Intel Advances the Safe Integration of Drones into US Airspace

Intel Open Drone ID 1

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What’s New: Intel is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other industry participants to foster innovation and to shape the global standards and practices for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), with safety being the first priority. Intel’s assistance builds on the company’s foundational work last year with the Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) trials conducted by NASA and the FAA to develop and test UAS drone guidelines for collaborative communications and navigation among unmanned aerial systems in the sky.

“I’m honored that Intel’s Drone Group is participating in such critical programs to pave the way for new and expanded commercial UAS operations. By working with the U.S. government, as well as various other industry partners, we can demonstrate the magnitude of a drone’s potential when integrated into our nation’s airspace in a responsible way.”
–Anil Nanduri, vice president and general manager, Intel drone team

Why It Matters: The White House tasked the U.S. Department of Transportation and the FAA with maintaining and building on their leadership in the drone space. New programs would facilitate advanced commercial drone operations and applications of technology and allow testing of UAS traffic management systems and detection and tracking capabilities. This is necessary to fully integrate drone operations into the national airspace system.

Recently, the FAA initiated the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (IPP) designed to explore ways to safely expand cutting-edge drone operations into the national airspace by pairing state, local and tribal governments with unmanned aircraft operators. The program consists of 10 teams in locations throughout the country. The work will test advanced drone operation and related technology over several years. Specifically, Intel is a participant in four of the 10 sites and may participate in operations in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Durant, Oklahoma; the city of San Diego; the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority, Herndon, Virginia; and the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority in Tennessee.

Today’s Activities: Today in Oklahoma, the Choctaw Nation hosted a media event to show progress, demonstrate and share results of some of the first missions. Intel flew night missions using a thermal sensor on the Intel® Falcon™ 8+ drone. This application could be used to look for lost cattle, as well as learn more about the habits and tendencies of local wildlife. In addition, Intel performed the first public demonstration of Open Drone ID, an open standard that offers a solution for the remote identification and tracking of UAS. Future missions at Choctaw may include drones for agricultural applications, public safety and infrastructure inspections, with planned beyond-visual-line-of-sight operations over people and more nighttime operations. The plans are to invest in mobile ground-based detect-and-avoid radars and advanced weather infrastructure.

What’s Come Before: The FAA has been chartered by the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to identify, categorize and recommend available and emerging technology for the remote identification and tracking of UAS. Open Drone ID is designed as an open standard that offers a solution. It is a beacon-based (wireless drone identification) solution that enables drones to be identified when within range of a receiver, like a smartphone. The current draft specification is based on Bluetooth 4.2 broadcast packets and Bluetooth 5 (long-range) advertising extensions. With this technology, each aircraft can broadcast its unique ID, location, direction, altitude, speed, make/model, base location and other related data.

The Open Drone ID project is managed through a workgroup within ASTM, an international standards body. Intel is leading the ASTM F38 Remote ID Standard and Tracking Workgroup. It is important that Open Drone ID is a global standard, like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, to provide broad scalability to many end users and use cases.  More information can be found at the Open Drone ID website.

Intel’s Role: Intel has a history of participating in standards bodies and industry groups worldwide and has played a significant industry leadership role in bringing about globally adopted standards such as Ethernet, USB and Wi-Fi. Standards developed by standards-setting organizations and industry consortia are common tools to bring new innovations to global mass markets.

More Context: Drones at Intel

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Intel and Philips Accelerate Deep Learning Inference on CPUs in Key Medical Imaging Uses

healthcare illustrationWhat’s New: Using Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors and the OpenVINO™ toolkit, Intel and Philips* tested two healthcare use cases for deep learning inference models: one on X-rays of bones for bone-age-prediction modeling, the other on CT scans of lungs for lung segmentation. In these tests, Intel and Philips achieved a speed improvement of 188 times for the bone-age-prediction model, and a 38 times speed improvement for the lung-segmentation model over the baseline measurements.

“Intel Xeon Scalable processors appear to be the right solution for this type of AI workload. Our customers can use their existing hardware to its maximum potential, while still aiming to achieve quality output resolution at exceptional speeds.”
–Vijayananda J., chief architect and fellow, Data Science and AI at Philips HealthSuite Insights

Why It’s Important: Until recently, there was one prominent hardware solution to accelerate deep learning: graphics processing unit (GPUs). By design, GPUs work well with images, but they also have inherent memory constraints that data scientists have had to work around when building some models.

