Intel wants to guide drones in the right direction with Ascending acquisition

Intel will use Ascending Technologies' algorithms with 3D RealSense cameras

Ascending Technologies' Firefly drone

Ascending Technologies Firefly drone aloft during CES in Las Vegas on Jan. 4, 2016.

Credit: Ascending Technologies

Intel has agreed to acquire a Germany company that's working to help drones with 3D cameras move in the right direction and avoid collisions.

The chip maker is buying Ascending Technologies, which makes drones and offers "auto-pilot" software and algorithms so drones can sense and avoid obstacles. Intel hopes to combine the technologies with the 3D RealSense camera technology, which can provide a three-dimensional view of surroundings.

An Ascending Technologies drone called Firefly with six RealSense cameras that could automatically detect and move away from approaching people was shown at last year's CES in January.

The acquisition announcement comes just a day ahead of this year's CES, where Intel is expected show off drones, robots, PCs, wearables and mobile devices. Some drones may be flying around during Intel CEO Brian Krzanich's keynote on Wednesday at the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas.

RealSense cameras may be targeted primarily at PCs and tablets, but Intel also has put them in robots and drones. Intel believes the camera can be the eyes of flying objects, and the company is building a software stack that could analyze images in real time.

Intel also wants to put more chips in drones and robots, which are turning into hot markets.

Intel did not comment on how much it was paying to acquire Ascending. Ascending has about 75 employees, all of whom are being offered jobs at Intel, according to an Intel spokeswoman.

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