Innovation challenge for drone to vehicle communications

| Transport

Ford F-150 with drone

Ford has laid a challenge out to innovators to develop software for use by the United Nations in disaster relief areas for communications between drones and land vehicles.

Ford is working with drone system and software developer, DJI on a project in which the two companies are 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 inaccessible to even the most versatile vehicles.

Once fully developed, the technology could allow United Nations emergency services to quickly deploy drones in earthquake or tsunami zones to survey and map the hardest-hit areas all from inside a Ford F-150.

Commenting on the collective innovation envisioned in the project, Ford’s VP of Research and Advanced Engineering, Ken Washington said, “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.”

With the chance of the winner of the project receiving $100,000, the mobility challenge is part of the Ford Smart Mobility programme, a plan to take the company to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience and data analytics.

Project scope

Entrants to the project will be expected to create a software package allowing a Ford F-150 vehicle to communicate in real time with a drone, enabling an emergency response team from the UN to drive as far as it could into a disaster area before identifying a target for the drone then launching and controlling the airborne vehicle using the Ford SYNC 3 touch screen.

A real-time link would be established between the drone, the F-150 and the cloud so that the vehicle data could be shared. With the data already relayed to the drone, the driver could continue to a new destination and the drone would catch up later and dock with the truck as appropriate.

Although the scope of the challenge put out to developers is fairly narrow, Ford has an expectation that the interface between ground vehicles and drones will have future applications that could benefit from the technology, including civilian emergency services and police teams, search and rescue operations and police operations.

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