DJI is undoubtedly the leading brand when it comes to camera drones, but few companies have even attempted to develop a ground-based mobile camera platform. However, the company could move in this direction if this patent is indicative of a small off-road vehicle with a stabilized camera.
The first Chinese patent pending by DroneDJ shows a rather serious looking vehicle platform with bulky tires and a stabilized camera gimbal. As you can see in the picture above, the camera mount is protected from shocks by springs and pneumatics, which would undoubtedly react actively to sudden movements.
The picture is not a simple sketch like the one you sometimes see of fictional products and "just in case" patents – this looks like a sophisticated mechanical drawing of a real device. Of course, this does not mean that it will come onto the market at all, let alone that it will come onto the market soon. However, it does indicate that the DJI engineers have done everything in real time to make this a reality.
Why have a "drone" on the ground when there are completely good ones for the air? Firstly, the battery life. Drones can only be in the air for a short time, even less if they carry decent cameras and lenses. A ground-based drone could be in operation much longer – but of course from a slightly lower perspective.
Perhaps more importantly, however, is that a drone on wheels makes sense in places where a drone from the air makes no sense. Are you sure you want to fly a drone through narrow aisles in security rooms or in your own home? And what about areas where you could meet people? For security reasons, it is better not to have to land and take off all the time.
It is likely that DJI has done its homework and knows that there are many niches that they could expand if they diversified their offerings a little. And like so many situations where drones are the order of the day, we'll look at all of these robot-powered industries in retrospect as obvious. For example, the winner of our startup Battlefields at Disrupt Berlin, Scaled Robotics, which laboriously carries out automated inspections of construction sites.
In fact, DJI is already producing a ground-based robot platform, the RoboMaster S1. This is more of an educational toy, but may have served as a test bed for technologies that the company plans to use elsewhere.
Whether or not this little vehicle ever sees the light of the day, it makes you seriously think about the possibility that a mobile camera platform will do serious work in the home or office.