Last week Flyability released the Elios 2, a new, fully revamped version of their drone for indoor inspections.
The release took place at the annual AUVSI XPONENTIAL conference, where Flyability had been selected as a finalist for AUVSI’s XCELLENCE awards in the Technology & Innovation category.
Photo credit: Flyability
Why is the release of the Elios 2 important?
Because it’s probably the best tool—not just drone, but overall solution—for indoor inspections on the market right now.
In order to create the Elios 2, Flyability worked closely with inspectors and clients, who acted in advisory capacities for years, providing feedback and sharing the exact features they would want from a drone for it to meet all of their needs for indoor inspections.
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.
– Dr. Adrien Briod, Co-founder & CTO of Flyability
Through this meticulous process Flyability collected a treasure trove of information on what their customer wanted.
Of course, once all of this information was collected, that was when the real work started—the work of finding ways to address all of their customers’ needs, and to design these solutions so they would be reliable and easy to use.
In looking at input from advisors, the primary areas identified for focus were:
- Usability, including ease of use for flying so that in-depth training wouldn’t be required
- High-quality visual data
- Replicable techniques that any inspector in the field could learn and perform
- Improved lighting, so the drone can provide depth and dimensionality to the object being inspected.
The result, after years of work, is a drone that meets all of the requests inspectors made. In fact, the Elios 2 is such a powerful drone that it has been recognized as a formal inspection tool, a recognition no other drone has been given to date.
A note on formal inspections: In many countries, certain types of inspections (i.e., for pressure vessels, where a poor inspection and resulting lack of maintenance could lead to a fatal accident) require the presence of a representative from a formal inspection body to validate the inspection. During two inspections witnessed by two different inspections bodies the Elios 2 was recognized as a formal inspection tool, meaning that the video feed and images captured provided an acceptable replacement for having a person perform a manual inspection.
What’s New in the Elios 2
The Elios 1 was the first drone ever made that was designed to collide and keep on flying. This was accomplished by placing the drone within a decoupled cage, which can absorb the impact from collisions without breaking or affecting the drone’s props.
Photo credit: Flyability
The design allows the Elios to fly into tight, hard-to-reach places for inspections, such as boiler rooms or pressure vessels, because it removes the collision factor. With the Elios 1, the drone could simply collide and continue the mission.
At the heart of Flyability products lies collision-tolerance. It is the true enabler to gathering data in the intricate and hostile places where our customers are searching for insights.
– Patrick Thévoz, CEO of Flyability
The Elios 2 has this core design but with several inspection-specific improvements, elevating the Elios 1 from being a great idea and good way to get a general visual of the inside of an asset to being a go-to, off-the-shelf indoor inspection solution that can fully replace the need to send an inspector into tight, dangerous spaces.
Elios 2 Key Features
Ease of Use
The Elios 2 is reportedly so easy to fly that people who have never flown a drone have been handed the controls and learned enough to perform a basic inspection mission in under an hour.
To enable ease of use, the Elios 2 comes with active intelligence built into the flight controller and motors, informed and guided by seven vision stability sensors pointing in all directions to provide GPS-free stabilization.
Here is a drone you can hand to somebody who’s never used it and they’ll be successful with it.
– Ryan Turner, Geotechnical Engineer for the Barrick Gold Corporation
Stabilization and Distance Lock
Related to ease of use, many pilots who have flown the Elios 2 have marveled over how stable it stays while in the air. Its stabilization allows inspectors to ensure they have covered the entirety of an asset being inspected, and be sure they haven’t missed anything.
Another improvement is “distance lock”, which allows the drone to be locked at a certain distance from the object being inspected. This feature allows the inspector to follow an entire object—for instance, an entire weld on the side of a tank—looking for any degradation that may have occurred since the last inspection.
Photo credit: Flyability
The Elios 2 comes with a 4K camera optimized for rendering images with a resolution of 0.18 mm/px at 30 cm, providing a level of image quality comparable to what an inspector might get by standing right in front of an object.
Inspectors have reported that the image quality is good enough that they can use it to perform an inspection while watching the drone’s live video feed, instead of having to review video footage later (as required with poorer image quality).
The image quality has also been improved in the Elios 2 by having the payload holding the camera located outside of the drone’s cage, which means that the images it captures are clear, with no lines of mesh running through them.
Oblique and Powerful Lighting
The Elios 2 has the most powerful lighting system ever built on a commercial drone, with 10,000 Lumens of light. These bright lights provide inspectors with improved situational awareness, and ensure that everything inspected is sufficiently illuminated.
The Elios 2 has significantly increased the confidence of Confined Space Inspections through adaptive lighting and position hold technology.
– Johnathon Casillas, Professional Drone Pilot and UAV Coach Flight Instructor
The Elios 2 lighting is also intelligent, offering oblique angles that allow the inspector to provide shadows that indicate depth, just as an inspector might create with a flashlight in hand when conducting a manual inspection.
Flyability and the Future of Indoor Inspections
The Elios 2 has been thoroughly field tested by Flyability’s advisors and has reportedly exceeded expectations for everyone who used it.
In fact, the Elios 2 is such a robust inspection tool that it has presented new use cases that were previously impossible, including pipeline and chimney inspections. It’s also been tested in mines, in scenarios that previously required sending a person into unstable areas to get a visual assessment of the conditions there.
And this is the most important point about the Elios 2, and where indoor inspections are headed—with improved technology like this, it’s becoming less and less necessary to send people into dangerous places in order to perform manual inspections, making it yet another example of drones being used for good in the world.
Last November, Flyability reported raising eleven million in a Series B funding round, funds that will help them continue to make improvements to indoor inspection technology through their new R&D wing, Flyability Labs.
And Flyability is nowhere near done.
In a recent conversation with Flyability’s Marketing Manager, Marc Gandillon, we were told that they’re continuing to work on ways to improve the indoor inspection process.
Flyability is constantly working to improve and automate the indoor inspection process, and the Elios 2 is our greatest accomplishment yet in that ongoing effort.
– Marc Gandillon
We can only imagine that, as time passes, Flyability will continue fighting to maintain their position as the go-to solution for indoor inspections.
Are you excited about the release of the Elios 2? Chime in on this thread in the UAV Coach community forum to share your thoughts.