DJI’s Third Developer Challenge Receives Record Number of Proposals


DJI, the world leader in aerial imaging technology, has received a record 130 proposals for its third annual DJI Developer Challenge and has advanced 25 developer teams to the second round of competition for the $100,000 prize.

The 25 teams include universities, startups and individuals from Europe, Asia and North America who submitted complex proposals to use DJI technology as the platform for a disaster relief search-and-rescue application. The teams will be given DJI hardware and software to begin turning their ideas into reality through further challenges, until 10 finalists are chosen to demonstrate their applications in a public competition in August.

“Over a hundred teams of developers and researchers from around the world have submitted proposals describing their approach to the challenge,” said Robert Schlub, DJI Vice President of Research and Development. “The response has been fantastic, and we are looking forward to seeing how these teams turn their ideas into working prototypes.”

The 2016 DJI Developer Challenge asks teams to develop a search-and-rescue application that launches a drone from a moving Ford F-150 pickup truck, surveys the survivors and obstacles in a disaster site, compiles and transmits the information back to the in-vehicle communications system, SYNC 3, in real time, then lands safely in the bed of the moving truck.

The challenge is a collaboration with Ford Motor Co. (NYSE Symbol F), which has been at the forefront of turning its vehicles into smart and connected platforms, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which seeks ideas for integrating drones into its lifesaving efforts around the world.

“It’s great to see so many innovative solutions come from the minds of developers all over the world,” said Dragos Maciuca, Technical Director, Ford Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto. “Working together with DJI and UNDP to use Ford products as part of solutions to better the world is extremely rewarding to us.” 

In addition to providing the F-150 truck to use as the drone launch platform, Ford is providing tools and software to enable developers to initiate launch through SYNC 3’s touchscreen or voice commands.

“Together with Ford and DJI, we are extremely happy to be able to partner and work with the most innovative and creative minds to discover positive technology solutions to today’s – and tomorrow's – development challenges,” said David Galipeau, the Global Head of the United Nations Social Impact Fund, a social investment platform that focuses on scaling-up Impact Enterprises. “UNDP strives to create the enabling space for sustainable and resilient solutions and the large and diverse number of teams that have applied for the DJI Challenge exemplifies this. We wish all teams much success in their efforts.”

“The number of teams entering this competition shows how developers around the world are inspired to build on top of our vehicle platforms, and the quality and creativity of their ideas show that aerial robotics has great promise for disaster recovery missions,” said Darren Liccardo, DJI Vice President of Engineering, Systems and Applications. “We expect the results of this competition to push the boundaries of intelligent automation and provide another example of how unmanned systems can be used to save lives.”

The 25 second-round teams will now receive DJI’s redesigned Mobile SDK 3.0, the software development kit that enables developers to create innovative applications for the DJI platform. The streamlined interface creates opportunities for developers to use drone cameras, controls and flight systems to solve problems, expand uses and find new business opportunities. The teams will also receive DJI’s flagship Matrice 100 aerial platform and a Zenmuse X3 camera, giving them the freedom to create the optimal hardware for their chosen tasks.

With hardware and software in hand, the teams will now spend the next month coding their ideas into prototypes, and will update the organizers with progress reports and videos. In late April, 15 teams which show the greatest ability and potential to accomplish the mission will be chosen for a third round of further development. Ten finalist teams will be chosen in July, and will put their ideas into action at a simulated disaster site in the Bay Area during the Final Showdown in August.

DJI’s first DJI Developer Challenge in 2014 aimed to develop a forensics application for investigating highway collisions, and was won by Team BetterW from the South China University of Technology. Last year, team UT-Dronefly from the University of Texas at Dallas and Penn State University won the second DJI Developer Challenge with an application to inspect power lines more safely and efficiently.

This year’s 130 entries were graded on technical and analytical ability as well as presentation quality and team member expertise by nine DJI employees with experience relevant to the challenge’s component tasks. The top 25 teams are listed below in alphabetical order:

- AeroTech
- Ag-Vision
- Autero
- Cardinal S.A.R.
- Dorabo
- Georgia Tech Aerial Robotics Club
- Graz Griffins
- MachInsight (机器慧眼)
- Max Schwartz
- QDrone
- Rotor Air Cam
- SaveApril
- SenseLAB
- SEU Drone
- TeamHKU
- UAV.Research@Luxembourg
- SuperEagles (赛鹰)
- DJI-hawkeye Team (王超群)
- SHIJIU Team (武汉大学狮鹫队)