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Ford developing modular drone platform

by Justin King

\"It might seem strange to think that a car company is helping to lay the groundwork for drones, but we believe there is so much potential to explore here,\" the company says.

Ford has detailed a few projects focused on unmanned drones, researching potential innovations and exploring ways that small aerial systems can be used in conjunction with vehicles.

Several other large automakers are exploring drones, but with a limited scope such as last-mile delivery. Ford is taking a broader approach, developing a bare-bones development platform that can be adapted for a wide range of experiments.

"At once, our platform allows iterative testing and development of hardware, software, electrical, material, structural and user interface design concepts," the company wrote in a blog post. "A platform like this gives engineering teams across Ford a stable operational tool so they can focus on the unique capability they want to test instead of the practical challenge of building a UAV system from scratch."

The Blue Oval has also filed patent applications for a drone identification system using lights to broadcast a digital code that can be recognized by other aircraft and air traffic control systems, without requiring any additional hardware integration.

"We frequently conduct experiments on individual vehicle components to understand as much as we can about them, so we bring only the best into our vehicles," the company says. "Now we're doing that with drones."