The humming sound is a bit muffled in the drizzling rain. In its first test run, the drone flew a semicircle around the tower and returned back to its starting point, where it touched down on the ground exactly at the feet of the pilot. This device was built to inspect oil platforms on the high seas – miserable March weather doesn’t affect it in the slightest.
This was the scene being played out at the CeBIT technology trade fair in Hanover Monday, where drones are taking to the skies on a major scale. On a field in front of Hall 2, chip maker Intel is keen to demonstrate that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are more than just toys. Next door in Hall 17, a couple of other companies are flying their own devices. “Drones are already used in many places today,” Intel’s country manager in Germany, Christian Lamprechter, told Handelsblatt. “It’s just that hardly anybody knows about it.”
There is a reason why the world’s largest producer of computer chips is suddenly touting drones instead of processors. The digital revolution has made high-performing, but at the same time affordable, flying devices possible. Most of their components have become mass produced items, thanks to the smartphone boom of recent years. Drones are computers with wings. Intel has belatedly recognized that it has to change with the technology.