Amid the avalanche of product and service launches, partnership announcements and general industry news at Interdrone earlier this month, senseFly, a division of French drone manufacturer Parrot, unveiled a new modular drone for aerial mapping and surveying.
On paper, the eBee X looks like a useful fixed-wing aircraft that should provide a rugged and adaptable solution for a range of mapping applications.
The eBee X
Parrot has plenty of experience with fixed-wing drones. Many industry watchers will be familiar with the company’s Disco drone, which looked like a lot of fun but ultimately lacked an addressable consumer market rather than any specific capability.
To date, fixed-wing flight and consumer aerial photography haven’t been a match made in heaven. But when it comes to mapping huge swathes of terrain and making survey flights as efficient as possible, fixed-wing is the way to go.
As such, the eBee X follows on from senseFly’s eBee SQ, Albris and eBee Classic models. It promises to be more suitable for harsh environments, offer longer flight times and greater adaptability than its predecessors.
The eBee X’s adaptability is enabled by a number of new camera options. It’s also backward compatible with some of Parrot/senseFly’s older imaging tools.
However, perhaps the most notable feature of senseFly’s new eBee X platform is how long it can stay n the air. The drone comes with an endurance extension feature that takes its flight time to 90 minutes and gives coverage to up to 500 ha (1,235 ac) at 400 ft (122 m).
Added to that is the ease with which it can be launched and landed. Users simply have to toss it into the air to get things started. The eBee X’s ‘Steep Landing’ tech means it can safely land in a confined area, while its designed to be rugged enough to withstand crash-style landings on any surface.
eBee X – New Camera Options
The eBee X includes a range of new camera options designed to suit every mapping job, from land surveying and topographic mapping to urban planning, crop mapping, thermal mapping, environmental monitoring and more. These cameras include:
- The senseFly S.O.D.A. 3D: a unique drone photogrammetry camera with a one-inch sensor, which changes orientation during flight to capture three images (two oblique, one nadir) every time, instead of just one, for a much wider field of view. The result is stunning digital 3D reconstructions in vertically-focused environments—such as urban areas, open pit mines and coastlines—over larger areas than quadcopter drones can achieve. senseFly S.O.D.A. 3D is optimized for quick, robust image processing with Pix4Dmapper
- The senseFly Aeria X: a compact drone photogrammetry camera with APS-C sensor. This rugged innovation offers an ideal blend of size, weight and DSLR-like image quality. Thanks in part to its built-in Smart Exposure technology, it provides outstanding image detail and clarity, in virtually all light conditions, allowing operators to map for more hours per day than ever before.
- The senseFly Duet T: a dual-camera thermal mapping rig, which lets mapping professionals create geo-accurate thermal maps and digital surface models quickly and easily. The Duet T includes both a high-resolution (640 x 512 px) thermal infrared camera and a senseFly S.O.D.A. RGB camera with one-inch sensor. Both image sources can be accessed as required, while the rig’s built-in Camera Position Synchronisation feature works in sync with Pix4Dmapper photogrammetry software (optional) to simplify the map reconstruction process.
The eBee X is also compatible with the Parrot Sequoia+ multispectral camera for agriculture, the senseFly S.O.D.A. drone photogrammetry camera and senseFly Corridor for simple linear mapping.
Read more: Review: Hands On With the Parrot ANAFI
A leap forward for mapping tech
Speaking to Dronelife, Jean Thomas Célette, Chief Strategy and Product Officer Parrot Business Solutions, explained how the company’s reputation as an established end to end drone solution provider meant it can now more easily respond to customer feedback with new products and iterations.
“senseFly has been around for literally 10 years – we are now able to look at our data, and to talk to our customers about what’s really important to them,” he said. “Maintenance is important to them; the drone needs to be robust; they want even higher quality sensors – and increased the flight time. We took all of that feedback, and the experience drove the development process.”
“It’s something we’re really excited about – we took all of the data we had and implemented those ideas, and it was very collaborative with our customers.”
“The eBee X is a giant leap forward for mapping technology and underscores senseFly’s position as the leader in the fixed-wing drone market,” said Gilles Labossière, the Executive Vice President and COO of Parrot Group, and senseFly CEO.
“No matter what type of project a professional is undertaking, the eBee X has the coverage, data and accuracy capabilities needed to get the job done.”