Intel is holding its annual Developer Forum this week in San Francisco, where they have introduced “Project Alloy,” a wireless VR headset. The virtual reality design is just the latest big news in Intel’s broad push to regain their former glory by becoming a major leader in the growth of the Internet of Things: a push that has included significant investment and wide coverage in drone technology.
“Project Alloy,” the VR project, uses 3D cameras and sensors driven by Intel’s RealSense™ motion tracking technology. The wireless “mixed reality” headset – so called because it allows integration between the real and virtual worlds – is just the latest application for RealSense, which is already being used as an obstacle avoidance tool in drones.
The RealSense camera “fits remarkable technology into a small package,” says Intel. Powered by the Intel processors that have been the company’s bread and butter, Real Sense is a 3-in-1 camera—a 1080p HD camera, an infrared camera, and an infrared laser projector—that can sense depth and track motion. Earlier this year, Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich demonstrated the RealSense camera integrated into a Yuneec Typhoon, which gave the drone obstacle avoidance capabilities.
Intel has made several efforts to demonstrate their technologies integrated with drones. In addition to RealSense, Intel worked with AT&T to demonstrate drones connected by LTE network at altitude. The demonstration had major significance for the drone industry. Using an Intel modem and the LTE network, demonstrators were able to stream video from the drone and transport the footage over the network across the globe in less than a second. The applications for that technology in the drone industry could become almost endless when FAA restrictions prohibiting flight beyond visual line of sight are removed.
The company hasn’t stopped at technology that can be simply integrated into other drones – Intel’s Aero Ready-to-fly drone is a for-sale demonstration of their Aero Compute board, a UAV-developer kit. The kit combines an Intel processor, Linux OS, and support for RealSense in a playing-card sized package. The Aero drone is designed for developers who want to test new drone applications.
And who could forget their famous demonstration of 100 dancing drones – an amazing orchestrated light show – introduced by Intel CEO Krzanich at this year’s CES show? Krzanich wowed the crowd by showing a video that he said would see the end of traditional fireworks displays.
The Intel plan to become a major player in the drone industry is a multi-legged stool. In addition to the development of technologies that can be integrated with drones, Intel is making huge investments outside of the company.
Intel Capital is pouring money into drone companies, including a well-publicized investment of $60 million in Chinese manufacturer Yuneec. In addition to Yuneec, they have invested in e-volo; which is touted as “the world’s first manned multirotor,” and the “future Uber.” They hold heavy investments in aerial survey experts Precision Hawk and drone operating system Airware. Most recently, Intel acquired German drone company Ascending Technologies, manufacturing professional and research drones.
CEO Brian Krzanich is a major piece of the drone strategy. He has become a familiar face to the industry; speaking at drone conferences and demonstrating drone technology across the globe. Krzanich has now expanded his network of drone partnerships to the US government, joining forces with the powerful FAA. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced at the AUVSI conference this spring that Krzanich would be chairperson of a broad based industry and government drone advisory committee, designed to inform and accelerate the FAA process of drone regulation.
Results: a Leading Position in the Internet of Things
Intel announced large layoffs earlier this year, signaling a shift away from its core – and dwindling – business of PC’s. The company largely missed the industry shift to mobile and smartphone technology; so looking ahead to the next big shift would seem to be a wise move. And so far, Intel’s push to renew its position as a leader in new technology is working.
Drones have been called the future of the Internet of Things; and the Internet of Things (I0T) looks like the future. With its investments in technology and companies, Intel is standing out. A recent report by RBC Capital names Intel as one of three best positioned companies for growth in the IoT. Yesterday’s announcement of Project Alloy has swamped headlines once again – and the company founded by pioneers in their field back in 1968 appears to be conquering new frontiers.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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