Qualcomm touts drone platform's pricing, battery life, autonomous navigation support

|About: QUALCOMM Incorporated (QCOM)|By:, SA News Editor

Ahead of CES (runs from Jan. 6-9), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) has released a promo video for its Snapdragon Flight drone reference platform (first announced in September). Notably, the video suggests drones built with the platform will support a measure of autonomous navigation. "With autonomous path planning, getting back home from Point B is done automatically for you," goes the voice-over.

Motion planning and obstacle mapping are also said to be supported, along with the ability to include both stereo cameras and a down-facing tracking camera (i.e. an optical flow camera). Qualcomm previously stated Flight will feature a Snapdragon 801 SoC (2.2GHz., quad-core) to go with Bluetooth/Wi-Fi/GPS connectivity, 4K video support, and rapid charging.

In October, Qualcomm exec Raj Talluri laid out ambitious cost and battery life targets for Flight. "We believe that, with this chip, we can cut the price of the average 4K camera drone from $1,200 down to $300 or $400 ... And we think we can extend the battery life from 20 minutes to 45 to 60 minutes." China's Yuneec is among the first OEMs to support Flight.

Ambarella (NASDAQ:AMBA), whose drone exposure (as a % of revenue) is above 10% and growing, maintains a large chunk of the drone processor market for now through its video-processing SoCs. The company has argued its video processors are more power/resource-efficient than SoCs from the likes of Qualcomm and Intel.

In July, Ambarella announced the purchase of computer vision and autonomous vehicle tech developer VisLab. Nvidia, meanwhile, has launched the Jetson TX1, a credit card-sized module for drones and autonomous cars that contains the company's Tegra X1 processor and is declared to use machine learning to "perform complex tasks such as recognizing images, processing conversational speech, or analyzing a room full of furniture and finding a path to navigate across it."

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