Qualcomm, a company known for its wireless technologies, is looking to expand its reach from powering smartphones, wearable devices, and other mobile devices to powering drones. The company first announced its Snapdragon Flight drone platform in September 2015, and just recently it announced it received a Federal Aviation Administration certificate of authorization (COA) to further expand its drone research.
“Drones are essentially flying cameras enabling a broad range of applications to enhance everyday life such as aerial photography and videography, sports, filming, public safety, inspections, search and rescue, agriculture, delivery, real estate, and many other applications, so the ability to shoot in 4K is a must-have feature,” said Hugo Swart, director of product management at Qualcomm. “Snapdragon Flight is designed to provide drone developers and OEMs with an advanced platform to allow more innovative designs, faster development, and lower price points for 4K drones.”
According to Swart, the company’s interest in the drone industry aligns with its mission to accelerate the Internet of Things. Qualcomm has been looking to help reduce the time it takes to develop and deliver IoT products by providing customers with intelligent connectivity platforms and tools “that address the diverse requirements of distinct verticals,” and drones are expected to play a big part in that industry. “Drones [are] a fast-growing sector within the broader IoT space, and we see an opportunity to leverage our [system-on-chip] and integration expertise to bring significant advantages to customers using the Snapdragon Flight drone solutions,” he said.
The recently granted COA will be used to perform outdoor testing at the company’s San Diego facilities, and to accelerate the development of drones with Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. According to the company, drone manufacturers such as Tencent, ZEROTECH, Pegatron, Nine Eagles and Yuneec are planning to release drones based on Snapdragon. The goal of Qualcomm’s outdoor testing will be to refine and test the processor, and to increase drone operations with autonomous operation and reliable 4G/5G communications.
“The Consumer drone market is poised for growth, and Qualcomm will help drive it to the next level,” Swart said. “This grant of the COA is unique since the Qualcomm campus is located within highly restricted Class B airspace within a few miles of an airport with an operational air traffic control tower. The authorization allows the research team to evaluate new technologies in a real-world urban environment—under tight controls at all times.”