Central processing units (CPUs) – in this case Intel Xeon Scalable processors – don’t have those same memory constraints and can accelerate complex, hybrid workloads, including larger, memory-intensive models typically found in medical imaging. For a large subset of artificial intelligence (AI) workloads, Intel Xeon Scalable processors can better meet data scientists’ needs than GPU-based systems. As Philips found in the two recent tests, this enables the company to offer AI solutions at lower cost to its customers.

Why It Matters: AI techniques such as object detection and segmentation can help radiologists identify issues faster and more accurately, which can translate to better prioritization of cases, better outcomes for more patients and reduced costs for hospitals.

Deep learning inference applications typically process workloads in small batches or in a streaming manner, which means they do not exhibit large batch sizes. CPUs are a great fit for low batch or streaming applications. In particular, Intel Xeon Scalable processors offer an affordable, flexible platform for AI models – particularly in conjunction with tools like the OpenVINO toolkit, which can help deploy pre-trained models for efficiency, without sacrificing accuracy.

These tests show that healthcare organizations can implement AI workloads without expensive hardware investments.

What the Results Show: The results for both use cases surpassed expectations. The bone-age-prediction model went from an initial baseline test result of 1.42 images per second to a final tested rate of 267.1 images per second after optimizations – an increase of 188 times. The lung-segmentation model far surpassed the target of 15 images per second by improving from a baseline of 1.9 images per second to 71.7 images per second after optimizations.

What’s Next: Running healthcare deep learning workloads on CPU-based devices offers direct benefits to companies like Philips, because it allows them to offer AI-based services that don’t drive up costs for their end customers. As shown in this test, companies like Philips can offer AI algorithms for download through an online store as a way to increase revenue and differentiate themselves from growing competition.

More Context: Multiple trends are contributing to this shift:

  • As medical image resolution improves, medical image file sizes are growing – many images are 1GB or greater.
  • More healthcare organizations are using deep learning inference to more quickly and accurately review patient images.
  • Organizations are looking for ways to do this without buying expensive new infrastructure.

The Philips tests are just one example of these trends in action. Novartis* is another. And many other Intel customers – not yet publicly announced – are achieving similar results. Learn more about Intel AI technology in healthcare at “Advancing Data-Driven Healthcare Solutions.”

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Intel Applauds Bipartisan Congressional Effort to Accelerate Quantum Computing Research

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Intel’s director of quantum hardware, Jim Clarke, holds a 17-qubit superconducting test chip. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

What’s New: This week, the U.S. Senate is reviewing its version of the National Quantum Initiative Act (S. 3143), a bipartisan bill to create a 10-year coordinated federal program to accelerate quantum research and development for the economic and national security of the United States. The bill aims to ensure U.S. leadership in quantum information science by supporting research and development, improving interagency planning and coordination, promoting public-private partnerships, and promoting the development of international standards.

“When it comes to quantum computing research, we’re at mile one of a marathon. The U.S. has long been at the cutting edge of technology; a fact that has propelled our progress for decades. As nations around the world race to lead in quantum information science, the U.S. will require collaboration of industry, academia and the federal government to keep pace. The National Quantum Initiative Act is a great step forward, and Intel applauds the bipartisan leadership in Congress on their progress.”
–Jim Clarke, director of quantum hardware, Intel

Why It’s Important: The National Quantum Initiative Act will ensure the United States remains competitive in a global race to build quantum technologies.

Quantum computing is an exciting new computing paradigm with unique problems to be solved and new physics to be discovered. Academia, governments and companies are racing to advance quantum science given its potential to solve problems beyond the reach of conventional computers. For example, quantum computers may simulate nature to advance research in chemistry, materials science and molecular modeling.

Intel’s Context: In 2015, Intel initiated a significant investment in quantum research. Today, Intel is making fast progress toward developing commercially viable quantum computing systems, including the introduction of a 49-qubit superconducting test chip called “Tangle Lake.”

Federal Context: This week’s progress in the Senate follows progress in the U.S. House of Representatives on its version of the bill, H.R. 6227. In June, the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee unanimously approved the legislation.

