Intel is investing more than $60 million into a Chinese-based drone manufacturer, the latest move by company executives to push the chip maker’s technology into emerging technologies and to reduce its reliance on the shrinking global PC market.
The vendor is investing the money in Yuneec, one of a growing number of drone makers that include not only smaller startups but also top-tier vendors such as Sony, which has partnered with Japanese firm ZMP to create a new drone company called Aerosense and this week showed off videos of a drone that reportedly can travel at 106 mph.
In announcing the investment, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said drones will be a big part of the future of technology, and he wants his company to be a big part of it.
“At Intel, we believe in a smart and connected world,” Krzanich said. “And one of the best ways to bring that smart and connected world to everyone and everywhere has been drones.”
The chip maker has “drones on our roadmap that will truly change the world and revolutionize the drone industry,” he said.
The companies gave few details about the investment or partnership, though they did say they will work jointly on creating future products. It’s part of Intel’s larger effort to ensure that as more intelligence is added to devices and systems, its Intel processors that power them.
The company is still heavily reliant on a PC market that has seen declining shipments since 2011, due in large part to the rise of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones and the lack of designs that generate consumer interest. Intel executives and others in the industry are hoping that the combination of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system—released July 29—and the chip maker’s upcoming 14-nanometer “Skylake” processors will give a boost to the industry, though analysts at IDC say that an upturn in the market probably won’t come until 2017.
More than half of Intel’s revenues come from its Client Computing Group, which in the second quarter of 2015 generated $7.5 billion of the company’s overall $13.2 billion in revenue.
However, since taking over as CEO in 2013, Krzanich has pushed the company to expand its reach into new and emerging areas, including mobile devices, wearable technology, embedded systems and the Internet of things (IoT). Intel has invested a lot of time, effort and money in its low-power Atom and Quark processor families, which are designed to run in the new smaller, connected and highly mobile devices that are being built, including drones.
At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in January, Krzanich demonstrated a number of drones that were able to fly around and avoid collisions thanks to Intel’s RealSense 3D camera technology.
A growing number of businesses are eyeing drones as a way of delivering goods and services. Facebook, Google and Amazon are all testing the use of drones to deliver products, and in March the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave Amazon permission to begin testing its drone package-delivery system. Last month, Nokia Networks officials announced a partnership with Du, a telecommunications provider in the Middle East, to create a proof-of-concept to show that drones can be used to help telcos test and analyze their networks.
However, drones also are raising safety and privacy concerns. A recent FAA report found that airplane pilots this year have had almost 700 near misses with drones that were flying higher than they’re allowed.