Four months ago, our Qualcomm Flight Platform enabled the first-ever powered, controlled flight on another planet with NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, highlighting how our technology can even help transform industries like space.
Much like NASA’s Ingenuity, advancements in hardware, camera technology, and flight software unlock new commercial and industrial flight technology possibilities back on Earth. Interest in drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is accelerating rapidly, with continued adoption and market growth expected throughout the next decade. A key development that’s been missing is the pairing of this growing drone technology with advancements in AI and autonomy and 5G and long-range Wi-Fi connectivity.
To meet this need, we’re unveiling the Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G Platform. Designed for small, unmanned aircraft systems, the Qualcomm Flight RB5 Platform combines heterogeneous, low-power computing and camera systems with AI and long-range connectivity such as 5G and Wi-Fi 6. Doing so brings together the unparalleled power of 15 TOPS with advanced imaging capabilities and drone-to-drone communication.
The computational power for seven-camera concurrency enables drones to capture several shots simultaneously in various high-quality formats. Additionally, our 5th Generation Qualcomm AI Engine handles complex tasks that include computer vision, perception, and autonomy for a transformative imaging experience. Advanced AI equips 4K and 8K drone cameras with Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS), horizon levelling, and digital zoom for film-like image capturing capabilities. At the same time, computer vision brings multi-object detection and tracking, digital gimbal techniques, and depth cues from stereo vision for easy control of any shot. Autonomy features like path planning and obstacle avoidance work together for smooth flying and BVLOS operation.
Long-range connectivity is also a revolutionary component of Qualcomm Flight. 5G and Wi-Fi 6 features enable low-latency connections with a UAV controller for precise movements and quick first-person view (FPV) response time. Fast connectivity also allows for HDMI interfacing to an external display to see drone footage in real-time. Additionally, security plays a vital role when it comes to connectivity and Qualcomm Flight. Working in tandem with onboard AI processing, the user is in total control thanks to comprehensive security links and powerful encryption technology virtually anywhere they are as a key enabler for cybersecurity, data protection, and drone safety requirements.
We’re so excited about how this powerful combination of 5G and AI can unlock new possibilities for flight technology, from autonomous package delivery to mission-critical applications for disaster relief and first responders. Here are a few examples of what the new Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G Platform can do for different industries:
UAVs are now an invaluable tool in disaster management, search and rescue, critical medical delivery, and general public safety operations. The demand for drone response to natural disasters and emergencies is growing rapidly, and cutting-edge camera features combined with AI and 5G make the Qualcomm Flight ideal for addressing public safety threats in new, practical ways.
Wildfires are an ever-present concern for millions worldwide, and drones play a key role in managing these natural disasters. The advanced camera and AI feature on Qualcomm Flight could allow drones to track wildfire development and aid in predicting the future path of wildfires in a localised area. Deep learning capabilities coupled with LIDAR/FLIR cameras offer precise heat intensity, wind speed, and vulnerable regions. And with fast, reliable 5G connectivity, surveillance footage can be streamed directly to firefighters and management officials for real-time monitoring and quick response time.
For search and rescue operations and critical medical supply delivery, Qualcomm Flight, with high-quality cameras and an advanced AI engine, can monitor large areas and assist management officials with delivering vital supplies to emergency teams when human engagement could potentially be dangerous.
Film and entertainment
Drones are already the go-to device for aerial chase scenes in movies, sweeping b-roll footage for documentaries, and grand, birds-eye landscape photography. Now, Qualcomm Flight utilises the core features of AI, camera, and 5G to enable seamless control and truly breathtaking captures.
Autonomous flying, made possible by AI, 5G, and state-of-the-art camera systems, means users can focus more on getting the perfect shot. And even that’s easier with the many advanced camera features built into the platform, including the Qualcomm Spectra 480 ISP for 8K video, 4K HDR, 200MP photo, and seven-camera concurrency. Advanced camera features include electronic image stabilisation (EIS), horizon levelling, and digital zoom, providing jitter-free imagery from far distances while maintaining a small form factor. This means footage and photography can be more immersive than ever before, especially when added to other features like multi-object tracking and digital gimbal. And because Qualcomm Flight is purpose-built for ultra-low power consumption, it’s possible to fly, film, and shoot photos longer without worrying about battery life.
5G technology instantly transfers high-resolution video footage back to drone controllers and movie directors to view, review, and direct further footage capture. Drones can detect, track, and follow multiple moving objects, enabling them to film scenes of action and thriller movies from different angles using multiple drones.
Drone asset inspection
Commercial asset inspection conducted by drones is revolutionising how companies maintain key infrastructure. With hardware becoming more compact, light, and affordable and containing high-resolution camera technology, drones offer a unique, up-close perspective on everything from oil and gas refineries to telecommunications towers, power lines, and bridges. Industries like agriculture, real estate, construction, insurance, mining, research, and first responders could also benefit.
Across these industries and more, Qualcomm Flight can make inspections more precise and efficient. High-quality photography coupled with AI and deep learning capabilities can allow for smooth autonomous flying and faster recognition of potential problems to facilitate quick analysis at the edge. 5G enables low-latency and high bandwidth data transfers for cloud computing and big data analytics.
Similar to asset inspection, the 5G connectivity capabilities of the Qualcomm Flight can enable the fast, low-latency transfers of camera shots and LIDAR/FLIR sensor data needed for accurate mapping and surveying. What’s more, the autonomous flying capabilities make it particularly adept for mapping large areas of land. At the same time, the Qualcomm AI Engine and Qualcomm Spectra ISP are ideal for piecing together photographs for cohesive, accurate 3D models creating digital twins that facilitate the digital transformation of various industries.
Agriculture and construction are just two examples of industries that can significantly benefit from this enhanced drone mapping. Short crop mapping can simplify the counting and identification of growth variation for agriculture, helping farmers increase yields while reducing trips to the fields. And in construction, sites can be analysed in real-time at various stages of a project. Pre-construction mapping of a specific area, for example, can serve as an integral step for visualising a project and putting the entire team on track. Qualcomm Flight can accomplish all of this, streamlining communication and heightening connections between teams and their projects.
Overall, drones and UAVs are poised to transform several industries, and we’re excited to empower our customers with the technologies that make it possible. With the addition of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 long-range communication, plus premium AI, computer vision and camera features, Qualcomm Flight can unlock brand new experiences for drone flight.