Drones Are a Next-Generation Computing Platform, Says Intel

Intel drone

Intel announced the first Intel drone designed specifically for light shows: the Intel Shooting Star drone. With this drone, the company plans to demonstrate that drone light shows can redefine entertainment and create amazing new experiences in the night sky.

“Recently, we put the fleet of Intel Shooting Star drones to the test in Germany and we were able to achieve what no one else has done before,” says Anil Nanduri, Intel VP in the New Technology Group and general manager of unmanned aviation systems for the Perceptual Computing Group. “We set a new Guinness World Record for having The Most UAVs Airborne Simultaneously with 500 Intel Shooting Star drones lighting up the night sky. We outdid our previous record of 100 drones in-flight simultaneously in less than a year.”

The Shooting Star drone is designed with safety and creativity in mind, with a super light-weight structure and virtually limitless color combinations, says the company. The new Intel drone is a quadcopter constructed with a soft frame made of flexible plastics and foam, and weighs only 280 grams – less than the weight of a volleyball. The quadcopter’s propellers are also protected by covered cages to make the device splash -proof and safe to fly in light rain.

A fleet of Shooting Star drones is easily programmed, assembled and operated to create images in the nighttime sky. Intel’s proprietary algorithms can automate the animation creation process by quickly calculating the number of drones needed for a given image show, determining where drones should be placed and formulating the fastest path to create the image in the sky.

The light show software also runs a complete fleet check prior to each flight and is able to select the most optimized drones for each flight based on battery life, GPS reception and more. A fleet of Intel Shooting Star drones can consist of hundreds of drones, controlled by a single computer.

Intel has received authorization from the FAA to fly Shooting Star drones as a fleet with one pilot at night in the US. However, at this moment the new drones have not been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission, and can’t be sold or leased until authorization is obtained.

A Flying Internet of Drones

Intel droneOf course, Intel doesn’t have only nice light shows in mind. In fact, the company thinks drones can have important applications and become a next-generation computing platform. Nanduri says:

“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.”

In fact, the integration of all sort of sensors and wireless communication in drones can extend the Internet of Things (IoT) to the sky and power next-generation applications for businesses and consumers. Not to mention surveillance, which could be the killing app of the flying IoT. Surveillance drones are often featured in near future science fiction, and perhaps we will see them hovering above the streets soon, courtesy of Intel.

Intel announced the acquisition of MAVinci, a manufacturer of professional unmanned aerial drones and software systems for surveying and related applications, which is thought to have the best-in-class flight planning software. “With this transaction, we are gaining expertise in flight planning software algorithms and also fixed-wing drone design capabilities that complement the technology and knowledge Intel previously acquired from Ascending Technologies,” says Nanduri. “This new acquisition will play a key role in providing solutions for industries such as agriculture, insurance, construction, mining and more.”

“Our plan is for the MAVinci team to focus on supporting current customers and growing the business,” notes a MAVinci press release. “The team will collaborate with Intel’s Ascending Technologies team to provide a wide range of UAS offerings.”

Intel RealSense Technology provides collision avoidance to the Yuneec Typhoon H, a quadcopter drone specialized for advanced aerial photography and videography.

Earlier this year, 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. In October, the company announced the first Intel-branded commercial multirotor drone for the North American markets – the Intel® Falcon 8+ System.

Intel drone

Images and video from Intel.

Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.