Intel drone program

Is the Intel drone program shutting down? It’s complicated

The Intel drone program is undergoing major changes. And it looks like the Intel Falcon 8+ system might be close to meeting its end.

Following rumors that Intel was shutting down its drone program, The Drone Girl followed up with Intel to confirm the status of the Intel drone program.

Intel Falcon 8+ system
The Intel Falcon 8+ drone

Intel’s Falcon 8+ drone program may be over

It looks like Intel may be putting the brakes on building more Falcon 8+ drones. The Falcon 8+ drone was designed for commercial applications like inspections, land surveying or mapping.

“The Intel Falcon 8+ system remains available through our distributors,” Intel spokesperson Daniel Francisco told The Drone Girl.

Francisco would not confirm whether or not Intel was still creating more Falcon 8+ models, and also did not confirm whether they were continuing to produce Intel Sirius Pro Drones. Details are sparse.

“We don’t have any additional to add beyond the statement we provided,” Francisco said in an email.

But the Falcon 8+ drone has always had trouble picking up steam, especially compared to giants like DJI. DJI in recent years has rapidly ramped up its enterprise drone offerings, providing high tech drones with features like thermal cameras for less than $3,000, like the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual. DJI has even cornered the government market, even going so far as to develop a DJI Government Edition drone.

According to 2019 FAA drone registration numbers, DJI had a 77% market share. Even though Intel came in the No. 2 spot for largest market share, they pale in comparison, with just a teeny, 3.7% market share.

Intel isn’t giving up on drones entirely

That said, Intel isn’t out of drones completely.

“Intel continues to offer technologies for the drone ecosystem including compute, sensors, geovisual data management solutions and drone light shows,” Francisco said.

That includes verticals like the Intel Insight Platform, a cloud-based, visual data management system that provides photogrammetry services, report generation tools, annotation and measurement tools, and processing and analytics, designed to help users store and analyze visual data whether it’s from drones or elsewhere.

For example, Intel is working on helping to build out open source mapping projects for disaster relief. Intel has said that their AI Platforms Group can be helpful in extracting information from satellite imagery, adding that satellite and drone images taken immediately after a disaster could be useful in updating maps automatically.

Former Intel CEO Brian Krzanich holds a Yuneec Typhoon H drone, which was built with Intel RealSense technology at CES 2016.

Former CEO Brian Krzanich’s big bet on drones

The Intel drone program grew sharply in the era when Brian Krzanich served as Intel CEO. Krzanich was heavily involved in drones.

Under his tenure as Intel CEO, Intel made investments in consumer drone maker Yuneec, developed record breaking drone light shows and more. And perhaps most notably, Krzanich served as the founding chairman of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Drone Advisory Committee, which was established in 2016 under then-FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

But Krzanich was ousted in 2018 over news that Krzanich had a “past consensual relationship” with an Intel employee, which had violated a non-fraternization policy that applies to managers.

Bob Swan replaced Krzanich as Intel CEO in 2018. And since then, news about Intel drones has been quiet. While Intel made a splash at CES 2020 with big announcements around artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, 5G. But look to CES 2018, when Krzanich. That year, conference-goers were treated to not just an indoor light show performed by 100 of Intel’s Shooting Star Mini drones, but also an epic drone light show over the Bellagio fountains.

intel olympics south korea drones light show
Intel Shooting Star drones fly in the shape of Olympic rings.

And what about those Intel drone light shows?

Ask someone on the street how Intel uses drones, and odds are good they’ll point to drone light shows. Especially in 2017 and 2018, Intel was particularly vocal about their drone light shows. In 2017, hundreds of Intel drones flew in an FAA-approved, Super Bowl Halftime Show featuring Lady Gaga. They also served as nighttime entertainment at a number of other high-profile events or places including Coachella and at Walt Disney World.

Intel set a new record for most drones flown simultaneously as 1,218 drones flew over the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. That was part of a $400 sponsorship deal that Intel signed with the International Olympic Committee. Intel then went on a drone light show record-breaking tear, including launched 2,018 of its Shooting Star light show drones above its campus in Folsom, Calif in July 2018 to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary .With 2,018 drones in the air at once, Intel set a new Guinness World Record.

But after that, things seemed to get much quieter. Universal Studios had a Harry Potter-themed drone light show, but it was short-lived. Plans to test a drone light show at SeaWorld were put on ice.

But while the Falcon 8+ may be over, Intel confirmed that as far as drones for nighttime entertainment go — even if they’re not as buzzy in the media as they once were — the show will go on.

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