Qualcomm Chips Make Drones Smart
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Friday, 01 January 2016

The past year, 2015, has seen amazing advances in AI and it looks as if the experimental systems are ready to make it into consumer devices in 2016. Qualcomm is planning to release a new device that will make drones smarter and cheaper.

The GPU is usually thought of as something that speeds up 3D graphics operations, but many of the same computations are useful in computer vision tasks. As a result Qualcomm have designed a special "drone" version of its Snapdragon system on a chip.






The Snapdragon includes an ARM multicore processor and a GPU. It isn't difficult to guess that the new chipset aimed at drones makes heavy use of the GPU to perform computer vision tasks but there isn't any hard information. However we do have this the "Sneak Peek" video: 



It is a preview of what Qualcomm hopes to be demoing at the 2016 Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas. The key features are an optical flow camera, visual inertial odometery, motion planning, obstacle mapping and more. Basically what this means is that the drone can see where it is and auto-guide itself around obstacles. 

If you want to know what Visual Inertial Odometry is all about see the next video:



It should make high quality drones cheaper and more capable. Exactly what applications this might open up is a matter of guesswork. 

It is worth pointing out that the same chip set could come in handy for any autonomous device that needs to navigate. A few software tweaks and it could be useful in anything from a house security guard robot, to a self driving car.

If the price of the chipset comes down you aren't even going to be restricted to a single unit per robot. Now imagine the robot vac that doesn't bag its head against the furniture and manages to avoid getting tangled in the cables while working out which room in your house needs the next attention.



AI and robotics will become a lot easier as the algorithms are transferred to the hardware and all that is left for the software to do is integrate the system. This is how robots will become a commodity item. 


More Information

Snapdragon Flight robotics dev platform

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 31 December 2015 )