chris Price