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Ford challenges developers to build a drone-to-vehicle system

The goal is to create a way of controlling drones that can be used by United Nations first-responders in emergencies that render traditional methods of travel impossible.

This story is part of CES 2016. Our editors bring you complete CES 2016 coverage and scour the showroom floor for the hottest new tech gadgets around.

Clearly, these are professional-grade drones. You wouldn't want your 11-year-old getting near those uncovered propeller blades.


Imagine a system that could survey a town recently hit by a tsunami, without putting anyone else in danger. Speeding up emergency response can save lives, and both Ford and drone company DJI are asking the public to build a system to do exactly that.

The DJI Developer Challenge, announced today at CES in Las Vegas, has a simple goal -- create a drone-to-vehicle system using a Ford F-150 pickup, a DJI drone and Ford's onboard software. The winner of the challenge will see their system used by the United Nations Development Program, which will use the drone to survey land that's otherwise difficult or impossible to reach.

The challenge requires developers to use Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system as a base of operations for the drone, through which the operator can control it and see what it's seeing. Real-time data will be relayed back to the truck and sent off to the cloud for further analysis.

Ford and DJI believe this system can benefit more than just first responders. It could be used to inspect old bridges, monitor forest fires and more. The sky's the limit -- literally. Best of all, if your system wins the challenge, you earn a cool $100,000 (around £68,000 or AU$140,000).

This isn't Ford's only vehicle-integration system at CES. The automaker is also working to implement smart household devices into its systems, so you could control your thermostat from your car or monitor your car's fuel levels from your couch.