Ford's platform lets developers test how drones and vehicles could work together (Photo: Ford Motor)

Ford Motor has built a development platform aimed at guiding along the use of drones in a variety of settings.

The carmaker said the customizable lets it test how drones and vehicles could work together.

“Our customers are beginning to think about drones as tools to help get their jobs done, the same way they think about their vehicles,” John Luo and Adi Singh, researchers in Ford’s Research and Advanced Engineering division, said in a blog post.

The platform lets developers test hardware, software, electrical material, structural and user interface design concepts without in-depth technical knowledge.

“It might seem strange to think that a car company is helping to lay the groundwork for drones,” the researchers said, “but we believe there is so much potential to explore here.”

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expects the number of small, hobbyist unmanned aerial vehicles to grow from 1.9 million today to as many as 4.3 million by 2020.

Those numbers don’t include drones used for commercial purposes, which are expected to triple over the period. That means that, by 2020, there could be 7 million drones in the air in the US alone.