Our suspicions shared to Twitter were right. Swiss-based drone-maker Flyability today released its new, Elios 3, marking the world’s first collision-tolerant drone equipped with a LiDAR sensor for indoor 3D mapping.
The drone relies on a SLAM engine, which is short for Simultaneous Localization and Mapping — and it’s a requirement for robots (including drones) to be able to explore and understand environments. The Elios 3’s new SLAM engine is called FlyAware, and it can generate 3D models through a new software called Inspector 4.0.
The new Elios 3 taps into the inspection side of the drone industry, which was the No. 1 most common use for drones in 2021. This version of Elios improves upon the old Elios 2 — though this version has been in development for four years, enabling engineers thousands of hours to research and conduct more than 200 missions in the field to collect feedback, learn what clients want, and refine the technology.
And like the Elios 2, this one differentiates itself from all the other mapping and inspection drones on the market by being what the company calls “collision-tolerant.” The lawyers likely won’t let it be called entirely crash-proof, but the drone includes the company’s signature cage and unique reversing motors. Flyability even says it can recover from flipping upside-down without crashing. Its also P-44 compliant design, which is a rating to show it can fly in rugged, harsh environments without concerns of water splashes or dust.
That makes the drone an ideal tool for mapping areas that are out of reach or too dangerous for humans to enter, like sewers or caves.
Among the highlights of the Elios 3:
- An Ouster OSO-32 LiDAR sensor
- A modular payload (in addition to the LiDAR sensor payload)
- High-quality image stabilization
- Ability to create 3D models in real time while in flight
Of those specs, one of the most standout is that Ouster OS0-32 LiDAR sensor. With it, inspectors can collect data to generate survey-grade 3D models using software from Flyability’s new partner, GeoSLAM. With GeoSLAM, inspectors can make survey-grade point clouds of the areas drones are flying in.
The ability to create 3D models in real time while in flight is also pretty neat, and is done through The Elios 3 is powered by Flyability’s new proprietary SLAM engine called FlyAware. Besides making 3D models, Flyaway is also the technology behind the drone’s unique stability. By ingesting data from the drone’s three optical cameras plus LiDAR sensor, it can calculate and account for tiny, unpredictable movements that were previously impossible to account for.
And while the drone itself is pretty high-end, it’s relatively easy to operate, even for newbie pilots. Flability says that most pilots can be trained and conduct their own inspection all within a day.
As part of the launch, Flyability posted a pretty neat 3D fly-through on its YouTube channel of a no go zone in a decommissioned nuclear power plant created using LiDAR data collected by the Elios 3. Here it is:
Flyability came onto the scene in 2016, also with an inspection drone designed to thrive in confined spaces. Since then, the company’s drones have been used to conduct missions ranging from sewer inspections to visual inspections of a beer factory.
Flyability dropped a blog post providing a bit more insight into the making of the Elios 3 drone, which you can check out here.