Using Drones for Good, Part 3: Elios

In part 3 of our series, using drones for good, we are going to look at how the innovative Elios drone from Flyability is helping to keep beer production lines flowing at Pilsner, support law enforcement in France, prevent a major environmental disaster in Barcelona and explore new cave systems in Sicily.

The Flyability Elios drone is the world’s first collision-tolerant drone designed specifically to carry out inspection work in tight spaces. This innovative UAV opens up new applications for drones which would otherwise have proved too dangerous or impractical to carry out.

Read more: Using Drones for Good, Part 1: Saving Our Oceans

Like all the best ideas, Elios takes a complex problem and solves it in a simple way. So how do you enable a drone to fly close to and even into objects without crashing? The answer: you take a conventional drone and enclose it inside a protective frame.

This simple, elegant solution allows the drone to literally collide with obstacles and bounce off them. It can even roll across the surface of objects until it finds a path. In fact, the solution is so foolproof it can even be used to fly in close contact with humans without any risk of injury.

Now you know what Elios is, let’s look at four real-world examples of how the drone is being used:

1. Keeping the beer flowing at Pilsner

Pilsner Brewery needed to inspect the roof of its vast bottling plant in the Czech Republic. The inspection of the 30,000 sqm facility needs to be carried out every 10 years to comply with building regulations.

The whole process involves five men and takes over a month to carry out. If that is not costly enough, there is another problem. The production line has to be stopped where the men are working. With production running at 60,000 bottles per hour, stopping production for just 10 minutes will result in production falling by 10,000 bottles.

Up until now, nothing could be done about the problem, it was simply classified as a business expense and dutifully carried out in accordance with the regulations. But Elios changed all that. Now the inspection can be carried out safely from the ground without having to stop the production line.

During the inspection, two drone pilots worked in conjunction with the building inspector who directed the pilots to the areas of the roof that needed to be inspected. Using the new system the information required to complete a building inspection report was acquired in just 12 days, working 4-5 hours a day.

Elios not only reduced the inspection time by over three weeks, without the need to stop the production line, it also allowed the building inspector to inspect areas of the building which previously were inaccessible using the traditional survey method.

Pilsner was so impressed with the results they have now expanded the technique to other buildings on the site.

Elios Bridge Inspection

2. Helping law enforcement and special forces

The French elite law enforcement team RAID (Research, Assistance, Intervention, Deterrence) has been using Elios to provide intelligence and reconnaissance for a number of highly volatile incidents, including hostage situations, terrorist attacks and isolated shooters.

The appeal of the drone is its ability to provide thermal and high-definition images from inside the building and relay them back to the incident commander. These images are then used by RAID officers to help identify hazards inside the building before attempting a rescue.

Once the mission reaches the rescue stage, the drone continues to provide support to officers by entering unknown zones first and relaying images back to the control room. This significantly reduces the risk to law enforcement officers and allows intelligence to be gathered much more quickly.

Elios has proved so successful with RAID that it is now being adopted by other special forces units around Europe. There is also the possibility that the device could be used by other emergency services such as the fire service to provide intelligence during major incidents.

Elios Bridge Inspection

3. Journey to the centre of the earth in Sicily

There are few parts of the planet the remain unexplored, but a cave system in Sicily is one of them. In collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the La Venta Association, the Elios drone was used to investigate previously unexplored areas of the La Cucchiara caves near Sciacca in Sicily.

The project was part of a human behaviour and performance skills course which was primarily being used to train astronauts in the extreme conditions of an extraterrestrial environment.

The known part of the cave system consists of a large gallery with a 100 m deep lake at the bottom. No human has ever ventured beyond this point, but Elios would boldly go where no man has gone before.

The Flyability team used the drones lights and thermal camera to help identify hidden heat sources within the cave system which would indicate openings to be explored.

With temperatures inside the caves reaching 37°C and constant rain from condensation, such exploration could never have been carried out by humans. But for Elios, it was just another day of work exploring areas where humans can’t reach.

Elios Bridge Inspection

4. Preventing an environmental disaster in Barcelona

When a severe storm hit the Catalan coast it spelt disaster for the sewage system of Barcelona. A sewage collector pipe had broken and was spilling sewage into the sea. The problem was, with over 20 miles of pipe to search it would take too long to find the leak and stop the spillage. A solution needed to be found and quickly if a major environmental disaster was to be averted.

The answer was to send an Elios drone up the affected sewage pipe to determine where the break had occurred. Once the location of the break was identified engineers were able to bypass the damaged section while it was repaired. This prevented thousands of gallons of sewage from being discharged into the Mediterranean.

It also allowed the damaged section of pipe to be repaired quickly, with the whole process taking less than a week. Following the successful conclusion of the work, Barcelona Deputy Mayor Àlex Mañas thanked the waterboard for their hard work preventing a major environmental disaster. Something which wouldn’t have been possible without the Elios drone.

These four examples highlight the flexibility and durability of the Elios platform. With integrated payloads capable of providing simultaneous HD and thermal imagery along with onboard lighting and its protective frame. Elios enables remote visual inspection of any indoor environment.

It also significantly reduces the cost of inspection work by reducing the amount of time required to gather visual data and eliminating the use of scaffolding, ropes and cranes. The solution is also easy to pilot and designed to work in harsh conditions of between 0° and 50°C.

If you would like more information about how the Flyability Elios platform can help your business carry out vital inspection work, both inside and outside, contact us using the form provided or give us a call on 0330 111 7177.

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