Qualcomm wants its processors to power next-generation drones


Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors are responsible for powering a significant chunk of the Android devices that have been released over the years, and now the company wants them to power drones as well. Qualcomm has spent the last six months or so developing a new reference platform for consumer drones known as Qualcomm Snapdragon Flight, which uses a business card-sized board with a Snapdragon 801 processor to bring a plethora of functionality and power to drones that current offerings simply can’t. The first drone to use this new platform and herald a new age of high-power drones will be a UAV that’s being developed by Yuneec, and is expected to launch sometime next year.

Qualcomm, the world’s leading developer of chips for smartphones, today unveiled a platform for consumer drones that it says can make the flying vehicles lighter and less complex while supporting the camera functionality of the most sophisticated offerings on the market today. The Qualcomm Snapdragon Flight (which gets its name from Qualcomm’s premium tier Snapdragon 801 processor) is the reference platform developed over the last six months by the San Diego-based chip giant’s research and development lab, and features support for a 4K camera for video, two cameras for depth, and a fourth camera for indoor stabilization, Fast Company has learned. In short, Qualcomm says it has created the basis for the world’s smallest flying 4K cameras, capable of 1080p video at 60 frames per second, drones that are in their entirety lighter than the gimbals on many existing drones with 4K cameras. The first known customer is Yuneec, a Chinese rival to drone industry giant DJI. Qualcomm hopes the Snapdragon Flight will be adopted by both existing drone manufacturers and newcomers to the burgeoning space. Given that a January report from Radiant Insights suggested the global commercial drone market is expected to expand from $609 million in 2014 to $4.8 billion by 2021, Qualcomm is betting its new platform could bring it a substantial amount of business in the coming years.

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