Elios 3 vs. Elios 2: How do the Flyability drones compare?

With the Elios 2 drone reaching its end of life, this is the perfect opportunity to upgrade to the Elios 3.  In this article we highlight the differences and key benefits of the two drone solutions to help you guide your choices.


What Elios 2 and Elios 3 have in common

Designed with the same purpose in mind

Elios 2 and Elios 3 are both designed to perform remotely operated close-up inspections in hazardous and confined spaces. In line with the Flyability vision, those two solutions deliver common benefits:


  • Keep workers out of dangerous places to perform the most demanding inspection tasks.

  • Empower critical maintenance decisions with outstanding data quality.

  • Reduce inspection cost through reduced downtimes and more efficient operations.


A patented collision-resilience technology

The Elios 2 and Elios 3 are both designed against Flyabilty's patented collision-resilient technology. It allows the Elios drones to bump into obstacles around their operational area and recover from a collision that would put them upside down. This is achieved through a unique combination of intellectual properties in motors and flight controllers that can reverse the thrust of each motor independently in a fraction of a second.


A deemed close-up inspection payload

Both Elios 2 and Elios 3 are equipped with a unique built-in inspection payload that comes with the following features.

4K camera:  The Elios camera is optimized for rendering images with a resolution of 0.18 mm/px at 30 cm, providing the level of detail professional inspectors would get by standing at arm's length of the area to inspect. This resolution is very close to what the human eye can detect except that the data captured with a drone can be analyzed, filed, and remain accessible at any time. On the other hand, data captured manually relies on the attention of the inspector and his assessment as to whether or not the visual information is worth being captured.

The most powerful and intelligent lighting system ever built on a commercial drone: The
Elios provides the ideal lighting conditions whether you're navigating in large spaces or inspecting all types of surfaces looking for cracks and pitting. The Elios 2 and Elios 3 both feature the industry's first oblique lighting system allowing the user to reproduce the technique of inspectors playing with their flashlight to cast shadows in small asperities to reveal them.

Automatic distance lock: Both drones also feature the distance lock functionality which lets inspectors perform smooth, consistent, and precise inspections of welding or beams at a set distance.


The Differences Between the Elios 2 and Elios 3


While the Elios 2 remains a proven solution for confined space visual inspections, the Elios 3 clearly makes another quantum leap forward, adding to the Elios 2’s body of technology more data capture capabilities, unprecedented ease of use and the ability to integrate additional payloads. In other words, as the 3rd generation of Flyability drones, the Elios 3 brings indoor capabilities to the next level.

The Elios 3 is the outcome of four years of extensive engineering work. Its technology has been qualified through over 200 missions and refined based on clients’ feedback. The result? The integration of FlyAware™, a proprietary SLAM engine that works in combination with a brand-new LiDAR payload - enabling significant upgrades in terms of performance, versatility, and stability.

The Elios 3 boasts

The Elios 3 builds on the success of the Elios 2, incorporating all the best features of the Elios 2, while offering a number of new technologies and enhancements:


  • Easier to pilot - allows pilots to perform complex mission with close to training

  • Easier reporting - all data are visualize on a 3D representation of the asset

  • Live situational awareness - the drone position and its trajectory is available real-time

  • Mapping capabilities - create highly accurate point clouds of the most remote areas

  • Ultrasonic thickness spot measurements - take precise thickness measurements backed up with high-resolution A-scans in the most challenging areas

  • Modular payload - supporting a robust development roadmap

Survey-grade mapping of hazardous, GPS-denied areas

Fitted with a powerful LiDAR sensor, the Elios 3 allows inspectors to capture shadowless, highly accurate point cloud data for the creation of survey-grade 3D models. Mapping hazardous areas as big as 80 cm in diameter now becomes possible, enabling professionals across industries to perform the most demanding inspection tasks. 

To enhance its accuracy, the Elios 3's Surveying Payload is a highly accurate LiDAR sensor that has greater range and capabilities than the Elios 3's standard LiDAR payload. The Surveying Payload is a OS0-128 Rev 7 model from Ouster, and comes with Faro Connect software that has tailored settings for processing LiDAR scans from the Elios 3. Used in combination with GeoSLAM Connect, the Elios 3 delivers survey-grade point clouds and georeferenced maps of the most inaccessible places with a mapping accuracy of +/- 1.0 cm and a drift of +/- 0.1%. The payload's greater range of 100 meters also means it is ideal for scanning complex environments such as underground mines or sewers as well as within industrial plants or machinery. 

