Collision-tolerant drone to operate in complex, cluttered environments

Collision-tolerant drone to operate in complex, cluttered environments
While experts agree on the benefits that drones bring to various industries, it can’t be denied that most of these flying machines are quite fragile and will become inoperable after any collision. Ironically, drones that are often sent to areas that are dangerous for human access are not sturdy enough to withstand even turbulence.

It was this problem that prompted the Swiss startup, Flyability, to come up with the first collision-tolerant flying robot designed for industrial inspection professionals. Called Elios, this drone offers access to complex, cluttered or indoor places.

Elios comes with a patented, decoupled protective cage and flight control algorithms that allow it to remain stable in flight after collisions. The protective cage prevents the propellers from touching anything during an impact, while the decoupling mechanism between the cage and the aircraft ensures that the forces generated by the impact are absorbed and are not disturbing the aerodynamics of the entire flying system.

According to Marc Gandillon, Marketing Manager and Loubna Sfar, Event and Communication Coordinator at the company, by allowing drones to fly safely in cities, inside buildings, and in contact with people, Flyability enables new interactions and services with UAVs and solve the two most critical issues of one of the fastest growing industries: collision and injury risks.

“Instead of depending on error-prone sense-and-avoid technologies - which do not provide yet a sufficient level of reliability - we have built Elios to be collision-tolerant,” Gandillon and Sfar said. “This approach was inspired by the behavior of insects: a fly easily recovers after encountering an obstacle by bouncing and continuing to fly undisturbed. Using a pragmatic approach, our technology is both simple and robust and relies on the latest advancements in material science.”

Thanks to its decoupled protective cage, Elios has the ability to fly safely in pretty much every indoor environment – even when cluttered with obstacles. Its tolerance to collisions allows it to bounce off obstacles and use its environment to find its way. With this unique ability, Elios can reach the most remote and inaccessible places and could be useful particularly to a professional trying to gather visual data in hazardous environments and dangerous situations.


Driving down operating expense

According to the company, the major factors that could drive demand for their product are the need for assets owners to reduce operating expenses (OPEX) related to the maintenance of their assets as well as the reduction of risks induced by this activity.

“Using a drone to remotely perform an inspection obviously increases the safety of an operator but the OPEX is reduced by various factors,” Gandillon and Sfar added. “Knowing what needs to be maintained prior to starting the operation by visually surveying the asset at very little costs allows for the Maintenance Manager to focus the time and resources available where they are really needed. Reducing the downtime of an asset has a direct impact on indirect loss of revenue which – in some industries – is tremendous. Avoiding human entry in hazardous areas means that no extra paperwork, costly preparation, and specialized equipment is required.”

The company has already sold over 150 units worldwide to industries such as power generation, oil and gas, maritime, mining, biotech, chemical and security. 
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