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DJI just released its first drone that can see and avoid obstacles

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The company's new guidance system is already helping drones hand out parking tickets

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The drones available to the average consumer have improved by leaps and bounds over the last five years. Onboard computer systems allowed them to autonomously navigate a path of GPS waypoints or follow along with its owner and capture spectacular aerial footage. But up until now the drones available to you and me were blind to their surroundings. If a big tree or ski lift got in its path, the drone wouldn't change course to avoid it. All that changes today, with the release of DJI's first guidance system, a combination of ultrasonic sensors and stereo cameras that allow the drone to detect objects up to 65 feet (20 meters) away and keep your aircraft at a preconfigured distance.

Robust sense and avoid technology is the key to integrating drones into everyday life, enabling ambitious projects like Amazon's Prime Air. It would allow drones, like their robotic kin the driverless car, to move about our towns and cities, delivering packages, capturing news footage, or perhaps handing out parking tickets. DJI says that research teams are already using the guidance system for "unique applications, including an aerial solution created at Fudan University in Shanghai that uses Intel processors to detect illegally parked cars from the air."

The guidance system works with DJI's new Matrice 100 drone, also announced today. It's a developer-friendly craft built to be modified for specific tasks across different industries, and to act as a testbed for experimental work. It's part of a big push by DJI to be known not just as a hardware manufacturer, but as a platform for the entire drone industry.

Verge Video: Hands-On with the DJI Inspire One Cam Mount