A new solution for autonomous drones
Qualcomm has unveiled the world’s first drone platform and reference design that will use both 5G and AI technologies. The chipmaker’s Flight RB5 5G platform combines multiple sophisticated technologies into one tightly integrated drone system to support a variety of use cases including cinema and entertainment, security and emergency response, delivery, protection, inspection and mapping.
The new solution is purpose-built for autonomous drones, and Qualcomm is committed to providing developers with an easy-to-use platform for building premium drones right out of the box.
Key features of the platform:
- Connectivity options: Cellular (LTE/5G/CBRS) and Wi-Fi 6 for ubiquitous and long-distance connectivity
- Qualcomm QRB5165 Premium Robotics Integrated Processor
- High-Performance Heterogeneous Computing at Ultra-Low Power Consumption
- 5th Gen Qualcomm® Artificial Intelligence (AI) Processor (15 TOPS) for complex AI and deep learning workloads and autonomous flight
- Dedicated 8 TOPS Qualcomm® Hexagon™ Tensor Accelerator (HTA) for accurate field-of-view detection
- Dedicated advanced visual analysis hardware enables computer vision applications such as (EVA), VIO, SLAM, Stereo Depth Mapping
- Qualcomm® Spectra 480 CV-ISP with 2‑gigapixel/sec ISPs and 8K video, 4K HDR, 200MP stills and 7‑camera imaging enable fully autonomous robots
- From cryptography to DRM, a secure processor for strong protection keeps drones safe at all levels.
- Autonomy: visual inertial odometry (VIO), path planning, PX4, navigation without GPS, BVLOS, follow me
- 360-degree visualization and obstacle avoidance: depth estimation, obstacle detection, mapping and VOA
- Perception Capabilities: 8K30 and 4K120 cameras, EIS, digital zoom, horizon leveling, multi-camera operation (up to 7 cameras)
Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G Platform
The Flight RB5 5G platform is powered by Qualcomm’s QRB5165 processor and builds on the company’s latest AI and Internet of Things (IoT) offerings, delivering high performance and heterogeneous computing at ultra-low power consumption of up to 15 TOPS.
Along with advanced main camera capabilities that can transmit 8K/4K HDR video, 200MP photos, and the ability to work with multiple cameras in parallel (up to 7 cameras; to ensure accurate perception of the surrounding world and capture highly detailed images), the platform supports 5G and Wi-Fi connectivity. ‑Fi 6 with low latency over long distances for improved safety beyond line-of-sight (BVLOS).
Dev Singh, Senior Director of Business Development and General Manager of Autonomous Robotics, Drones and Intelligent Machines at Qualcomm Technologies explains:
“As a global leader in digital transformation, Qualcomm Technologies is committed to providing intelligent on-device and premium drone solutions that will drive innovation across industries by helping develop smaller, lighter and safer drones.”
Price and availability
California-based ModalAI, which left Qualcomm in 2018, will act as the manufacturer and distributor of the new solution, which costs $3999.99 (without 5G modem) and $4499.99 (with 5G modem). The company is already accepting pre-orders for the Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G platform, with the first development kit expected to ship in Q4 2021.
Meanwhile, Qualcomm is working with Verizon to complete network testing of its latest drone solution. Summing up Chad Sweet, CEO of ModalAI: “Autonomous 5G flight is here — which will paramount to increase the flight range of drones and add value to a wide range of inspection capabilities. Better yet, the platform is open to everyone. Together, ModalAI and Qualcomm Technologies are driving the adoption and commercialization of drone technology.”