The recently unveiled, and now available, DJI Phantom 4 has received considerable attention. The phantom 4 is a significant upgrade to the Phantom line. Perhaps the most notable new feature is its ability to “see “ objects and avoid flying into them. This sense-and-avoid feature is courtesy of a Dublin-based technology firm Movidius.
Movidius announced today its agreement with DJI to supply it with their Myriad 2 VPU for the Phantom 4. DJI developed a series of spatial computing and 3D depth sensing algorithms that work with the Myriad 2 providing the Phantom 4 wit its “sense and avoid” capability as well as the ability to hover in place without benefit of a GPS signal. Other visual intelligence features include improved vision-based tracking modes and advanced mapping capabilities.
The collaborative development is a remarkable achievement. First, Movidius designed and developed an embedded vision sensor that is small enough and light enough to be incorporated into the Phantom without any detrimental effect on battery life. Second, DJI developed algorithms capable of recognizing objects and mapping its surroundings in 3D. And Movidius states that the two companies working together accomplished this in 12 months.
“DJI has set the direction for the future of the drone market, and we are excited to incorporate Movidius’ low power artificial vision intelligence technology into DJI drones moving forward,” said Sean Mitchell, COO of Movidius.
Movidius is a 10-year-old company focused on the development of embedded visioning systems. Of the 125 employees, 115 are dedicated to R&D with 70% being software engineers. In the words of El-Ouazzane, they are working to “give sight to machines.”
As a matter of company policy, El-Ouazzane would not discuss the business terms with DJI. It is not known if there are other drone manufacturers that will be using Movidius technology or whether the agreement with DJI is an exclusive one. However, El-Ouazzane did say, “DJI has done a massive reset on the drone market. This is a big wake up call for DJI’s competition.” He contends there is a steep learning curve for anyone wanting to add this capability to their product’s feature set.
In his remarks, Mr. El-Ouazzane said that the DJI Phantom 4 launch represents a milestone for the future of visually aware devices. “I believe we are entering the golden age of embedded computer vision, and our technology has placed Movidius at the forefront of this trend.” This is a transformative technology that is ushering in a new period of robotics in which deep learning via neural networks enables capabilities such as autonomous flight. Such development can contribute to addressing issues that are problematic from a regulatory perspective (i.e. prevent people from doing irresponsible things).
He views the drone market at being in something of a “prefect storm,” and it is going to grow “very fast.”
DJI’s rapid implementation of Movidius technology that now allows a consumer drone to autonomously avoid objects while in flight is a good example of that growth.