More Context: Quantum Computing at Intel

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Explore Smithsonian American Art Museum Exhibition, Now Live in Virtual Reality

Smithsonian VR Intel Sansar 1

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What’s New: The Smithsonian American Art Museum* (SAAM) exhibition, “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man,” is now available in virtual reality (VR) through Sansar*, the premier destination for social VR. Powered by Intel technology, this recently announced partnership will make iconic artwork more accessible and interactive through virtual reality.

“Intel empowers the creator to take their work to the next level. Technology has the potential to achieve new goals and ambitions for museums and galleries. Immersive technologies, like virtual reality, unlock new and exciting ways to experience art and exhibits. Fans can now check out “No Spectators” from their own home. Without Intel’s high-performance processors, these experiences would not be possible.”
– Raj Puran, director of immersive technology business development at Intel Corporation

Why It’s Important: In embarking on this partnership, SAAM is doing its part to help achieve the Smithsonian’s ambitious goal: expand the reach of the Institution’s collections to a billion people in 5 years. This means making its museums’ objects available to the public across a wider range of mediums, including immersive domains like virtual reality — Sansar’s specialty, and a major area for Intel innovation.

Thanks to Intel’s advanced data-processing technology and Sansar’s social VR platform, the Smithsonian has been able to accelerate the digital 3D capture, preservation and distribution of artifacts in its collections so students, educators and the public can virtually access and engage with the museum’s collections from anywhere in the world. It’s an entirely new kind of viewing experience, and one sure to transform every aspect of the museum business — from the creation to the consumption of educational content.

Where You Can Experience It: The first release in this partnership with the Smithsonian features the large-scale artworks assembled for the exhibition, “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man,” on view for a limited time at SAAM’s Renwick Gallery*. “No Spectators” captures the spirit of creativity and community, and has been digitized through hours of careful laser scanning and photogrammetry. Starting today, anyone with a link to the Sansar experience will be able to virtually view, access, and interact with the collection in its entirety, as if they were standing in the galleries themselves.

Experience “No Spectators” in virtual reality today at the Sansar website.

More Context: Emboldening VR’s Next Frontier (Intel.com) | Smithsonian American Art Museum | Virtual Reality at Intel (Press Kit)

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Intel Breaks Guinness World Records Title for Drone Light Shows in Celebration of 50th Anniversary

Intel 50th drone show 1

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What’s New: In celebration of Intel’s 50th anniversary, the company flew 2,018 Intel® Shooting Star™ drones over its Folsom, California, facility, setting a new Guinness World Records™ title for the most unmanned aerial vehicles airborne simultaneously.

“Several years ago, we had an idea of flying drones forming the Intel logo over our corporate headquarters, and here we are doing just that. It really speaks to the innovative spirit that Intel was founded on 50 years ago.”
–Anil Nanduri, vice president and general manager, Intel Drone Group

What’s Next: Also in celebration of Intel’s 50th anniversary, the company is honoring employees and their families by flying 500 Intel® Shooting Star drones over its corporate headquarters, the Robert Noyce Building, in Santa Clara, California, July 18-22 (weather-permitting).

What They Are: The Intel Shooting Star drones are a type of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) specifically designed for entertainment purposes. They are equipped with LED lights that can create countless color combinations and can easily be programmed for any animation. The fleet of drones is controlled by one pilot.

More Context: Drones at Intel | Beyond Fireworks: The Next Generation of Drone Light Shows


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Intel Technology Aids in Preserving the Great Wall of China


» Download video: “Inspection Team Uses Intel Falcon 8+ in Aerial Inspection of the Great Wall of China (B-roll)”

Intel’s partnership with the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation (CFCHC) to protect and preserve the Jiankou section of the Great Wall of China is underway. And experts from Wuhan University LIESMARS have been added to the project, leveraging Intel technologies to preserve the wall more efficiently and safely than before.

This is the next step in Intel’s recently announced commitment to inspect and preserve the Jiankou section of the Great Wall. By incorporating advanced technologies into this partnership, Intel is giving conservationists new tools to protect history and help preserve one of the great architectural wonders of the world.

