After a hundred years in the automotive industry, Ford is looking to drones as a potential new part of its business model. According to a blog post by John Luo and Adi Singh, both of whom work for Ford Research and Advanced Engineering with the former being a research manager in the Emerging Technology Integration division and the latter as principal scientist in the Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration division, the company has been inspired by the rampant creative increase of UAVs across all kinds of industries and is eager to join the fray.
“As researchers, we were intrigued by the relationship between our vehicles and drones and how we might serve our customers in the future, so we embarked on a mission to find out more,” the pair explained in Wednesday’s post. It’s becoming less shocking and more logical for car companies to shift gears into the drone industry, lately, with Porsche developing a passenger drone of its own and the CEO of Boeing sounding pretty confident that these will be commonplace within the next ten years. Even the FAA seems certain that this spike in the drone industry isn’t a mere fluke, estimating that the 1.9 million hobby drones right now will reach 4.3 million by 2020.
Apparently, Ford’s UAV Systems group in Palo Alto has designed a “customizable development platform” that facilitates quick and easy testing opportunities regarding the symbiosis between cars and drones. Though the blog post describes a “survey operation” scenario as an example of this relationship between grounded and aerial vehicles, there is a lot left to the imagination. It’s clear, however, that Ford is both researching drones, the potential use-cases, and also establishing a platform of its own to provide the industry with a kind of launching pad to further its growth. As a bonus, this is meant to be “an open-source platform to allow others to take advantage of it.”
“As drone adoption accelerates, we think many of our customers will want to use these devices as part of their lifestyle, whether to pursue hobbies or even as a tool for their business—no different than how they use an F-150 or Transit on a job site,” the blog post concludes. Just exactly how Ford will enter the industry and what type of drones it’s considering to focus on is yet unclear. What is clear, though, is that the big leagues are leading the pack in regards to shifting into this modern field, and that can only mean more innovation, more investment, and a faster transition into standardizing drones even more.