Imagine piloting a drone by seeing where it’s flying using a set of Oculus virtual-reality goggles and controlling its direction by waving your hands.
Soon, you won’t have to imagine it anymore. Today, DJI, the world’s largest maker of consumer drones, unveiled both a new quadcopter aimed at developers, as well as an in-flight object-avoidance system and a software developer kit for its existing Phantom and Inspire drones.
The new quadcopter, known as the Matrice M100, was designed for developers to try out new hardware and software tools, the company said. The drone is meant to be set up quickly and be flown with no need for programming. Among the new applications that are possible, the company said, are those that allow for integrating Oculus goggles as well as gesture-control systems like that from Leap Motion.
The Matrice features multiple communication ports, power supply leads, and expansion bays. That makes it possible to mount peripheral hardware on the drone and to access flight data and control mechanisms.
The new drone is able to fly for up to 20 minutes and carry a payload of about 2.2 pounds. But it also can be set up to fly with a second battery compartment, meaning it could fly for up to 40 minutes. However, that would mean it could only carry a smaller payload.
Like DJI’s other drones, the M100 can utilize the company’s Lightbridge video transmission system, which allows the unmanned aerial vehicle to utilize any camera with HDMI or analog video output.
DJI also unveiled its first object-avoidance system, a small hardware device that mounts on a drone that it said is the first commercially available system of its kind. It will work with DJI’s new M100, or any other drone that has onboard USB and UART connection ports, the company said.
Thanks to a set of ultrasonic sensors and stereo cameras, the guidance technology knows when a drone is within 65 feet of physical objects and will prevent the device from flying too close.
Finally, the China-based company announced an SDK for its Inspire 1 and Phantom 3 drones. The system is meant to allow developers to build applications for those devices.
The M100 will sell for $3,299, while the guidance system will cost $999. Both are expected to be available by the end of June, with pre-orders being taken now.
Last month, DJI announced a new venture fund, known as SkyFund. Created in conjunction with the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Accel Partners, SkyFund will invest at least $10 million in startups building applications for DJI drone platforms.