Intel Expands “Drones for Good” Efforts with Work to Restore the Great Wall of China
BY Zacc Dukowitz3 August 2018
Intel is currently working in partnership with the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation (CWCHF) to help restore the Jiankou wall, one of the most famous stretches of the Great Wall of China.
The Jiankou wall spans 12 miles and is rapidly decaying.
Due to its location, covering high mountain peaks and steep cliffs, this section of the Great Wall has never received restoration work. In fact, many parts of the Great Wall have never been restored, since work in the treacherous areas where the wall is located is both dangerous and expensive using traditional methods—but by collecting aerial data with drones, Intel will be able to expedite the collection of key information on where restoration efforts should be focused.
Using their Falcon 8+ drone, Intel will collect data on the Jiankou wall, which will be stitched together to create detailed 3D models for the CWCHF. Intel will also provide a plan for how to use the data collected to restore the damaged sections of the wall.
Drones are very capable platforms that can be used for novel applications beyond just the commercial roles that they were designed for.
– Anil Nanduri, Head of the Drone Group at Intel
Last year at InterDrone, Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich used the phrase “data is the new oil” when speaking just before a demo of the Falcon 8+ and Intel’s Insights platform.
In the demo, the Falcon 8+ flew an automated path to survey a fake wall that had been erected for the purposes of the demonstration. The aerial data collected was then analyzed by the Insights platform, and problem areas where work was needed were automatically identified.
Intel will use a similar approach with their work on the Great Wall, using an A.I. algorithm to automatically review the thousands of images that will be collected and identify those areas that need attention.
But their insights will go beyond simply identifying structural flaws. According to Intel, by using one of their Xeon processors they will be able to provide guidelines on the precise work that needs to be done to correct the damage found to the wall, down to the exact amount of bricks needed to make a given repair.
Intel plans to capture over 10,000 hi-res aerial images as part of their restoration efforts, which will provide invaluable information for conservation teams and expedite efforts to fix damaged areas of the wall.
Intel’s Drones for Good Efforts
The Great Wall restoration project is part of Intel’s “Tech for Good” initiative, which has included some pretty fascinating projects, including two wildlife conservation projects.
One of these projects was an arctic expedition to track and document polar bears, in which Intel teamed up with renowned wildlife photographer and conservationist Ole Jørgen Liodden.
Given how dangerous they are, and the vast areas they cover, the ideal method for tracking polar bears is from the air. But using a helicopter is loud, invasive, and cost-prohibitive—and this is where Intel’s Falcon 8+ proved helpful for Liodden, who used it throughout the expedition to take pictures and video of polar bears.
The second conservationist project Intel has supported was in using drones to track and document whales—and to help collect their snot.
Project SnotBot is an initiative that uses drones to collect whale blow, also called snot, exhaled when whales surface, which contains vital data for researchers, and Intel teamed up with them to support their research and conservation efforts.
Intel helped Project Snotbot by using machine learning technology to improve their data analysis by running algorithms that can identify a particular whale and assess its health in real time, regardless of the presence of complicating factors such as the whale’s unpredictable movements or limited ocean visibility.