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From drones to autonomous driving: DJI repositions as robotics company

Gabriella From Gasgoo| September 26 , 2021

Beijing (Gasgoo)- China's drone manufacturing giant, DJI, stated that instead of a drone maker, the company should be better described as an intelligent robotics developer, as a drone is only one application of its technologies.


photo credit: DJI

According to the company, intelligent robots are expected to be human-like and can autonomously carry out tasks through perception, localization, decision, and planning. It is essential for robots to have "brains" to think, "eyes" to see, know their position, plan and decide, and finally perform the assigned tasks.

DJI's unmanned aerial vehicles follow the exact procedures of environment sensing, obstacle avoidance, hovering, and auto return when executing flight missions. 

Moreover, an intelligent robot typically requires corresponding computing power; higher computing power comes with higher energy consumption, cost, and larger size. 

DJI has dedicated to optimizing the computing power and energy consumption synergy to create smaller, lighter, and smarter drones. The company's self-developed core components such as sensors and SoC, improved less-complexed algorithms, increased computing power utilization can effectively achieve tenfold the computing power while lowering overall energy consumption, cost, and size.  

In addition to the "brain", drones are equipped with binocular cameras acting as vigilant "eyes" to sense the environment around them. 

With the cameras, DJI's drones can perform hovering, obstacle avoidance, and speed detection despite failures among other sensors.

DJI intends to deploy the said cameras, which have been tested by tens of millions of units produced, to solve the perceptual problem of autonomous driving, as the company believes autonomous vehicles and drones are two applications of intelligent robot technologies.


photo credit: DJI

Since what is key to drones, namely perception, localization, planning, and control, are also of same significance to autonomous driving, DJI has strong basis for the auto segment so that it established the DJI Automotive department to explore the field in 2016.


photo credit: DJI

After years of research and practice, the company has its own understanding of intelligent technologies. It is not just a single strand of technology, but a complete set of comprehensive system architecture compatible with intelligent robots, said the company. 

This architecture should support series of detailed hardware and software design and development, from user demands to the entire function, from algorithm prototypes to engineering realization, from sensor input to actuator output, and from development to production.   

DJI aims to apply the said system architecture to autonomous driving solutions.

Internal surveys within the company indicated that automakers are destined to transform from providing vehicles to providing services, as the primary consumers' priority shifted from the powertrain system of a car to the quality of the onboard experience.

According to the company, every vehicle will come with autonomous driving technologies, as standard as seatbelts. It should free humans from driving and satisfy one's need for transportation while keeping the journey safe. 

Due to the complexity of transitioning from the sky down to the earth, the company believes any technical breakthrough achieved during the process will, in turn, feed its drone development. 

From a business standpoint, with autonomous driving leading the auto industry reformation, this is the optimal time for DJI to enter into the auto market and cooperate with major automakers. 

Considering the company’s capabilities of software and hardware development and production, DJI is very confident in providing the public with a safe, relaxing, and cost-effective advanced autonomous driving experience in the future. 

Mass-produced vehicles powered by DJI's autonomous technology will be unveiled soon, the company disclosed.

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