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How can you make a drone better? Install Linux on it!

Chinese manufacturer DJI has today announced the Manifold, an on-board computer intended for use with one of the several ranges of drones that the company offers. The system runs Ubuntu Linux and boasts a Nvidia Tegra K1 quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 processor,

The architecture of the 2.2 GHz processor allows the Manifold to modify its power consumption on the fly. All four cores will be called into action when the situation warrants it, but a lone battery-saver core can hold the fort when less computational power is required.

In recent years, we’ve seen drones make the jump from science fiction to your local park — which in turn has prompted a huge variety of different models to be made available.  The most basic drone will only contain the basic hardware necessary for it to communicate with a smartphone, but more advanced examples require some extra processing power.

DJI has suggested that the Manifold could have artificial intelligence applications, as well as offering advanced image processing while airborne.

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The system is designed for use with the Matrice 100 drone, which was released by DJI earlier this year. The model is notable for its Guidance system, which allows it to autonomously assess and avoid obstacles via a set of integrated cameras and five ultrasonic rangefinders.

The Manifold uses Ubuntu by default and supports both OpenGL and DirectX. Connectivity with other hardware is a crucial feature for many drone applications, so the unit is stocked with USB, HDMI, Ethernet, Mini-PCIe, UART, SPI, and I2C ports all fitted as standard.

Orders of the Manifold are now open via the DJI website, with the standard model priced at $499. The Matrice 100 drone and Guidance unit retail separately for $3299 and $999 respectively.