By Ishveena Singh

Qualcomm has unveiled the world’s first drone platform and reference design that will tap in both 5G and AI technologies. The chipmaker’s Flight RB5 5G Platform condenses multiple complex technologies into one tightly integrated drone system to support a variety of use cases, including film and entertainment, security and emergency response, delivery, defense, inspection, and mapping.

The new solution is purpose-built for autonomous drones, with Qualcomm aiming to give developers an easy-to-use platform to create premium drones right out of the box.

The Flight RB5 5G Platform is powered by the chipmaker’s QRB5165 processor and builds upon the company’s latest IoT offerings to offer high-performance and heterogeneous computing at ultra-low power consumption.

Along with breakthrough camera capabilities that can deliver 4K HDR video, 200MP photo, and 7-camera concurrency, the platform supports 5G and long-range Wi-Fi 6 connectivity to enhance safer beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights.

Explains Dev Singh, senior director, business development and general manager of autonomous robotics, drones and intelligent machines at Qualcomm Technologies:

As a global digital transformation leader, Qualcomm Technologies is committed to providing on-device intelligence and premium connectivity drone solutions that will unleash innovation across industries, helping to develop smaller, lighter, and safer drones.

And here’s a video that shows the drone design in action:

Qualcomm’s 5G, AI drone platform: Price and availability

California-based ModalAI – which spun out of Qualcomm in 2018 – will serve as the manufacturer and distributor of the new solution, which is priced at $4,000 (5G modem extra). The company is already accepting pre-orders for the Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G Platform, with the first development kit expected to ship in Q4 of 2021.

In the meantime, Qualcomm is working with Verizon to complete network testing of its latest drone solution. Sums up Chad Sweet, CEO, ModalAI:

Autonomous flight on the 5G network is here now – extending the flight path of drones to increase the value of a broad set of inspection capabilities. Better yet, the platform is open to everyone. Together, ModalAI and Qualcomm Technologies are advancing the adoption and commercialization of drone technology.