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Advanced tech accelerates growth of commercial drone industry

Increased enterprise drone usage, coupled with the advent of emerging technologies, has the potential to unlock advanced commercial drone applications, according to Anil Nanduri, vice president at Intel Corp. and general manager of its drone group.

Nanduri spoke with SearchCIO at the recent InterDrone conference in Las Vegas, where he discussed the factors and trends driving growth of the commercial drone industry. In this video, he explains the factors triggering enterprise drone adoption and highlights how the availability of real-time drone data and technologies like artificial intelligence are shaping the future of the commercial drone industry.

Editor's note: The following transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

What factors are driving the enterprise drone market and what does the future of the commercial drone industry look like?

Anil Nanduri: What really transformed and triggered this use of drones is, in fact, in our pockets every day: A cellphone. The technology inside the cellphone is fundamentally, in many ways, the sensors that drive the stability of a flight control system in a drone. The model airplanes [and] model helicopters existed for years and decades, but what triggered [the growth of the commercial drone industry] is this multirotor system where it just hovers, making it easy to fly. You could program it to fly and you have sensors like the GPS and inertial motion unit. These technologies are all effectively from the cellphone industry. The gyroscopes came down in costs because of their demand, and we were easily able to adapt it to the drone industry.

The drone technology will let you see, analyze and predict failures.
Anil Nandurivice president, Intel Corp.

The value of the drone technology comes from realizing this is a tool that's going to capture valuable information in a way enterprises couldn't do as often and as easily before. If you've done inspections of a solar farm, a windmill, cell towers or bridges, you know such inspections require a huge, complex workflow. You need to have people on safety harnesses and should be able to get them safely over there. You need to have safety assessments, so you need to clear the property. In comparison, it is much easier to fly a drone there. An operator can quickly do it. And this where their value lies in the commercial areas -- what we call the enterprise.

More and more of these applications are going to be unlocked in the future. The drone technology will let you see, analyze and predict failures. You'll be able to see when the failure is going to happen and this will give you an insight into when to schedule maintenance.

The other thing is that once you have so much data and the knowledge that these systems can gain using artificial intelligence, you can then train the drones to be able to classify and detect some of those defects in real-time. In some cases, you don't want to wait for some computer to process and tell you there's a problem. While the drone is flying, we could be immediately told there's a problem and that becomes very valuable, especially with disaster recovery. You want to have real-time information. You want to be able to use all this data in real-time. You'll see all these trends and artificial intelligence, compute and accelerators actually play a big role in realizing that. The technology actually exists. It's a question of the knowledge of the application which is needed to program them.

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