DJI Unveils Manifold PC for Drones

By Joe Rizzo November 03, 2015

Drones come in all shapes and sizes and can be as simple as toys for kids or complex scientific tools. In most cases, learning how to maneuver the device is the complicated part as most drones simply have a camera to take aerial photos or videos. Drone maker DJI is looking to change that concept.

On November 2, 2015, DJI launched a PC for drones called the DJI Manifold. This is a small embedded computer that is optimized for building applications for drones. The goal of the high-performance PC is to give developers the ability to turn the devices from simple drones to intelligent flying robots. This kind of forward-leaning Drone technology will be the focus of the upcoming Drone Zone 360 conference, to be held January 25 to 28 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. 

DJI is a Chinese technology company founded in 2006 with its headquarters in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China. It manufactures commercial and recreational unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, for aerial photography and videography. The company manufactures a range of products including flying cameras, flying platforms, flight controllers for multi rotors, accessories for helicopters and ground stations.

“With the Manifold, we are entering a new era of smarter, faster and more powerful aerial platforms,” said Michael Perry, Director, strategic partnerships, DJI. “Manifold opens up for aerial and ground technology to intelligently work together to solve complex problems. We are excited to see what applications our developer community will come up with for this new platform.”

Inside the box is the NVIDIA Tegra K1's 4-Plus-1 Quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 Processor and 192 GPU CUDA cores with clock speeds of up to 2.2 GHz. The GPU cores provide powerful image processing abilities, efficient parallel computing, as well as a blazing fast throughput. There are several options for connecting to the device, including USB, Ethernet Mini-PCIe, HDMI, UART, SPI and I2C ports. The Manifold runs on Canonical’s Ubuntu operating system and supports CUDA, OpenCV and ROS. The platform has been optimized for aerial image processing and parallel computing.

The Manifold uses and, in fact, is specifically designed for DJI’s Onboard SDK, which will make it easier for developers who are already familiar with DJI SDK-based software to create powerful professional apps.

Due to the fact that the Manifold is compatible with a variety of third-party sensors, it can easily be connected to various devices. The drone PC is optimized for power efficiency with a peak power consumption of approximately 15 W, or one fourth of a typical laptop. It uses a single battery-saver core when performing simple calculations and the number of active cores can be dynamically adjusted to decrease power consumption. The extra core will automatically be activated only when needed.

Drones are connected devices. Most are accessible or controllable over the Internet and the data they collect can be uploaded to various cloud services. This makes drones, and especially one with a Manifold, part of the IoT. The information which they can acquire through their array of sensors, such as thermal imaging, UV or multispectral cameras, sniffers and microphones, can provide valuable data which can later be analyzed.

The Manifold costs $499; however you will also need DJI's Matrice 100 drone, which costs $3,299. The Manifold also provides customized ports to connect to the Matrice 100 and process the images captured by the camera mounted to the platform. Manifold is available to order now and will start shipping November 15.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

Contributing Writer

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