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Ford Issues $100,000 Challenge For Developers To Create Drone-To-Vehicle Communication System

DEARBORN (WWJ) - Could your car soon be able to communicate with a drone aircraft?

Ford is issuing a challenge to developers to come up with drone-to-vehicle communications as part of a search and rescue system for the future.

CEO Mark Fields said a goal is to set up a system, for example, where a United Nations emergency worker could launch a drone from an F-150 to survey a disaster scene.

"A drone will actually have the coordinates and be able to then land back into the bed of the F-150, even though it's in another location," Fields told WWJ Auto Beat Reporter Jeff Gilbert.

The rapidly deployable surveying system ideally would work like this: A response team would drive an F-150 as far as possible into an emergency zone caused by an earthquake or tsunami. Using the Ford SYNC touch screen, the driver could identify a target area and launch a drone through an app. The drone would follow a flight path over the zone, capturing video and creating a map of survivors with associated close-up pictures of each.

Using the driver's smartphone, the F-150 would establish a real-time link between the drone, the truck and the cloud, so vehicle data can be shared. Data will be relayed to the drone so the driver can continue to a new destination, and the drone will catch up and dock with the truck.

Though this challenge has a specific mission -- search and rescue -- the software eventually could allow drone-to-vehicle applications in agriculture, forestry, construction, bridge inspection and many other work environments in which vehicles are space-, height- or terrain-limited.

The challenge winner will receive a $100,000 prize. Applications will be accepted January 10 through March 10. For more information, click here.

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