Intel CEO to Chair FAA Advisory Panel Regarding Drones

Brian Krzanich will run the agency's Drone Advisory Council, which will help develop policies around unmanned aircraft in U.S. skies.

Drone show

Brian Krzanich has been a huge proponent of drone technology during his three-year tenure as Intel's CEO.

During that time, Krzanich has appeared on stage at a number of shows with drones—powered by Intel chips and featuring the company's RealSense 3D camera technology—buzzing around him, invested in drone companies (Yuneec, PrecisionHawk and Airware), bought a drone software maker (Ascending Technologies) and partnered with other tech giants (AT&T) to test drone capabilities.

The CEO last year said that "at Intel, we believe in a smart and connected world, and one of the best ways to bring that smart and connected world to everyone and everywhere has been drones." He also said that Intel has "drones on our roadmap that will truly change the world and revolutionize the drone industry."

Now Krzanich will have a significant say in the development of federal regulations regarding drones. Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the creation of a broad-based advisory committee addressing integration strategies regarding unmanned aircraft. Krzanich will chair the Drone Advisory Council, whose mission is to bring a broad range of voices into the debate around introducing drones into U.S. airspace, according to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, speaking at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) conference this week.

"Input from stakeholders is critical to our ability to achieve that perfect balance between integration and safety," Huerta said in a statement. "We know that our policies and overall regulation of this segment of aviation will be more successful if we have the backing of a strong, diverse coalition."

For his part, Krzanich said that innovation and industry expansion around drones will be helped by "a positive regulatory environment."

"As a technology partner in the UAS [unmanned aircraft system] ecosystem, our work at Intel has given us relevant insight into issues faced by a wide range of stakeholders," he said in a statement. "The creation of the Drone Advisory Council is an excellent step forward for all in this industry."

Along with the Drone Advisory Council, Huerta also announced that the FAA is making it easier for students to operate drones as part of educational and research efforts. Schools and students no longer will need to get a Section 333 exemption or any other authorization, as long as they follow the rules for model aircraft. The new freedoms for students and researchers will "be a significant shot in the arm for innovation," the chairman said.

At the same time, Intel put on a demonstration by having a swarm of 100 drones dance across the night sky in the desert at Palm Springs, Calif. The chip maker had received an exemption from the FAA for the performance, in which the 100 drones were controlled by a single pilot. The drones were built by Ascending Technologies.

"At Intel, we're starting to explore with events like this, where we really stretch the limits of how you can control 100 robots in the air at once," Krzanich said on a video showing the event, adding that the company plans to expand the capability from hundreds to thousands of drones.

He said the goal is to be able to run such synchronized drone performances during times when large numbers of people congregate, such as over stadiums during sporting or other events.