Watch this epic drone flight through a disgusting place you’d never otherwise see

Here’s a type of drone flight that you’ll likely never see (aside from on the video posted here), and it’s not because the drone is so small or flying so high. Thanks to a partnership with wastewater inspection software provider WinCan and indoor drone maker Flyability, these drones are flying in sewers.

Inspecting sewers is kind of a disgusting task, and luckily, technology means that no one has to do it. Drones do it.

An increasingly common use case for drones is in the wastewater inspection industry to collect visual data inside sewer pipes. But due to the tight, dark, enclosed space that often is GPS-denied, not every drone is up for the task. But the Elios 2 drone from indoor drone maker Flyability professes to be.

And now, the task of using Flyability’s Elios 2 drone to conduct sewer inspections has gotten easier thanks to a partnership with WinCan. With it, inspectors can now import that data directly to WinCan’s sewer inspection software, which they can then process, analyze, and use to create detailed, standards-compliant reports.

WinCan and Flyability drone sewer inspection
Photo courtesy of Flyability

Here’s a brief overview of how it works:

  • Sewer inspectors using Flyability’s indoor drones collect visual data.
  • They then can import POI (Points of Interest) photos and their respective stationing, obtain automatic calculations of observation distances and posture length according to the drone’s trajectory.
  • After that, they can upload their data to the cloud.
  • That data can be shared for collaborating with colleagues and customers.

And here’s a video showing how waste management service provider Suez RV Osis FM actually uses the drones for its work:

Both WinCan and Flyability say the partnership should make wastewater inspections safer by removing the need for inspectors to enter confined, sometimes dangerous spaces. Without drones, human inspectors typically physically enter the pipes to inspect them with a flashlight (though sometimes other technology like small, CCTV cameras are mounted on sleds and rafts through pipes that are too narrow for humans to enter).

Drones also reduce costs, as users can collect visual data roughly twice as fast as manual methods. Péter Kövessi, Director of Client Services at Barcelona-based sewer infrastructure company Flind said in a sewer inspection repot by Flyability that he estimates that drone sewer inspections are twice as efficient as human inspections and 40% less expensive per meter of inspection.

A screengrab shows how WinCan’s software works with Flyability drones.

And while humans are smart, drones are often smarter, capable of providing sewer inspectors with in-depth analytics, cloud-based collaboration, and standards-compliant reporting.

“This partnership with WinCan will bring to wastewater inspection professionals more than a data acquisition tool, but a full solution to inspect, analyze, store, and share their data in a standards-compliant way,” said Flyability co-founder and CEO, Patrick Thévoz in a prepared statement. “The added value is huge in terms of cost and time savings, as well as in terms of safety, since inspectors can collect visual data remotely instead of in person.”

Flyability is a Swiss-based company that first launched in 2014, and in 2020 made a major U.S. expansion by opening an office in Denver. In 2019 it released what is now its flagship product, the Elias 2, which was designed for indoor inspections, including for industries like oil and gas, power generation, mining and waste management. The company says its drones are now used in 65% of U.S. nuclear power plants. And they’re flying in some more unique places too. For example, Flyability’s drones have even been used to inspect a beer factory.

While WinCan is just now getting into drones, the company is hardly a newcomer to using technology in the wastewater inspection industry. WinCan was actually the first-ever company to build software for wastewater pipe inspections, dating back to 1990.

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