Jan 06

Intel wants to do for drones what it did for PCs

Intel wants to power more than PCs. It wants to power drones, too.

The Santa Clara, California-based chip giant said Monday it will acquire Ascending Technologies, a German drone maker. The Krailing, Germany-based company builds a handful of drones for professional and research tasks like surveying, industrial inspections or aerial photography.

Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

The acquisition comes as both commercial and consumer interest in drones, ummm... , takes off. Major retailers, including Amazon and Walmart, are looking into using the devices to get a jump on competition with speedier deliveries. Meanwhile, as many as 400,000 drones are expected to have been sold this past holiday season, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, which began requiring consumers to register larger drones last month.

Google has said it plans to begin drone deliveries by 2017, and last month Amazon showed off a new prototype drone it hopes to use to deliver small packages to customers in less than 30 minutes. Walmart also sought permission in October from the FAA to test its own drones to deliver merchandise.

The Ascending Technology deal comes as Intel moves past PC processors into new technologies, such as wearables, robots and smart-home devices.

Drones are also a part of that push. In August, Intel invested more than $60 million in Hong Kong drone maker Yuneec.

CEO Brian Krzanich will likely discuss drones during his Tuesday night keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Over the weekend, Krzanich tweeted an image of a drone enthusiast magazine, which was among the "essentials" he was taking to the annual technology jamboree.

An Intel spokeswoman declined to comment on what Krzanich would talk about.

The Ascending Technologies team will work with Intel's Perceptual Computing division, which tackles ambitious projects like voice and gesture recognition aimed at making technology natural. In a video posted to YouTube, Ascending Technologies crafted a drone-drawn message cheering the deal.

Intel said it plans to develop technology that will let "drones fly with more awareness of their environments" and help them "avoid obstacles and collisions."


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