Intel Inside DJI Mini-Drone

Release time:2017-05-25
source:EE Times

DJI, the Shenzhen-based world leader in drones and aerial cameras, rolled out Wednesday (May 24) its first mini-drone — called Spark. 

DJI was apparently unfazed by a controversial ruling by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) last week that requires all civil-use drones heavier than 250g to be registered online starting June 1.

Packed inside Spark’s compact body — measuring 143×143×55 mm and weighing 300g — is a vision processing unit, dubbed Myriad 2, designed by Movidius, now an Intel company.

DJI claimed that Spark is “the first drone that users can control by hand gestures alone.” Movidius’ Myriad 2 enables the new drone to recognize a user’s face and understand his or her signals.

Face recognition allows Spark to adjust its flight according to the user’s preference. Once Sparks takes off from the user’s hand, “it automatically enters Gesture Mode,” according to DJI. 

DJI's Spark taking off from a user's hand (Image: DJI)
DJI's Spark taking off from a user's hand (Image: DJI)

Why hand signals? A user — in the midst of climbing a steep mountain, for example — can simply signal the shape of a photo-frame and Spark will snap a picture of that moment. The user can call back the drone simply by waving hands. “Even if you’ve never flown a drone before, flying Spark is easy because the only remote control you’ll need is your hand,” DJI explained.

 “This is the ultimate portable drone with a lot of advanced features. DJI has really upped the ante” in a fierce race shaping up among consumer drones, observed Remi El-Ouazzane, formerly Movidus CEO, now vice president and general manager within the New Technologies Group of Intel.

DJI’s engineering team tried to pack so many advanced features in such a small body of the drone while facing the need to optimize its bill of materials. El-Ouazzane believes Myriad 2 VPU played a crucial role in making that happen. 

Myriad 2 for ‘double duty’ 
This is the first time DJI has used Movidius’ Myriad 2 vision processing unit to drive “both computer vision/deep learning and image signal processing,” El-Ouazzane told EE Times.

Until now, DJI has deployed other vendors’ image signal processors for its imaging pipeline, while putting Myriad 2 VPU to use for adding “autonomy” to drones.

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