MORE: Drones at Intel | The Great Wall Project at Intel.com

An Intel® Falcon™ 8+ drone is being used to carry out an aerial inspection and survey of the Jiankou section, capturing tens of thousands of high-resolution images of areas proven too difficult or dangerous for human access. These images are then processed into a 3D model, which provides preservationists with a digital replica of the current state of the wall. Traditionally, surveys of the Great Wall are a manual process, using a tape measure or visual inspection by people over a monthlong period. Utilizing Intel technology, the same inspections can be achieved in a matter of three days, producing more accurate data that helps conservationists develop an informed and effective repair schedule.

Intel’s innovative technologies are providing the CFCHC with safer, more efficient ways of surveying and inspecting. From aerial-captured content, teams will use Intel artificial intelligence technologies to help analyze the types of repairs needed and calculate the time, labor and cost of materials for repair. The added experts from Wuhan University LIESMARS will provide specialized support with implementing the new technologies.

The Jiankou section of the Great Wall of China dates back to the Ming dynasty and, in its more than 450 years of existence, has been affected by natural erosion and human destruction. While portions of the wall most popular with tourists have been preserved and renovated over time, the Great Wall’s 12-mile Jiankou section is one of the steepest and most dangerous to access. As a result, the stretch has not been preserved for hundreds of years.

With its innovative drone and imaging technology, Intel is revolutionizing the preservation of the world’s largest ancient man-made structure for generations to come.

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Update: Travis Air Force Base Replaces Independence Day Fireworks with Intel Drone Light Show

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Intel Shooting Star drones create a U.S. flag during 2018 Independence Day celebration rehearsals on June 28 at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Conrad)

UPDATE, 9:30 a.m. PDT, July 4: The drone show scheduled for July 4, 2018, at Travis Air Force Base has been canceled and rescheduled. Intel released this statement: We decided to cancel the performance today as a result of high winds that would have interfered with drone flight. Our drones can fly in winds up to 18 miles per hour, but the forecast calls for winds over 30 mph for the time frame we were planning to fly. We emphasize safety in our drone performances, including in our operations, the design of the drones, and the use of systems like geofencing and auto-land contingencies. We felt that canceling the show was the best decision under the circumstances. Our drone light show is rescheduled for 9 p.m. PDT, July 5, pending adequate weather conditions.


What’s New: Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California, will collaborate with Intel to replace a traditional Independence Day fireworks display with an Intel® Shooting Star™ drone light show. In celebration of July Fourth and Travis Air Force Base’s 75th anniversary, 500 Intel Shooting Star drones will dance across the nighttime sky in a choreographed aerial routine that honors active military and veterans.

“We are excited to collaborate with the Travis Air Force Base to celebrate the July Fourth holiday by bringing a new form of nighttime entertainment to honor the military and their families. I am looking forward to seeing the joy and excitement that our drone light show brings to the spectators.”
–Anil Nanduri, vice president and general manager, Intel drone team

Why It Matters: The origins of fireworks on July Fourth dates to 1777. For the first time, an Intel Shooting Star drone light show will celebrate Independence Day with an elaborate ceremony.

Travis Air Force Base is collaborating with Intel to recognize active military, veterans and participants of the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). Travis Air Force Base has one of the largest Air Force EFMP populations. The program’s mission is to identify medical and educational service requirements of family members in support of active-duty sponsor reassignment and civilian employment overseas.

This drone light show will be a more inclusive July Fourth celebration that can be enjoyed by all families, especially those with sensitives to the sounds of firework explosions.

“The story of the Air Force is a story of innovation. With Travis in close proximity to Silicon Valley, the base strives to develop relationships and to play an active role in Northern California’s innovation ecosystem,” said Col. John Klein, Travis Air Force Base installation commander. “For our 75th anniversary and as a way of saying thank you for the unprecedented community support, we wanted to treat our friends and family to a special Independence Day celebration – Intel’s vision to reimagine fireworks with cutting-edge drone technology was a natural fit for our airmen and audience.”

In Our Words: “While fireworks amaze audiences of all ages, there are pollution and safety concerns and the loud sound effects are sometimes unsettling to humans and animals alike,” Nanduri said. “This partnership showcases how Intel’s advanced drone technologies are making strides to positively impact the world and create new entertainment experiences for all audiences.”

