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Intel demos collision-avoidance drone that will go on sale this year

Intel put on an entertaining show for its CES opening keynote Tuesday night, with BMX bikes jumping across the stage and a live demo of a drone that can avoid obstacles in flight.

CEO Brian Krzanich called it "the most sophisticated collision avoidance technology in a consumer drone," and said it would retail for less than US$2,000 when it goes on sale in the first half of this year.

Called the Typhoon H and made by Yuneec (pronounced "unique"), the drone uses Intel's RealSense 3D camera technology to automatically dodge obstacles while in flight.

Brian Krzanich shows the Typhoon H

It also has a 4K camera, and collapsible propellers to make it portable. A display lets the controller see what the camera is seeing in real time.

Intel showed a similar technology last year, but only in a prototype product. The Typhoon H makes the technology affordable to consumers, at least according to Intel's math.

RealSense uses three cameras -- a vision camera, an infrared camera, and an infrared laser projector -- to measure depth and map out the world around it. The technology is also used in laptops, tablets and other devices.

A laptop fitted with a RealSense camera

To show the drone in action, Intel cordoned off an area down the side of the auditorium where the keynote took place. A cyclist rode along the course and the drone followed, dodging very plastic-looking trees along the way.

"We believe we're truly on the verge of a drone revolution," Krzanich said. He also predicted that fireworks will become a thing of the past, replaced by swarms of illuminated drones in the sky.

Despite the lofty talk, it was one of the more entertaining CES keynotes. It opened with a young artist painting massive digital murals on the walls, using a virtual reality helmet and VR controllers for brushes.

James Niccolai

There were also BMX bikes fitted with Intel Curie chips, which beamed information about their speed and height to a large display. And Intel showed a pair of voice activated sunglasses, developed with Oakley, that track your effort and coach you while you're running or cycling.

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