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Drone deal: Microsoft partners with DJI to develop new aerial Internet of Things technologies

Microsoft will collaborate with drone company DJI to develop commercial drone solutions for sectors including agriculture, construction and public safety, seeking to extend Windows 10 and the Microsoft Azure platform to new devices and industrial applications.

The partnership, announced by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the company’s Build developer conference in Seattle moments ago, is part of Microsoft’s focus on what it calls the “intelligent edge,” the practice of devices running in the field without a persistent dependence on the cloud. The company announced at Build that it will open-source the Azure IoT Edge Runtime, a move the company says is designed to help customers modify the runtime to customize applications.

“Developers building commercial apps for a variety of different vertical industries now will have full access to the data as well as the flight plans so you can imagine what you can do in agriculture, industrial safety,” Nadella said on stage at Build. “Many of these applications can get written in Windows as the control plane for the autonomous drone.”

He explained, “You can deploy and compute AI models that have been trained in the cloud to the edge right on the drones.”

Microsoft is also announcing a partnership with Qualcomm to create an artificial intelligence developer kit for computer vision in cameras. Microsoft says the cameras will be able to run Azure services including machine learning and cognitive services by downloading them and running them locally, without a connection to the cloud.

On stage at Build this morning, the company showed several of these new capabilities in a demonstration with DJI, Rockwell International and Qualcomm, flying a drone over pipes that seem identical from the outside, using imaging technology to identify damaged pipes, then creating a service ticket published to Dynamics 365.

With the demo, the company is also seeking to show that Windows 10 PCs can work as Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Follow GeekWire’s live blog for real-time coverage from Build.

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