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Intel gears up for capturing drone market
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Intel gears up for capturing drone market 

It was just the second (in October Intel launched a similarly synchronized light show using 100 drones) of Intel’s grand way of telling the world it has its eyes on the burgeoning global drone market.

For several months now, the company has been AUV and drone-related firms to bolster its claim for what consulting group PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP has forecasted will become a $127 billion market by the year 2020.

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 “We believe drones are an important computing platform for the future and we are continuing to invest in technologies and companies that will enable us to provide the best compute, sensor, communications and software integration for the growing drone ecosystem,” said Anil Nanduri, vice-president of Intel’s new technology group and general manager of UAV.

Drones and data centres

Agriculture is viewed as an emerging dominant application for drone technology. Law enforcement, as well as the retail sector, and wildlife patrolling are also considered top opportunities for UAV’s high-altitude imaging and aerial mapping capabilities.

However, there is also a correlation between drones and data centres.

Think of the vast amounts of data that drone-mounted sensors will generate. Such huge amount of information will require data centres for processing.

A surge in drone use will generate a positive impact on Intel’s data centre revenues since the company controls 90 per cent of the data centre market, according to Forbes.

Intel investing heavily in drone technology

That is why the microprocessor giant recent bought Germany-based commercial drone software startup, MAVinci GmbH recently, he said. The acquisition provides Intel access to flight planning software and a boost to its fixed-wing drone design capabilities.

“This new acquisition will play a key role in providing solutions for industries such as agriculture, insurance, construction, mining and more,” according to Nanduri.

Earlier in the year Intel also snapped up another German firm called Ascending Technologies. The drone maker uses artificial intelligence to develop anti-collision systems for UAV.

Another company bought by Intel this year was Movidus, a San Mateo, Calif-based company which specializes in developing low-power chips for vision-based applications such as head tracking and gesture recognition.

Even before these acquisitions, Intel already owned RealSense, a platform for implementing gesture-based, human-computer interaction techniques. The company produces depth-sensing cameras that enable devices to view images in 3D.

Throughout this year, Intel has been involved in a number of drone-related activities and announcements.  In August, Intel introduced the developer-focused Intel Aero Platform and the Intel Aero Ready to Fly Drone that will be available by end of the year.

Before that, Intel worked with Chinese aircraft manufacturer Yuneec to launch the Yuneec Typhoon H with Intel RealSense Technology which offers collision avoidance features.

Aggressive competition    

Business new publisher Forbes predicts other companies will be pouring in money into drone research in the coming years. This will push UAVs into wider areas of application and in turn, result in a surge in the market similar to that of the smartphone market.

The publication cited a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration report which forecasted that the number of unmanned aircraft in America will shoot up from 2.5 million this year to more than seven million in 2020.

The report predicted that higher UAVs will likely cost around $40,000 per unit while low-end drones will go for around $2,500.

The market opportunity for Intel would be around $17.5 billion, according to Forbes.

Rapidly crowding skies

The demand for aerial drones is expected to gain traction in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region, according to research firm Grandview Research.

The commercial UAV market is also getting crowded rapidly.

AeroVironment Inc., BAE Systems PLC, DJI, Draganfly, Elbit Systems Ltd., General Atomics, Israel Aerospace Industries, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Northrop Grumman, Parrot SA, Textron Inc., and The Boeing Company dominate commercial drone market share, said Grandview.

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