According to reports from Microsoft, trials are being conducted that combine drones with artificial intelligence (AI) for visual recognition.
Microsoft and DJI revealed that drones powered with this technology can have a wide range of applications. For example, if you own a huge warehouse, drones can help reach areas that are inaccessible to workers and check stock. So, a real estate company could easily inspect buildings for cracks, holes, and rust.
The two companies organized the AI x Drones Joint University Competition, gathering students from two Hong Kong universities to make AI models that help drones recognize different types of fruit.
The students released their drones in areas with fruit scattered around, and left them to do their magic. Screens displayed how successful their models were – labeling the fruit, plus a number indicating how sure it is that the banana is indeed a banana.
The teams used a DJI Phantom 4 Pro, capable of shooting 4K ultra HD footage – which Microsoft’s AI then scrutinized to figure out what it’s seeing.
Equipped with Edge computing the drones could carry out data analysis close to its source (i.e. sensors or cameras). That compares to conventional drone data analyses namely: the drone would send the footage to the cloud. Cloud computing is more powerful however the transmission time adds huge lag – this is what edge computing eliminates by handling the analysis on the drone itself.
According to Winnie Chu, Business Group Lead, Cloud and Enterprise at Microsoft Hong Kong, “Once a drone detects something, it can send the message or the results back to the computer, and it will make the whole performance and user experience much better.” Chu rued the fact that companies are yet to design useful tasks for AI drones. The world’s leading manufacturer of consumer drones like the Mavic Pro, DJI has launched a string of market hits since the Phantom arrived in 2013. Founded in a Hong Kong dorm room, it’s now based in Shenzhen.
Kevin On, Global Marketing and Communications director of DJI, says that drones will more likely augment humans than replace them.“We see drones as empowering workers and becoming a new tool in the toolbox,” said On, adding that drones can reach high places which could be tricky for humans to reach.
“If someone faints in the mountain and we need to search for that person, it’s easier to use a swarm of drones to search,” points out Andy Kong a research assistant at the University of Hong Kong, while commending the effort of drones being trained on fruit, with the idea is that they’ll be able to spot more useful shapes which could probably which could save lives in the future.