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Intel Buys Drone Company For Auto-Pilot Tech

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Ascending Technologies makes software and algorithms that allow drones to sense and avoid obstacles

Intel has acquired German drone maker Ascending Technologies, which makes auto-pilot software and algorithms that could prove increasingly popular as governments clamp down on drone safety.

The move should help Intel “integrate the computing, communications, sensor and cloud technology” needed for next-generation drones, Josh Walden, general manager of Intel’s New Technology Group, said in a statement.

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Drone safety

Some of Ascending’s drones already use Intel’s RealSense technology, which combine cameras with depth-sensing software.

“Together these technologies can, among other things, improve drone safety – helping them avoid obstacles and collisions,” Walden added.

The company said all of Ascending’s 75 staff would be offered positions at Intel, where they are expected to collaborate with Intel’s Perceptual Computing group on drone sensors.

The acquisition is likely to feature in Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich’s pre-conference keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016 in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Ascending’s drones also featured in Intel’s CES keynote last year.

Intel didn’t disclose the financial terms of the deal and said it isn’t currently discussing product roadmaps.

Next-generation tech

Ascending’s drones are targeted at companies and researchers and can be used to carry out visual inspections in areas that aren’t easy to access or to aid in 3D map making.

Drone safety has become a more pressing issue as more drones take to the air, with airline pilots reporting that drones flew closer than 500 feet to aircraft 241 times between December 2013 and September 2015, according to Bard College research.

The US government recently began requiring drones to be registered with regulators.

Intel, which missed out on the smartphone market, has made a number of investments in promising new technology areas in order to offset the decline of its core PC chip business.

The company has acquired wearable device makers Basis and Recon Instruments and, in August, invested $60 million (£41m) in Chinese drone maker Yuneec.

In the drone industry Intel’s competitors include Qualcomm, which introduced the Snapdragon Flight system-on-a-chip for drones last year, and Nvidia, which launched the Jetson TX1 chip for drones in November.

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