More Context: Drones at Intel | Beyond Fireworks: The Next Generation of Drone Light Shows

And More Context: Travis Air Force Base website

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Intel Starts Testing Smallest ‘Spin Qubit’ Chip for Quantum Computing

Intel researchers are taking new steps toward quantum computers by testing a tiny new “spin qubit” chip. The new chip was created in Intel’s D1D Fab in Oregon using the same silicon manufacturing techniques that the company has perfected for creating billions of traditional computer chips. Smaller than a pencil’s eraser, it is the tiniest quantum computing chip Intel has made.

The new spin qubit chip runs at the extremely low temperatures required for quantum computing: roughly 460 degrees below zero Fahrenheit – 250 times colder than space.

The spin qubit chip does not contain transistors – the on/off switches that form the basis of today’s computing devices – but qubits (short for “quantum bits”) that can hold a single electron. The behavior of that single electron, which can be in multiple spin states simultaneously, offers vastly greater computing power than today’s transistors, and is the basis of quantum computing.

The zigzag lines in the photo are printed wires connecting the chip’s qubits to the outside world.

One feature of Intel’s tiny new spin qubit chip is especially promising. Its qubits are extraordinarily small – about 50 nanometers across and visible only under an electron microscope. About 1,500 qubits could fit across the diameter of a single human hair.

This means the design for new Intel spin qubit chip could be dramatically scaled up. Future quantum computers will contain thousands or even millions of qubits — and will be vastly more powerful than today’s fastest supercomputers.

More: Quantum Computing at Intel | The Future of Quantum Computing is Counted in Qubits (Intel Explainer) | All Intel Images

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A 2018 photo shows Intel’s new quantum computing chip balanced on a pencil eraser. Researchers started testing this “spin qubit chip” at the extremely low temperatures necessary for quantum computing: about 460 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Intel projects that qubit-based quantum computers, which operate based on the behaviors of single electrons, could someday be more powerful than today’s supercomputers. (Credit: Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation)

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Stephen Hawking: Intel Helped Give Him His Voice

Dr. Stephen Hawking, the renowned British physicist who inspired generations through his accessible descriptions of the cosmos and his public battle with a neurological disorder, shared a long history of innovation with Intel over the years. Hawking, the modern successor to Isaac Newton, died early Wednesday at his home in Cambridge, England.

“Working with Stephen was the most meaningful and challenging endeavor of my life. It fed my soul and really hit home how technology can profoundly improve people’s lives. We will continue developing and refining this technology in the open source community in his honor, to reach all people in need. This is something he cared about deeply,” Lama Nachman, Intel Fellow, said Wednesday.

More: Stephen Hawking: Intel Remembers the Famed Physicist

“On a personal note, while the world mourns an amazing scientist who changed our understanding of the universe, I am mourning a dear friend whom I admired dearly and enjoyed deep conversations with about politics, science and technology. I had planned to see him at the end of the month, and test out our latest tech with him. I will miss him dearly.”

Here are stories about projects involving Hawking and Intel:

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Intel engineer Travis Bonifield holds a replica of the custom PC he recently created for Stephen Hawking.

Stephen Hawking’s New PC (Intel Free Press/Newsroom, 1/10/2012): “Intel application engineer Travis Bonifield has been working closely with Stephen Hawking to communicate with the world for a decade. He’s traveled from the United States to England every few years to hand-deliver Hawking a customized PC.

“Bonifield recently talked about the unique project, the technology that powers the customized system and how Intel co-founder Gordon Moore got Hawking to switch from AMD to Intel.”

Stephen Hawking Celebrates with Silicon (Intel Free Press/Newsroom, 1/23/2013): “Prof. Stephen Hawking showed no signs that his hunger for computer performance has slowed during his 71st birthday celebration this week at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology in Cambridge, England. Hawking was honored with a unique silicon wafer etched with nanoscale letters.”

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At his 71st birthday celebration, Stephen Hawking was presented with a commemorative 300-millimeter silicon wafer by Martin Curley, vice president of Intel Labs Europe.

