Ford And DJI Launch $100,000 Developer Challenge To Improve Drone-To-Vehicle Communications

What if your drone could talk to your car? That’s probably not a question you’ve asked yourself all that often, but what if you are the United Nations or a search-and-rescue organization that wants to launch drones from the bed of their pickup trucks?

Ford and DJI today announced at CES a new developer challenge that asks developers to create drone-to-vehicle communications using Ford’s AppLink or OpenXC technologies. The winner of this challenge will receive $100,000.

“At Ford, we are driving innovation in every part of our business to help make people’s lives better,” said Ken Washington, Ford vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering, in a statement today. “Working with DJI and the United Nations, there is an opportunity to make a big difference with vehicles and drones working together for a common good.”

Developers will have to create a system that will allow a driver to launch a drone from the bed of a Ford F-150 from the touchscreen inside the car (which itself is linked to a smartphone app).

Here is how Ford describes this process: “Using the driver’s smartphone, the F-150 would establish a real-time link between the drone, the truck and the cloud, so vehicle data can be shared. Data will be relayed to the drone so the driver can continue to a new destination, and the drone will catch up and dock with the truck.”

Ford is clearly trying to push its developer cred with this challenge. As the company announced earlier this week, the open-source version of AppLink — SmartDeviceLink — is being adopted by Toyota and a number of other car manufacturers are thinking about using it as an alternative to (or side-by-side with) Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto. Ford clearly wants developers to be aware of its platform and working with DJI and on a hot topic like drones should help there.

CES 2016