CHICAGO – Indoor inspection and exploration drone maker Flyability tonight announced the launch of Elios 2, the latest generation of its confined space inspection system. The company announced the new product at a launch party held at the AUVSI Xponential trade show, which focuses on unmanned aerial systems large and small.
“At the heart of Flyability products lies collision-tolerance,” said Patrick Thévoz, CEO of Flyability. “It is the true enabler to gathering data in the intricate and hostile places where our customers are searching for insights.” (Click here for a Q&A with Thévoz from earlier this year).
Thévoz said the company focused on two main areas when developing Elios 2 – more intuitive flight operation, and improving data collection capabilities for industrial inspectors to more easily inspect dangerous and confined spaces indoors and underground.
Flyability first launched its Elios platform in 2016, and the company has grown quickly since then, raising more than $17 million in funding and growing the company to 80 employees. “To date, more than 550 Elios drones have been deployed at over 350 sites to inspect critical infrastructure for industries as diverse as power generation, mining, oil and gas, and chemical, even operating in radioactive areas of nuclear plants,” Thévoz said. “While Flyability’s expertise is in drone technologies, we are really in the business of keeping people safe and reducing asset downtime.”
The company said it used customer feedback to build tools that can be used by anyone, replicating techniques used by inspectors in the field. “In developing Elios 2 we asked our users to challenge us. With their critical feedback, we went back to the drawing board to design, from the ground up, the ultimate indoor inspection drone they had dreamt about,” said Dr. Adrien Briod, co-founder and CTO of Flyability. “The result is an intuitive-to-fly drone fitted with an unobstructed 4K camera that can hover in place to spot sub-millimeter cracks. It performs reliably in GPS denied environment, in dark, dusty and troubled airflows, beyond line of sight, and particularly in places that no other drone can access.”
Intelligent flight features
Flyability transformed its collision-tolerance features from passive mechanical protection into “active intelligence built into the flight controller and motors of the Elios 2,” the company said. With seven vision stability sensors pointed in all directions, this gives the drone GPS-free stabilization, making it easier to fly and producing more stable video footage. At the launch event, several customers commented how smoother the video capture data was compared to the original Elios platform.
In addition, the company upgraded its camera to a 4K version, able to render images with a resolution of 0.18 mm/pixel at 30 cm distance, providing a level of detail that professional inspectors would get by standing at an arm’s length away from an object. The system also includes a thermal camera and a new powerful and intelligent, adjustable lighting system that can produce 10,000 lumens of light for increased situational awareness in large spaces. Indirect lighting features allow for the traversal of dirty locations without losing sight, and oblique lighting allows for detection of pitting and cracks more easily than before, the company said.
“If you wonder whether the Elios 2 can be used for an official API510 pressure vessel inspection witnessed by a third-party inspection entity, the answer is yes,” said Steven Verver, Founder of Ronik Inspectioneering.
In addition, the company moved the location of the payload area (cameras, etc.) from the center of the drone to the edge of the cage, allowing for more unobstructed views with the camera. The stability features, plus a system that absorbs collisions, helps protect the payload area from damage, the company added.
Flyability also added other features, including distance lock, 2D measurements, 3D modeling, full HD live video feedback, and a new software suite that streamlines data management for planning and reporting.
A starter set will start at just over $31,000 (32K CHF), with availability starting in June 2019. The company said it will have limited supply for 2019. Customers can still purchase the Elios 1, starting at just over $24,000 (25K CHF).