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Are we seeing the emergence of platforms for drones?


When Linux first emerged in the early 90s it was something of a well kept secret.  Whilst it undoubtedly delivered incredibly successful results in terms of the creation of a world-class operating system, there was much less exploration of operations of the community itself.

It’s probably fair to say, therefore, that the virtues of providing a platform whereby an army of external innovators can plug in their ideas and products did not really take off until the smartphone boom arrived and saw millions of apps developed to transform the use of the mobile phone into something incredible.

Such thinking has found its way into all manner of unexpected nooks and crannies.  For instance, Tim O’Reilly’s musings on making government a platform have found supporters within the Government Digital Service that produced the Gov.uk platform in Britain.

As O’Reilly says, each era throughout the information age has been typified by a common framework that enables an ecosystem of participants to contribute to.

The drone ecosystem

With drone technology still at a relatively nascent stage, it’s probably fair to say that we haven’t reached that stage yet, but a recent development suggests we may be there before too long.

A new company, called Percepto, is currently raising funds on Indiegogo.  They’re looking to develop a camera that can be mounted to a standard drone.

Unlike other cameras however, the Percepto camera allows you to download a number of apps to your phone, that you can then use to interact with the camera.

The Israeli company has already built a number of apps to kick things off, but the ambition is to provide a platform for developers to build their own functionality.

The machine vision platform, which drones use to navigate, will be open sourced, thus allowing not only apps to be developed, but the platform itself to be improved upon.

“The idea is that because this is an emerging technology it’s not clear what the use cases are that people will want in the future,” the company say.

The expectation is that the system will initially be used for entertainment purposes, but the hope is that longer term it will offer much more meaningful applications in areas ranging from construction to agriculture.

We’ve seen similar systems emerge recently, with the nearest comparison being the RealSense 3D camera developed by Intel.  That isn’t open source however, so I hope that the Percepto, or something like it, comes out on top.

Percepto is a camera that attaches to existing drones and syncs with the user’s smartphone. The tiny add-on will give drones the capacity to host multiple applications — meaning consumers can add features and capabilities to their drone as and when developers create them, as easily as they do on their smartphone.

Their campaign on Indiegogo is currently under way, and you can pre-order the device for $399. They’ve already surpassed their funding target, but I’m sure all extra support would be very gratefully received.

If you have an interest in this field then I’d certainly recommend checking them out and providing your support.

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