Qualcomm Introduces Its Latest Drone Platform with 5G & AI

Qualcomm unveiled its Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G platform, with the hopes of speeding up development of commercial, enterprise and industrial drones. The new platform, which is powered by Qualcomm’s QRB5165 processor and builds on the company’s IoT products, enables drones to utilize 5G and artificial intelligence technologies. Low power 5G drones can capture and transmit a lot of data via cameras that it transmits to an operator or over a network. AI enables the drone to determine what data is most valuable.

VentureBeat reports that Qualcomm general manager of autonomous robots, drones and intelligent machines Dev Singh stated that, with 5G and AI, the company “is going to help accelerate development of commercial enterprise industrial drones and really open up innovative possibilities for industries looking to adopt high-performance, low power, small form factor, long-range communication, autonomous, and intelligent drones.”

The Flight RB5 5G platform “has eight CPUs, a graphics processing unit (GPU), a neural processing engine, and cameras that can handle 8K resolution and 4K capture at 120 frames per second.” It supports a drone with seven cameras.

The platform “can handle power-efficient inferencing at the edge for AI and machine learning for fully autonomous drones … [and] connects via 5G or Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, giving drones the ability to fly beyond line-of-sight.” For cybersecurity, it uses a Qualcomm Secure Processing Unit.

Qualcomm is working with Verizon to complete testing of the platform for the Verizon 5G network, “and it expects the platform, which is 5G millimeter-wave capable, to be offered via the Verizon Thingspace Marketplace.”

The platform’s blueprint for drone manufacturers is now available for presale via ModalAI. Singh said that “companies can partition AI tasks, providing power-efficient AI on the device to ensure privacy, reliability, low latency, and … the cloud can also handle heavy-duty AI training and inferencing.”

He suggested that the platform will be useful for “oil and gas exploration, wind farms, entertainment, deliveries, public safety, agriculture, and inspection,” and reported that “the shipments of devices are growing fivefold from a million in 2021 to 3 million to 5 million in 2025.”

The Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G development kit is expected to be available in Q4; its technology has been endorsed by AT&T, Asia Pacific Telecom, Korea Telecom, Taiwan Mobile, InvenSense, Skyward and others. Singh said “Qualcomm is already engaged with more than 200 robotics and drone ecosystem companies, and it’s also driving worldwide drone standardization technologies.”

Qualcomm’s first drone flight platform, launched in 2015, was used in the “NASA Jet Propulsion Lab mission to Mars, powering the Ingenuity drone helicopter … [which] has made 10 flights and imaged over a mile of the surface of Mars.” The company’s second-generation drone “design debuted in 2018, and it powers the Uber Eats meal delivery drones.”