Drones crash into shit. It's an expensive and dangerous problem that threatens every drone you launch into the sky. Now the company behind the most popular consumer drones you can buy has a solution.
More specifically, DJI has part of a solution with its new Matrice 100. It's a $US3200 developer drone that lacks the fully polished feature sets of DJI's more popular UAVs like the Phantom series and more recently, the prosumer Inspire 1. Instead, it's optimised for developing new software applications to control drone flight using the DJI SDK that the company tenuously announced last year. It's also very lightweight, allowing 40 minutes of flight time on a full battery charge.
But perhaps the the most interesting component DJI is introducing out of the gates is the new Guidance system, which uses five sensors and a central processor to help the drone fly steady and level, even without access to GPS. Furthermore, the Guidance system helps the drone detect and avoid obstacles in real time, "even at high speeds," the company claims. That sounds very promising — but how do you test it? Hit the accelerator and see if the drone crashes into walls?
The new Matrice 100 is an effort to redouble the DJI's efforts at mining the burgeoning drone enthusiast community for ideas. Last year's SDK was an interesting start but the new Matrice 100, with all its hardware flexibility, seems like the real beginning. Indeed, the Guidance SDK — which allows devs to tap directly into how the new anti-collision system — could help them build software that makes drones both more sophisticated and safer.
Drone wipeouts are part of the fun of learning to operate them. But as drones get more ubiquitous, letting enthusiasts participate in building better software isn't just a smart move, it's a safer one.