Intel acquires drone company Ascending Technologies

Intel announced yesterday that it had acquired German drone maker Ascending Technologies, without disclosing the financial details of the deal.

It said Ascending Technologies was a small company of 75 people who would all receive offers to work for Intel. Intel added it was also not discussing product roadmap plans with the acquisition at this time.

Intel had been supplying its RealSense cameras, to help the company's drones sense and avoid obstacles around it. With RealSense, a hardware and software combination from Intel, cameras can sense depth to give the drones ''computer vision,'' or the ability to process and understand images.

Ascending's drones were seen buzzing around on stage during Intel's keynote address at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich will deliver a keynote tomorrow at this year's CES and drones would likely come up in the address, according to commentators.

Chip companies have set their eyes on the big opportunity in the emerging drone industry. Many chip makers had so far highlighted how their technology could be used to give drones computer vision and enable sense-and-avoid capabilities.

Last year, Intel's rival Qualcomm had announced the Snapdragon Flight - a ''system-on-a-chip'' built specifically for flying robots. The Qualcomm chip integrates a 2.26GHz quad-core processor, a digital signal processor for real-time flight control, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS.

Meanwhile, estimates put the number of drones sold this past holiday season at 400,000, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, which introduced registration of larger drones last month.

Google said it plans to start drone deliveries by 2017, and last month Amazon revealed a new prototype drone with which it plans to deliver small packages to customers in less than 30 minutes. Walmart had also sought the FAA's permission in October to test its own drones to deliver merchandise.

According to commentators, the Ascending Technology deal comes as Intel looks beyond PCs into new technologies, such as wearables, robots and smart-home devices.