Intel Enters the Commercial Drone Race

The Falcon 8+ Drone Inspects, Surveys and Maps

This week at the 2016 Intergeo drone conference in Hamburg, Germany, Intel announced the Intel Falcon 8+ system for the North American market. The Falcon 8+ is the first Intel-branded commercial drone. The kit includes the drone, Intel’s Cockpit remote control and Intel Powerpack smart batteries to power both devices.

The Falcon 8+ was developed by Ascending Technologies, a German drone company that Intel acquired in January 2016 (see Drones Are Taking over the Countryside). Intel has also recently made investments in drone companies Airware and PrecisionHawk.

To complete the picture, Intel has been investing in machine vision technologies having acquired Movidius in September 2016. Movidius, a Silicon Valley firm, specialises in computer vision processors and had already been working closely with companies such as DJI, Flir, Google and Lenovo to implement its technologies in upcoming products (see Intel Buys into Silicon Vision).

Intel has been gathering drone assets and talent.

Drones are becoming a computing platform onto themselves and Intel is positioning itself to be a leader in this young product category. The Falcon 8+ is not just an interesting commercial product but also a handy display for Intel’s collection of drone-optimised processors and depth-sensing technologies, which port over to self-driving cars and robotics. A lot is at play here.

Intel is not alone in sizing up the drone market. Its fierce rival Qualcomm has introduced its own drone platform. Called Snapdragon Flight, Qualcomm’s kit powers drone navigation, photography and communication.

There’s déjà vu here as Intel and Qualcomm compete for the same growing market, a repeat of events in the smartphone market during the past decade. Intel is making drones, but also looking to be at the centre of the industry of things that move around. On this basis Intel has every chance to make it big in drones.