One for the Road: Stephen Hawking’s New Computer (Intel Free Press/Newsroom, 3/6/2014): “When British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking goes on a trip, there is far more at stake than simply buying a new toothbrush. Hawking is afflicted with advanced Lou Gehrig’s disease and communicates through movements of his cheek muscle. If his computer hardware stops working and cannot be repaired, he can’t communicate with the world, but a new custom-built computer system is making Hawking’s travel easier.

“Intel engineer Travis Bonifield recently returned from Cambridge, U.K., after delivering a new computer system to Hawking. This isn’t the first system that Bonifield, based in Hillsboro, Ore., has brought to the famous physicist — he’s been working with Hawking for more than a decade. The latest custom system, a 2 in 1 based on a Lenovo ThinkPad x230t powered by an Intel Core i7 processer, combines a notebook with a 12? tablet that has a daylight readable display.”

New Intel-Created System Offers Professor Stephen Hawking Ability to Better Communicate with the World (Intel News Release, 12/2/2014): “Today Intel demonstrated for the first time with Professor Stephen Hawking a new Intel-created communications platform to replace his decades-old system, dramatically improving his ability to communicate with the world. The customizable platform will be available to research and technology communities by January of next year.”

How Intel Keeps Stephen Hawking Talking with Assistive Technology (Intel iQ, 12/2/2014): “For two years, Intel has worked to upgrade Stephen Hawking’s computer system, a pioneering assistive technology project that will have far-reaching benefits for the disabled.

“Professor Stephen Hawking is arguably as famous for his computerized voice as he is for his ground-breaking work with general relativity and black holes. Intel has been working with Hawking since 1997, helping to maintain and improve the assistive computer system that enables him to interact with the world.

“As Hawking’s motor neurone disease has advanced, his ability to communicate has slowed to one word per minute.”

Stephen Hawking and Intel: Actor Eddie Redmayne Learns History (Intel iQ, 12/11/2014): “Golden Globe-nominated star of “The Theory of Everything” visits Intel to test Hawking’s communication technology, which has the potential to improve lives of disabled people around the world.

“Eddie Redmayne, a London-based actor who plays renowned physicist Stephen Hawking in the new movie ‘The Theory of Everything,’ took time out of his recent press tour to get smart about technology in Silicon Valley. The movie was complete, but Redmayne hungered for better understanding of essential aspects influencing the physicist’s life.”

How Intel Gave Stephen Hawking a Voice (Wired 1/13/15): “Stephen Hawking first met Gordon Moore, the cofounder of Intel, at a conference in 1997. Moore noticed that Hawking’s computer, which he used to communicate, had an AMD processor and asked him if he preferred instead a “real computer” with an Intel micro-processor. Intel has been providing Hawking with customized PCs and technical support since then, replacing his computer every two years.”

Lama Nachman Keeps Stephen Hawking Talking with Assistive Tech (Intel iQ, 6/19/2017): “Believing anything is possible led Lama Nachman to become a groundbreaking engineer in predictive computing – and yes, she is on physicist Stephen Hawking’s speed dial.

“World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking had fans laughing when he auditioned people to find a replacement for his trademark computer-generated voice. The spoof for Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day last March revealed for many just how iconic Hawking’s voice is and how its sound is imbedded in the way we think about the universe.

“’Stephen’s voice is IP protected,’ said Lama Nachman, a principal engineer at Intel leading the team that helps improve Hawking’s computer interface. ‘He really likes the way that it sounds.'”

Accessing the Mind of a Young Stephen Hawking (Intel iQ, 2/13/2018): “Now digitally accessible to the public through the University of Cambridge, Stephen Hawking’s doctoral thesis laid the foundation for his scientific career.

“Within just a few hours of going live to the public in October 2017, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking’s 1966 doctoral thesis “Properties of Expanding Universes” was accessed 60,000 times, becoming the most viewed document in the University of Cambridge’s Apollo digital repository.

“At times, demand was so great that the site crashed. Since October, the dissertation has been viewed nearly 682,000 times, according to the Cambridge research repository.”

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Innovative Drone Mapping Techniques Help Manage Oil and Gas Facilities More Efficiently

Aerial modelling and inspections using commercial-grade drones offer compelling advantages for the resource sector by increasing safety, saving time and reducing survey costs. Airscope*, a Perth, Australia-based inspections and asset visualization company, has used the Intel® Falcon™ 8+ drone to extend these benefits further by developing computer-generated 3-D models of entire hydrocarbon processing facilities off the North West shelf of Australia and in the Cooper Basin, effectively bringing the field into the boardroom for more effective asset management.

