It’s a great feeling. Unboxing a brand new, $1000 plus drone. You think it’s time to fly. Cue up the Top Gun theme and let’s do this. Wait… Is that a damn tree? No… No… And that crash turns what was going to be a fun-filled drone day into an expensive disaster.
Enter DJI. The drone maker behind the most popular consumer drones is moving to help pilots who suck at piloting. The Matrice 100 is the company’s initial response. Before you order, it’s a $3200 developer drone. It lacks the polished features of DJI’s more popular UAVs like the Phantom series or the Inspire 1.
What the Matrice 100 offers is a platform for software developers to develop applications to control the drone throughout flight. It’s lightweight and has a flight time of 40 minutes fully-charged.
DJI Guidance System
The compelling feature that is destined for the consumer market is the guidance system. Five sensors and a central processor help keep the drone level. It does this without the aid of GPS. DJI is promising the system allows the drone to detect and avoid obstacles, like trees, in real time. Even at high speeds according to company claims.
Now we wait for the YouTube videos testing that one. The only way to test out the ‘high speed’ claim it to nudge the throttle to max and aim for a tree. It must be nice to have $3200 of ‘what the hell’ money.
For all the fanfare around the guidance system and the Matrice 100, the real news is DJI redoubling its effort in promoting the company’s SDK. The drone industry is reliant on its enthusiasts. Opening up the platform will allow a variety of applications to be created.
As drones fill the skies of our neighborhoods, the impetus is to make them safer. Yes, watching the latest YouTube compilation of drones smacking into a tree or a house is hilarious. What won’t be hilarious is if and when a drone slams into a person, leaving behind serious injuries.
That would introduce the industry to the ‘Nightly News Special’ hell and cause gross overreactions from regulators. It’s better to opt for letting the community pool its resources in creating safer, more reliable software for drones.
Is DJI’s Matrice crash-proof? Any time a company claims that you can respond with ‘Titanic.’ Still, any move to make the systems smarter is a step in the right direction.