DJI Looks To The Enterprise Drone Industry With Release Of “The Manifold”

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DJI has teamed up with Canonical to release an embedded computer specifically built for drone applications.

The two companies team up

DJI is a Chinese technology company founded in 2006 by Frank Wang and headquartered in Shenzhen, China. The company is best known for its Phantom series of consumer and enterprise drones. The original Phantom was released in January of 2013 with the Phantom 2 launching in December of the same year. The Phantom 2 so different models being introduced in 2014 with the latest generation Phantom 3 launching in March of this year.

Canonical, is the corporation behind the Ubuntu Linux distribution and the two’s collaboration manifested itself Monday with a consumer product Manifold.

Manifold runs a quad-core ARM Cortex A-15 processor and an NVIDIA Kepler-based GPU. The GPU is disigned to use its image processing and parallel computing power. All that power will go to waste if you’re a phantom “pilot.” The Manifold is built specifically for mounting on the company’s Matrice 100, a flying developer platform that has four dual-rotor electric engines providing for flight. In addition to being able to carry the Manifold, the Matrice 100 was designed to carry customizable sensors.

The DJI’s Manifold connectibility

The Manifold is equipped with USB and Ethernet ports designed for attaching atmospheric research devices, surveying equipment, infared cameras and other toys/tools for its specific mission. Additionally, it’s equipped with an HDMI port for easy attachment to monitors.

If your sensors don’t work with either USB or Ethernet ports, the Manifold also has Mini-PCIe, UART, SPI and I2C ports.

“With the Manifold, we are entering a new era of smarter, faster and more powerful aerial platforms. Manifold opens up for aerial and ground technology to intelligently work together to solve complex problems,” said Michael Perry, DJI’s director of strategic partnerships, in a statement Monday. “We are excited to see what applications our developer community will come up with for this new platform.”

The computer runs, not surprisingly given the partnership with Canonical, Ubuntu out-the-box. Specifically, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.

The Manifold is available for purchase now and will set you back $499. There are, however, there are two caveats to that: The Manifold won’t ship until November 15th and it by itself just looks like a box that won’t fly even if you throw it off a bridge. As it only natively mounts to the Matrice 100, you’ll need an additional $3,299 for the Manifold to fly the missions it was designed to undertake.

A shot over the bow to Intel and Qualcomm?

Both Intel and Qualcomm have been working on advanced processors for drones. Intel introduced RealSense while Qualcomm earlier this year introduced a chipset specifically designed for drones called SnapDragon Flight.