Intel Is Sending Drones to Help Repair Sections of the Great Wall of China

It'll allow for quicker, more efficient fixes to fragile areas

The 600-year-old Jiankou section of the Great Wall is in dire need of repairs. Intel
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Technology can have a role in preserving and restoring some of the world’s most precious historical landmarks, and Intel is proving it with a new drone and AI-based initiative to repair sections of the Great Wall of China that have thus far remained largely inaccessible.

The Wall’s Jiankou section was built over 600 years ago, and over the centuries, massive chunks of the wall have eroded away and been replaced by thick vegetation. The plantlife makes access to the section more difficult while also speeding up destruction, as tree roots permeate the delicate mortar foundation. Accessing this region of the Wall is dangerous, time-consuming and expensive, but repair is also critical to stave off further damage.

To date, repair efforts have involved human data capture and the use of tape measures, which has been slow and limiting as it only provides a partial picture. Intel has a plan to automate inspection of the Wall with commercial-grade drones equipped with high-performance sensory technology, according to Alyson Griffin, vice president, global brand and thought leadership marketing for Intel.

Intel's drones make it easier to capture data from the Wall's inaccessible regions in real time.

“As you might imagine, getting people and supplies up a steep mountain is not an easy feat,” said Griffin. “With precise information about where repairs are needed and what is required, the work can be done much more quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively.”

In conjunction with the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation (CFCHC), Intel will deploy its drones to derive data and then, using AI algorithms, determine the “best hardware for each job and software optimizations to extract maximum performance along the way,” Griffin said.

Beyond the Wall, Intel has launched a number of similar initiatives using technology to improve and preserve the world around us. The company is also using drones to enable a wildlife photographer to safely track and monitor polar bear communities and to preserve a 15th-century German cathedral. They are also using technology to replicate world-renowned art through VR to make it more widely accessible.

“As we continue to extend the aperture of the Intel brand to create meaning around our strategy as a data-centric company, it’s exciting to find organizations transforming the way they work,” Griffin said. “It’s very fulfilling working with these companies to put Intel technologies to the task of solving what we haven’t solved before.”

@AlissaFleck Alissa Fleck is a New York City-based reporter, podcast producer and contributor to Adweek.