San Francisco: Intel Corp. drones played starring roles at the 2018 Winter Olympics, the music and arts festival Coachella and danced above the Bellagio Hotel’s fountains in Las Vegas.

But while those stunts, involving hundreds of Shooting Star drones that create a light show in a modern twist on fireworks, are great PR, what’s going on behind the scenes is much more valuable to Intel.

New software that the company is rolling out for more utilitarian unmanned aerial vehicles may play a more lasting role in its attempts to spread the reach of its chips.

Chief executive officer Brian Krzanich is fashioning Intel as a “data-centric" firm to stress its determination to rely less on a personal computer market that hasn’t grown for six years.

Intel’s leader said he’s determined that Intel’s technology will be central to whatever new market emerges for data processing. The latest effort is Intel’s Falcon 8+ aircraft, designed for less-glamorous roles at oil refineries, over farmers’ fields and on building sites.

Software packaged with the drone can help businesses map out pre-planned flights using simple overlays on satellite imagery. That advantage can, for instance, allow a company to see how construction is developing or crops are faring over time. Intel will also soon unveil a new suite of software that would enable drone-gathered data to be stored, processed and used by a whole range of industries.

For Intel, that data is the key. The Falcon 8+ is armed with either a high-end digital camera or array of sensors, and generates a massive amount of information very quickly.

A 15-minute flight taking high-resolution pictures—possibly combined with thermal-image information—can generate more than 10 gigabytes of data.

Taking that and turning it into something useful, such as a three-dimensional map, can take a high-end computer a couple of days of work. That’s the kind of new industry that Intel—the world’s largest maker of computer processors with a growing sideline in memory chips—wants to see flourish.

The data transformation that’s possible with the drone is the most intriguing aspect of the device, said Anil Nanduri, who heads up Intel’s drone efforts.

To support his goal, Nanduri’s group is introducing a new software and service package that will allow data generated by Intel’s drones to be rapidly processed into usable reports and three-dimensional models.

Drones are already big business. They’re used in industries from agriculture to architecture, construction and engineering as well as emergency services and even deliveries. Bloomberg

My Reads Logout