Flying at the Edge

Microsoft and DJI Team Up to Empower Drones

Last week, at the Microsoft Build developer conference in Seattle, Microsoft and Chinese drone maker DJI announced a new partnership that brings more of Microsoft’s machine learning capabilities to commercial drones. Given its current focus on bringing intelligence to the network edge, this is a logical step for Microsoft as drones are essentially semi-autonomous edge computing devices.

DJI is working with Microsoft to build a software development kit for Windows, enabling developers to power drones with advanced artificial intelligence features such as streaming real-time video to a computer, and exploiting the latter’s Azure IoT Edge platform to analyse and interpret the footage. In addition, the companies will collaborate on services that use Azure IoT Edge and Microsoft artificial intelligence technologies for customers in agriculture, construction, public safety and other vertical markets.

The toolkit aims to allow businesses to design a more robust programme using artificial intelligence tailored to their industry. The agreement between Microsoft and DJI enables Azure developers to add machine learning software to drones for custom applications. For example, during a presentation at the event the companies demonstrated how a DJI Mavic Air drone could spot anomalies in pipes and live-stream the data back to a laptop.

The software development kit is based on Windows 10 for developers, and is another aspect of Microsoft’s developer strategy to drive edge applications on the platform.

Microsoft and DJI are also cooperating to develop additional drone solutions mixing Azure IoT Edge and DJI products. One of those projects, Microsoft FarmBeats, uses real-time heat maps to help farmers identify potential problems quickly.

Furthermore, DJI announced that it is standardising its operations on Microsoft’s Azure cloud service. The move represents a win for Microsoft, as companies begin to strategically align with a single cloud provider for more transformative cloud workloads.

Video is also a major application for Microsoft to boost usage of its Azure platform, and the Internet of things element of the partnership is an important step against rival solutions like Amazon Web Services Greengrass and DeepLens.

The DJI software development kit for Windows was made available to developers in beta mode at Build 2018, with a full launch expected by the end of the year. Windows developers will soon be able to employ drones, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to create intelligent flying robots that could save businesses time and money, and help make drone technology widely used in the workplace.

CCS Insight recently published its full report from Microsoft Build 2018. A copy is available to our clients here. For more information, please contact us.

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