Industrial digitization or “Industry 4.0” is predicted to generate US$421 billion in cost reductions and additional revenue each year for the next five years worldwide, according to a report by PwC.1 3-D modelling of resource assets by companies like Airscope is one way of contributing to and driving this digital revolution that is transforming industry.

More: Drones at Intel | Santos Moomba Gas Plant Data Sets

Airscope’s director, Chris Leslie, and its chief controller, Francois Alberts – both trained commercial airline pilots – saw the potential opportunities drone technology could offer to the resource sector. They reshaped their careers to work with software, survey and geospatial specialists to develop new ways for large resources companies to manage their physical assets.

“When people think of drones operating in industrial applications, they think of inspections collecting data from hard-to-reach places,” Leslie said. “Our business has evolved beyond this where the real efficiencies and return on investment for the client come from providing a digital 3-D representation of their physical assets.

“We made the transition to asset visualization because UAV inspection only gave clients a fraction of the story; without context, the full potential of images captured cannot be realized. So now we create a virtual canvas of the entire site using airborne photogrammetry, ground photogrammetry and laser scanning. Once the virtual canvas is created, you can paint any operational or planning data on it, to serve as a human medium to access and interact with big data.

“You could compare this technology to how our lives have changed with innovations such as the smartphone – the time savings and benefits are hard to quantify,” Leslie added. “The benefits are multiplied when looking at clients managing large-scale resource sites due to the number of employees and the potential cost to the business if decisions are made based on inaccurate or incomplete information. Early indications by clients currently implementing asset digitization into their operations suggest day-to-day cost reductions of between 3.6 and 10 percent dependent on industry, and capital works projects being reduced by more than 20 percent. We are entering a period where decisions are being determined by the data at hand and companies that haven’t started their transformation towards digitization will be left behind.”

Intel Falcon8 Airscope 3

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Recently, Airscope worked alongside drone manufacturer, Intel Corporation, and local Australian distributor, Position Partners*, to deliver 3-D models of Santos*-operated facilities in Australia’s Cooper Basin. Santos enlisted Airscope to provide not only large-scale virtual models, but also inspection services of critical assets, which are challenging to monitor using traditional methods.

“When looking for the best drone for modelling these challenging landscapes, we compared 37 different aircraft that all claimed to be up to the specifications we needed,” Alberts said. “When Intel’s distributor, Position Partners, showed us the Intel Falcon 8+ drone, we found it to be the only aircraft which met our expectations, for its reliability, stability and true 3-D modelling capabilities.”

The Intel Falcon 8+ is a multirotor-style drone that, through pre-programmed flight plans, is able to capture hundreds of aerial images per flight. These images are then collated and stitched together to form a holistic 3-D model through the photogrammetry process. Due to the accuracy of images capture by the Intel Falcon 8+, Airscope can incorporate laser scanning data into photogrammetry to make the model accurate enough for use in detailed engineering design of major infrastructure projects.

“Intel is committed to producing high-quality, commercial-grade drones that will excel in challenging environments such as the Moomba Gas Plant,” said Anil Nanduri, vice president and general manager of the Drone Group at Intel. “Looking ahead, we will see a greater focus on automation of both the data capture and more importantly data analysis. This will unlock the ability for greater analyses and inference of large data sets that will be captured entirely by drones, allowing businesses to reduce operational expenses by assessing and predicting maintenance needs.”

The quality and rate of data captured from systems such as the Intel Falcon 8+ drone increases efficiencies and lowers operating costs, while around-the-clock access to a full model of the plant on the Airscope Visualize* platform reduces preparation work and disruption to the operation. It also eliminates risks for activities such as working at height or exposure to hazardous working environments.

“The quality and quantity of data we’re able to access from the Intel Falcon 8+ drone just wouldn’t be possible with any other method or technology,” Leslie said. “Moreover, our clients can see every asset from every angle and perspective, providing better situational awareness, insight and increased accuracy for making big decisions.”

1PricewaterhouseCoopers 2016, “Industry 4.0: Building the digital enterprise”, p.4

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