Drones have been proven to be a major asset when it comes to commercial inspections. They can safely, quickly, and easily inspect areas that would otherwise be very time consuming and difficult to be done manually. Because they make inspections so efficient they save industrial companies a lot of time and money. One problem with drone based inspections though is the limited flight time they have. On average an inspection drone can fly for around 30 minutes before needing a charge. A Swiss startup company may have come up with a solution.
The best drones for completing inspection tasks are compact drones, typically with four rotors. Because of their small size these drones can only support a small battery. In 2019 Samir Bouabdallah and Alexandre Cherpillod co-founded Flybotix with the goal of addressing this problem. Both are graduates of EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) which is one of two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology. At EPFL Bouabdallah and Cherpillod studied mechanical and industrial engineering. Using that background they set out to build a drone that could perfect industrial inspections.
The drone developed by Flybotix is not like most other drones. For starters it is housed in a 12″ cylindrical frame and only uses 2 rotors. It combines the concept behind how a helicopter maneuvers along with a standard drone, but miniaturized. This allows the drone to be quieter and more light weight, almost doubling flight time. Because of the round body shape the drone is able to get enough lift with 2 longer blades rather than 4-6 blades found in most drones. And because the battery only has to power the 2 counter rotating blades, less energy is used.
Flybotix developed their own advanced control system that again uses the principles behind both a helicopter and a standard quadrocopter to control it’s flight patterns. It is a simple to use system that can adjust altitude as well as forward and reverse flight patterns. The cylinder frame is made of a lightweight foam, so if the drone does collide with an obstacle it will gently bounce off. This prevents any damage from happening to the drone or the structure it is inspecting. Because of this design feature the Flybotix drone is positioned to carry out inspections where many other drones cannot do so.
Most drones are only able to inspect structures from an outdoors position. Because of Flybotix compact, light, foam covered body it can be used to inspect structures internally, even the inside of pipes. Flybotix is still in the process of completing their final rounds of testing and hope to have their drones inspecting commercially soon. They envision their drone being used to inspect oil and gas industrial plants, or any field in which a miniature drone could be applied.