Qualcomm is trying to kickstart the development of industrial drone solutions. To that end, the company has unveiled a new drone platform that will enable the creation of drones with 5G and edge AI capabilities.
The Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G platform aims to accelerate development for commercial, enterprise, and industrial drones to help enterprises capture data from drone cameras and process that data at the edge of the network. The reference design for the solution is currently available for presale through ModalAI, and features a Qualcomm QRB5165 processor that can power drones with as many as seven cameras. Those cameras can be used to capture data, or to make sure that the drone doesn’t hit anything while in flight.
The goal, of course, is to turn that data into actionable information. In that regard, Qualcomm believes that the drone platform will have applications in a number of different industries, though it emphasized industrial and manufacturing industries where drones can be used to monitor a large facility that is difficult to patrol manually. That information can then be sent to a local operator (or transferred over a longer distance) through a 5G or Wi-Fi 6 connection.
The drone platform’s AI capabilities, meanwhile, allow the drone to filter some of that information on device. Drones built with the Qualcomm solution can analyze data locally and highlight the most desirable information before sending it, which in turn minimizes the volume of traffic on the network itself.
In terms of specs, the drone platform comes with eight CPUs, a GPU, and a neural processing engine, and it can capture footage in 4K. The partitioning of AI tasks makes the drones more power efficient, and will eventually support the development of fully autonomous drones that can still navigate outside of a human’s line of sight. Qualcomm is also installing a Secure Processing Unit to fend off cybercriminals.
According to Qualcomm, more than 200 robotics and drone companies have already expressed interest in the new drone platform. The company is hoping that the platform will help inform drone technology standards, and help Qualcomm capture a major portion of a drone market that is expected to skyrocket in the next few years. On that front, the number of devices shipped is expected to grow from one million devices shipped in 2021 to as much as 5 million by 2025.
Qualcomm is currently conducting network testing with Verizon. It expects to make the drone platform available through the Verizon Thingspace Marketplace once that process is complete.