Ash has spent close to 20 years in technology research on several sectors, including industrial automation and smart manufacturing, smart home, solar power and energy storage, drones and robotics, medical technology and building automation. Ash is Senior Research Director for our robotics & warehouse automation research, amongst other topics.
- On September 6th at Interdrone 2017, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich revealed a new data analytics platform called Intel Insight during his keynote speech.
- The platform was developed under a strategic partnership with leading UAV supplier Delair. Intel also partnered with Honeywell, Pix4D, Bentley, Cyberhawk, Aeroprotechnik and HUVRdata.
- The platform will initially be available to selected enterprise customers in commercial UAV applications.
- The platform can generate 2D and 3D models, taking measurements, and making annotations for sharing across teams, as well as running advanced data analytics like change detection and plant counting.
Whilst a data analytics platform for commercial UAV applications is nothing new – many vendors such as DroneDeploy, Airware, and PrecisionHawk have been providing them for several years – the scale and brand that Intel brings has the potential to unlock the massive opportunity of commercial applications for UAVs. Commercial UAV vendors are largely small companies, not well recognised by large enterprise clients – even market leader DJI which generated more than $300m in commercial UAV revenues last year is not a well-established brand amongst major enterprises and corporations. Having a drone hardware offering which is coupled with an Intel data platform brings considerable credibility which could allow for faster penetration for drone hardware vendors into these enterprises.
Data and insights hold the value, not hardware
To most enterprise customers, a UAV itself is not a great value proposition. Corporations are not interested in purchasing a drone for the sake of it, what they want is data and insights. Whilst still a new technology, over time UAVs will be regarded as just another data collection tool, and the real value will shift towards what insight the drone-collected data can provide and the decisions that this can inform.
Whilst Intel is best-known for its hardware (processors and chipsets), it clearly sees the opportunity for a software and analytics platform in this industry. Although just a small part of a nascent industry – drone software/analytics revenues were less than $50m last year according to our research – it will grow rapidly and reach $1.8bn by 2022 and generate a total of more than $5bn over the next five years.
Intel’s UAV Strategy
Aside from the obvious revenue benefits from providing the platform, Intel’s new product release, 18-months after its somewhat surprising move to enter the UAV hardware market via the acquisition of Ascending Technologies, shows its longer-term motives. In our view, it’s unlikely that Intel will be a major drone hardware vendor in the long-term. Instead this is just another facet in its wider IoT strategy and by developing drone hardware and software and forming partnerships in this industry assists in its goal of the “virtuous cycle” – the proliferation of connected devices that fuels the requirement for data processing, storage and management.
Intel is now one of the few companies that can offer customers both a fixed-wing and rotary UAV as well as its own data and analytics platform and this end-to-end solution could be particularly compelling for large enterprises that are less familiar with drone technology and are reassured by the Intel brand.
No details were announced about how the platform would be packaged and whether it would be sold as a standalone product, packaged with UAV hardware or a mix of both. Given that both Intel and Delair also offer their own fixed-wing UAV and that Intel will be handling the business development and marketing of the Insight platform it remains to be seen how the arrangement will work commercially when a customer wants to buy both the platform and hardware and whether a conflict of interest could arise. Intel’s UAV platforms (both the rotary and fixed-wing) are better suited for inspection applications whilst Delair’s fixed-wing UAV is better suited for surveying and larger-scale inspection (e.g. linear structures such as oil and gas pipelines).
Delair’s involvement – what does it have to gain?
Our understanding is that Delair developed the platform (it has deep experience in aerial data processing since 2013) and will operate and develop the platform, whilst Intel will drive the platform commercially and bring its huge brand equity to the table. The platform is likely to generate significant revenues and, being a subscription service, it will provide predictable and growing revenue streams for both Delair and Intel. Delair was ranked as the 9th largest supplier of commercial UAV products last year in our recent report and it is likely that this partnership will see it creep up the rankings, particularly following its acquisition of Gatewing from Trimble late last year.
The move could also position Delair as a suitable candidate for future acquisition by Intel (Intel previously invested in and formed a business partnership with Ascending Technologies but it acquired the company) as it pursues its wider UAV and IoT strategy.
Analysis of the commercial UAV software and analytics market, as well as information about Intel and Delair’s presence in the UAV market can be found in our recent market report.