We were intrigued to try out the Matrice 100 obstacle avoidance as soon as it was first announced by DJI. Following on from our unboxing and assembly blog of the Matrice 100 we now take the Matrice 100 out for a flight test. This quadcopter is aimed at the industrial market and designed for custom projects using DJI's SDK (Software Development Kit) to tailor it's flight to the particular job in hand. This has the potential to revolutionise industries and pave the future for quadcopter development.
So How Does it Fly?
One of the most exciting features of the Matrice 100 is a module called Guidance. It is a combination of ultrasonic sensors, cameras and a computer that will detect objects and alter the Matrice's flight path accordingly. "Allelujah" I hear you say! "That will stop me hitting a tree again with my Phantom 3". And that could very well be the case in the future. Technology tends to filter down from DJI's professional line to their hobby products, so we're hoping to see object avoidance in the Phantom range in the future at some point.
The object avoidance worked well in our testing, we noticed that if you walk towards the Matrice it will move away from you as long as there is not an object closer in its path on the opposite side. We wondered what would happen if you approached it from 2 angles, and it seems to work like so:
If an object is near one side it will move in the opposite direction until it reaches another object that is at the same distance. It will then stop. It will not move out of a tricky situation in a third direction as that could complicate things and be more dangerous at the currently technology level.
We had wondered if it would move up for example if you walked towards it at all angles, however the answer is no. Each sensor seems to only move it in the opposite direction to that sensor until it reaches another object the same distance away.
Flying with the transmitter
Flight from the transmitter is very similar to that of the Inspire or Phantom range. The controls are the same and it also uses the same DJI-Go app as the ground-station. What becomes most apparent is when the guidance is turned on, the quadcopter responds slower to the pilots commands. It feels as though the aircraft is definitely doing some thinking for itself.
DJI Go-App with avoidance warnings
Once guidance is enabled, you get a nice on-screen display of any objects detected. As shown below, you can see how the user is warned of objects. Any objects on the 4 sides of the quadcopter are shown in this warning circle, and it also states how many meters away the object is. The Matrice can see objects up to 20 meters away, however it tends to only act on the information if they are within 3 meters.
Software Development Kit
The above test was performed with a Matrice 100 with guidance system fitted. Thus far we have not tested the custom capabilities of the Matrice's SDK functions. The whole idea of the Matrice is for custom applications, for example you may want to aircraft to detect cars illegally parked, or to map a terrain for agricultural reasons. This technology is in its infancy and we expect several custom applications to come along once businesses start to utilise and see the potential in this technology.
How to develop your own applications for the Matrice
Programming the Matrice using the custom SDK is not something that a hobbyist can do easily without prior programming knowledge. To gain access to DJI's SDK functions you will need to register on their website. This can enable businesses and users to have access to all functions of the drone.
Which programming language for DJI's SDK?
You can use any language, DJI's SDK does not come with the software/environment to code in, it is a set of pre-compiled binary libraries that you need to work with. The SDK is available for mobile platforms (iOSD & Android) as well as onboard integration. Therefore it can work with a variety of languages such as XCode, Java, C++ and more.
What are the potential uses with the Matrice 100?
There is an endless list of potential uses for quadcopter in the future from delivery to security to 3D mapping. There are too many to list here but I'm sure we're going to see a lot more going forward. The video below shows an example of Intel working with the Matrice to spot illegally parked cars and record their number plate.
In due course we will fully test all functions of the Matrice including the SDK. If you have a custom project you would like advice on please contact us here. Alternatively you can see the Matrice 100 and Guidance on our website.
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