DJI Unleashes an AI-Powered Tank Drone

It’s never been more educational to wreak complete havoc. The world’s largest drone maker, DJI, has released a robotic tank called the RoboMaster S1. DJI is most recognised for its quadcopters, but now they’re coming down to earth for an educational blast.

RoboMaster Tank Drone AI

The RoboMaster S1 is roughly the size of a toaster and is made of plastic and metal. Mounted on four wheels, the drone has a rectangular base that provides a platform for a gun turret that can swivel and fire darts or pellets. Aside from the potential mischief and mayhem that a tiny tank can do, the RoboMaster S1 is also designed to be an educational tool. The tank comes unassembled, which affords the opportunity to learn about robotics and programming as you work to put it all together.

RoboMaster Tank Drone side view

“By doing the assembly process,” says Shuo Yang, one of the lead engineers for the project, “you get to understand what each part is used for and what the principles are behind it. We want it to look like an interesting toy that then teaches basic programming and mechanical knowledge.”

RoboMaster Tank Drone

The idea for the tank comes from an annual robotics event held at a sports stadium in Shenzen. Teams of college-age students from China, Japan, and the U.S. battle it out with robots built from scratch in an obstacle-packed arena. The robots complete different functions—from firing plastic bullets to gathering up those bullets to reload the tanks. There are also medics that repair any wounded robots. The idea for the S1 is to recreate that idea but on a living room-sized scale.

RoboMaster Tank Drone back view

DJI accounts for more than 70 percent of the $4.5 billion civilian drone market, but recent concerns over using Chines products as well as communities clamping down on drone use, has caused a dip in the market. DJI is hoping that the tanks will drum up more interest in the drone market.

DJI RoboMaster Tank Drone top view

The S1 kit sells for USD$500 and comes with everything you need to have a hands-on experience putting it together. The S1 can be linked to smartphones or tablets, which allow the user to see through the tank’s main camera. When within firing range of another S1, the drone can lock onto it and start raining down pellets machine-gun style. DJI envisions the S1 as the first of many educational products.

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