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A Ford F150 sync’d to your UAV?

Ford issues a new “Drone-to-vehicle developer challenge” to software engineers

Ford and drone developer DJI are looking to integrate UAV control into a pickup’s digital system for a variety of future applications, including agriculture.

James Bond has his special Aston Martin car complete with ejection seat and all kinds of high-tech gizmos. If Ford has its way, farmers may soon have an F150 pickup at their disposal that would make Q, Bond’s car creator, proud.

Ford has been working with drone developer DJI and the two companies have launched the “Drone-to-vehicle developer challenge” aimed at attracting the attention of software engineers. It’s a contest that is looking for software program entries capable of integrating control of a UAV through an F150’s onboard digital system. The winners will bank $100,000 for their efforts.

The goal is to create a rapid deployment aerial survey system which allows a Ford F150 and a UAV to work together. This is how Ford’s press release describes what the winning software entry needs to accommodate:

“In a disaster, an emergency response team would drive an F-150 as far as possible into an emergency zone caused by an earthquake or tsunami (or whatever).”

“Using the Ford SYNC 3 touch screen, the driver could identify a target area and launch a drone by accessing an app projected through Ford SYNC AppLink. The drone would follow a flight path over the zone, capturing video and creating a map of survivors with associated close-up pictures of each.”

“Using the driver’s smartphone, the F-150 would establish a real-time link between the drone, the truck and the cloud, so vehicle data can be shared. Data will be relayed to the drone so the driver can continue to a new destination, and the drone will catch up and dock with the truck.”

Precision ag uses

Initially, the system is being developed for United Nations rapid response work in emergency areas around the globe. But Ford points out this kind of system has applications well beyond that, including agriculture.

“These types of mobility innovations are part of Ford Smart Mobility,” reads the official press release from Ford announcing the challenge. “The plan [is] to take Ford to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics.”

It’s not hard to see how this kind of system could fit into a precision ag program.

If a producer wants to investigate a crop production issue, he or she drives up to the edge of the field, launches a drone from the back of the truck, controls it through the truck’s connectivity system while viewing aerial images in real time and copies them to a cloud-based server to share with an agronomist or a machine operator to immediately coordinate actions.

In the last decade farmers have seen the digital world become increasingly important in precision ag operations. Ford’s vision for a high-tech truck-UAV fusion seems pretty likely to eventually find its way onto farms.

Anyone who wants to participate in the challenge and create the software needed to support Ford’s Bond-like vision should visit

About the author


Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.



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