DJI Partners With Microsoft to Develop Tablet Apps That Pilot Its Drones

The companies will build a software development kit to allow UAV piloting from Windows tablets, with DJI gaining access to Microsoft's Azure platform.

At the Build 2018 developer conference on Monday, DJI and Microsoft announced they were partnering to build a software development kit (SDK) that would allow developers to make applications for Windows tablets that could pilot DJI’s drones, as opposed to relying on traditional controllers. According to TechCrunch, this collaboration aims to blend Microsoft’s machine learning capabilities with DJI’s drone hardware, in order to make unmanned aerial vehicles even more autonomous than they currently are. 

Microsoft has been working on artificial intelligence software for quite some time now, which makes its expertise in the area hugely appealing to DJI. Additionally, DJI reportedly announced that Microsoft’s Azure, a cloud-based platform that efficiently analyzes video data, is the drone manufacturer’s preferred computing service to do so. 

Through this blending of A.I.-infused software and DJI’s drones, the partnership intends to offer solutions to industries such as agriculture, public safety, and construction. An early example of this potential can already be seen in Microsoft’s FarmBeats service, which uses A.I. to help farmers maximize their business. Other scenarios might have Azure’s platform quickly analyze footage of pipelines and find leaks faster than traditional surveying could. 

The SDK will reportedly let Windows developers build apps to pilot DJI drones, and use third-party tools to access sensors or robotic attachments on the UAV, as well as manage its payloads. DJI, of course, is thoroughly excited about this new partnership, and the potential expansion of services it’ll be able to provide its customers.

“DJI is excited to form this unique partnership with Microsoft to bring the power of DJI aerial platforms to the Microsoft developer system,” said Roger Luo, DJI president. “Using our new SDK, Windows developers will soon be able to employ drones, AI and machine learning technologies to create intelligent flying robots that will save businesses time and money and help make drone technology a mainstay in the workplace.” 

As for Microsoft, the company stressed that offering its Azure IP Advantage program (an elite version of its cloud-based computing platform) to DJI is a step in the right direction, and that other autonomous tech companies should join in such symbiotic relationships for the greater good of the landscape. “For Microsoft, the partnership is an example of the important role IP plays in ensuring a healthy and vibrant technology ecosystem and builds upon existing partnerships in emerging sectors such as connected cars and personal wearables,” said Microsoft. The IP here stands for “intellectual property,” which Microsoft’s Azure claims to efficiently protect when analyzing data for a client. 

Ultimately, with drones increasingly being used in verticals from agriculture to search and rescue, and A.I. software growing at a rapid pace, a corporate partnership like this one makes all the sense in the world. This is a win-win for both entities, with one trying to provide more effective drone solutions to clients, and the other hoping to find a home for its sophisticated software. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more real-world implementations of this collaboration sooner rather than later.