Intel sees drone technology investment as game changer

Intel's more than $60 million investment in Chinese drone maker Yuneec Holding Ltd. is the latest evidence that chip makers are serious about drone technology and expanding into new technologies.

Some also say it could be a way for Intel to finally make a mark in the world of mobility. As Business Insider notes, Intel already has invested in two other drone companies, Airware and Precisionhawk.

In a video announcing the Yuneec deal, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said one of the best ways of bringing the connected world to everyone and everywhere has been drones. Intel is making the Yuneec investment in what it believes will be a game changer in the drone industry. "We've got drones on our roadmap that are going to truly change the world and revolutionize the drone industry," he said.

A spokesperson for Intel told EE Times via email that the company is not providing details at this time on what Intel technologies might be used by Yuneec. "Overall, our goals are to help the drone market grow both through our investments and by adding value via our technologies," the spokesperson told the publication.

With offices in North America, Europe and Asia, Yuneec manufactures more than 1 million units a year that are sold under OEM/ODM brands as well as the Typhoon brand of multicopters, according to its website. The company's achievements include the introduction of the industry's first "Ready to Fly" radio-controlled, electric-powered airplane, and the design and manufacture of radio=controlled helicopters and microcopters. The company says it makes a drone that's so easy to use, it's ready to fly out of the box.

Krzanich also talked about the future of drones during his keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January.

Intel isn't the only chipmaker looking to supply its products to drones. Qualcomm Research (NASDAQ:QCOM) also introduced its latest innovation in robotics at CES 2015 through the Snapdragon Cargo, a flying and rolling robot with an integrated flight controller and powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. Inside Snapdragon Cargo is a multi-functional computing platform, with the hardware and software platform built around the Qualcomm Snapdragon system on a chip to provide a low-power solution that integrates multi-core processing, wireless communications, sensor integration, positioning and real-time I/O for multiple robotics applications.

Earlier this month, Qualcomm Senior VP Raj Talluri told Re/code that, eventually, drones using Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon 820 could offer even more advanced features around collision avoidance and geofencing.

Regulations on drones are still being developed, however, and operators like Verizon (NYSE: VZ) are working with NASA to develop systems to manage drones. Drones are also seen as a way to monitor cell towers, along with commercial use cases in agriculture, mapping/surveying and navigation, for example.

To address what could become increasingly crowded skies, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) want to develop an unmanned aerial systems (UAS) traffic management system, which they refer to as UTM, for low-altitude airspace. Companies like Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) are contributing as well.

The FAA earlier this month reported that pilot reports of unmanned aircraft have increased dramatically over the past year, from a total of 238 sightings in all of 2014 to more than 650 by Aug. 9 of this year. Operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is illegal, and unauthorized operators may be subject to stiff fines and criminal charges, including possible jail time.

The agency just released a new smartphone app that tells users exactly where they can and can't fly drones, Digital Trends reports. The update isn't yet public but it's been sent out to 1,000 beta testers. So far, it's only for iOS, but an Android version is coming.

For more:
- see this Intel video on YouTube
- see this EE Times article
- see this Business Insider article
- see this Digital Trends article

Related articles:
Intel sets fast track to 5G, collaborates with Nokia, NTT, SK Telecom
Google, Verizon contribute to NASA's drone management efforts
Amazon gets OK from U.S. regulators for new drone tests
Google hones in on drones, gets FCC OK for tests