DJI presents vision of the urban future with drone-friendly skybridge

DJI, the world’s largest small drone company, has commissioned plans for a futuristic skybridge from which its employees will be able to observe and pilot drones.

The plans are some of the first to include drone operation and observation in the urban infrastructure, and offer a glimpse of what architecture designed for a drone-filled world could look like.

Designed by architecture studio Preliminary Research Office, the pedestrian bridge is designed to connect the two skyscrapers that will serve as its new headquarters in Shenzhen, China. The two-storey skybridge will connect one skyscraper on its 28th floor, and the other on its 28th and 29th floors.

Made from a series of intersecting cones, the structure features drone observation spaces over two different floors, a viewing deck providing views of the surrounding city and a number of meeting spaces.

Located immediately north of Hong Kong, Shenzhen is a major hub for hardware development and manufacturing, and has been home to DJI since its founding in 2006.

The dramatic growth of the company, fuelled in part by the success of its consumer-friendly Phantom line, as well as the more commercially targeted Inspire range, has required it to move to for larger premises in recent years. The release of these rendering and supporting plans from Preliminary Research Office suggests that that expansion is now going further.

In addition, it indicates that DJI is keen to have its own outdoor space to demonstrate and potentially test new drones, which are surprisingly rare sight in the Chinese city, despite it being known as the Silicon Valley of China.

Images courtesy of Preliminary Research Office via ArchDaily

As drones become more widespread both as a consumer product for entertainment purposes and as a commercial tool for activities including photography, surveillance and building inspections, they are likely to become more common sight in cities where they are allowed to fly. This will require the creation of suitable launching, landing and piloting spaces, with this design providing one of the first depictions of what such spaces could look like.

It could also add to the growing body of work associated with the development of delivery drones, which in developed nations look set to be pioneered by companies including Amazon. While considerable work has been undertaken to develop drones fit for the task, comparatively little has been done to develop supporting infrastructure and architecture.

Neither DJI nor Preliminary Research Office have provided any timeline for the skybridge as yet, however assuming the company likes the design, we could see the project realised within a relatively short timescale.

Europe opens its doors to Hyperloop with French R&D centre

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) has signed an agreement to break ground on a European facility in Toulouse, France, at the site of the former Francazal air base. The first stages of construction will begin this year, and the company hopes to have the hyperloop technology itself in a fully functioning and marketable format within the next few years.

The California-based startup was founded in 2013 and signed the agreement with Jean-Luc Moudenc, Mayor of Toulouse and president of Toulouse Métropole, Carole Delga, president of the Occitania Region, and Pascal Mailhos, prefect of the Occitania Region. The transportation company was represented by Dirk Ahlborn and Bibop Gresta, CEO and chairman respectively.

“Toulouse is the nerve center of the European aerospace industry and global innovation, and it felt natural for us to have a presence here, alongside so many of our partners and colleagues,” stated Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of HTT. “We are very grateful indeed for the welcome extended to us by Toulouse Métropole, who received us with open arms.”

An architectural rendering of the proposed research centre. Image courtesy of Agence François Leclercq. Featured image courtesy of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

Since first being presented by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, hyperloop has become one of the premium models of future transport. Moving capsules with passive magnetic levitation through low pressure tubes at top speeds of 1,200km/h, hyperloop systems have the potential to revolutionise public transport in the next few years.

Perhaps most importantly, the decision by an American company to found their R&D centre in France could mean good things for those hoping hyperloop will be established in Western Europe. With much of the ongoing work, particularly from competitor Hyperloop One, occurring in the US and the Middle East, it is promising to see the technology gaining some ground on European soil.

As things currently stand, hyperloop technology has been proved successful in test environments but still has a way to go before you’ll be stepping into one of these superfast tubes to get to work.

A large part of making this a reality will be proving the viability of the technology to officials and industry members; transforming it into a marketable concept. With the establishment of HTT’s centre in mainland western Europe, we can be hopeful that demonstration will soon pay off.

HTT’s European centre will serve as a hub of research and development, comprising of a 1km full-scale testing track, a platform for sharing research with academics, a lab for related technologies and a demonstration centre to act as both showcase and tourism venue. The centre will benefit from the establish industry in the Toulouse region.  

“By welcoming the HTT project to the region, Occitania / Pyrénées-Méditerranée once again confirms its status as a land of innovation, looking ahead to the future and to the challenges associated with sustainable transport solutions,” stated Carole Delga, president of the Occitania / Pyrénées-Méditerranée Region.

“This American company will make full use of our local business ecosystem, which is particularly effective and boasts an exceptional wealth of scientific savoir-faire in the fields of aerospace, on-board systems and mobility.”