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Qualcomm Wants to Do for Drones What It Did for Smartphones

The wireless chip company is betting on cheaper drones that are easier to build.

Sean Gallup / Getty Images

One of the reasons smartphones have become as popular as they have around the world is because they became relatively easy to build, thanks in no small part to chip companies.

Qualcomm, the $26 billion (2014 sales) wireless chip company is the biggest of these, but its business has been sputtering lately amid the persistent market strength of Apple’s iPhone, which only uses some of Qualcomm’s technology and not its most powerful Snapdragon chips.

So now the company is looking for a new market to consume its silicon. This week it made good on plans first reported by Re/code’s Ina Fried last month to release a chip platform aimed at drones. It’s called Snapdragon Flight.

Here are some of the things it contains, according to a Qualcomm press release: A 4K video camera; support for LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connections; satellite navigation and location.

The basic challenge that drone manufacturers face today is that all the parts — cameras, navigation, wireless — come from different vendors, making manufacturing more complex. Qualcomm’s bet is that by putting them all into a single package it can cut a few hundred dollars from the cost to build a drone.

Qualcomm’s first customer is the China-based drone maker Yuneec which has a model based on the Qualcomm platform on the drawing board for sometime next year.

This article originally appeared on

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