Ultrasonic Thickness measurements (UT) with the Elios 3

The Ultrasonic Thickness Payload is a powerful ultrasonic thickness probe that is mounted on the Elios 3. It can be positioned at various angles around the drone to take a thickness measurement. Designed in partnership with Cygnus Instruments, this UT payload turns the Elios 3 into a flying UTM gauge that takes thickness measurements at height or in confined spaces, maintaining the Flyability mission of sending drones into risky environments instead of people. Measurements taken with the payload can be labeled within the 3D point cloud, allowing for ease of localization and reporting. 

Real-time situational awareness

With its onboard LiDAR and proprietary SLAM algorithm—FlyAware™— the Elios 3 instantly creates a 3D map of its surroundings and renders it real-time in the piloting app, empowering the pilot with exceptional locational awareness. On that map, the drone's position and trajectory inside the asset is located precisely enabling the pilot to:


  • Easily decide on the optimal route to follow to safely return home

  •  Instantly assess the inspection coverage

3D live reporting

With Inspector 5—the Elios 3 companion software—inspectors can now visualize Points of Interest (POI) found during an inspection and locate them in a high-resolution 3D map. This feature lets stakeholders navigate from POI to POI in a digital representation of their assets, providing a clear visualization of the defects found within them to support planning, monitoring, and maintenance efforts.

Ease of piloting

The Elios 3 is designed to be used by anyone on your team indoors, in complete darkness, and no matter the dust. Its SLAM-based stabilization algorithm, powered by the fusion of three VIO cameras and the LiDAR, catches the tiniest unpredictable movements of the drone and instructs the flight controller to compensate for it, allowing for the drone to float in the air still as a stone even in the toughest conditions. This stability and other ease-of-use features make the Elios 3 incredibly easy to operate, so pilots from all skill levels will succeed at performing complex missions with close to no training. 

Designed with the future in mind

The Elios 3's payload bay features two ports, one dedicated to the LiDAR sensor and one for auxiliary payloads. The Elios 3 is built to be a drone platform that has the ability to expand operations with additional payloads made to address specific needs of industries with capital intensive assets.

The RAD for radiation sensing, released in May 2023, was the very first modular payload for the Elios 3. The RAD payload is tailored for remote radiation detection and localization. This payload was built in partnership with Mirion Technologies, and is designed to perform fast and accurate radiation surveys in indoor spaces without human exposure. It is already in use at multiple nuclear power plants and waste management sites worldwide, including Sellafield

Since the RAD, the Flyability has produced 2 more payloads which were mentioned above: the Surveying Payload and the Ultrasonic Thickness Payload. These are the payloads that have been released as of July 2024, but Flyability is hinting at more - a further reason to turn to the Elios 3 instead of the Elios 2! 

New use cases for the Elios 3

The Elios 3 will bolster any application you currently use an Elios 2 for. However, with its SLAM engine, built-in LiDAR payload and additional software integrations, there are lots of new use cases for the Elios 3 in which you will experience unique benefits.


Mapping and surveying of hazardous areas

Mapping areas that are out of reach or too dangerous for humans to enter is critical yet often impossible - such as a business district street after a gas explosion in South Africa. Whether you are in underground mines, surveying inaccessible infrastructures or mapping indoor stockpiles, the Elios 3 enables GPS-denied flight and collision-resilience capabilities to produce shadowless, high resolution scans of any inaccessible area, without exposing workers to hazards.


Indoor volume tracking and reconciliation

Elios 3 and its mounted LiDAR payload can measure large volumes and quantities down to millimeter accuracy in just a few minutes improving inventory management and reducing industrial safety risks related to stockpile collapses that can cost companies dearly in terms of production delays. Using the Elios 3, site operators can have better control on stock shortages or excesses and on ever-changing size and form of a stockpile, without having to expose workers to the heavy machinery and constant stream of vehicles found in a stockyard. This is particularly useful for sites such as cement plants where stockpile tracking is vital to smooth operations


Georeferencing and data alignment

The versatile and easy to deploy Elios 3 LiDAR scanning solution is opening new opportunities to quickly obtain high-resolution 3D data of complex environments. At post-processing, this data can be overlaid onto existing maps and aligned with GPS coordinates, to provide accurate georeferencing - enabling professionals to precisely locate and identify potential hazards, such as cracks, corrosion, or structural damage, in hazardous areas. Additionally, this data can be used to track changes over time, such as for updating records in an underground mine, and monitor the condition of critical infrastructure, further improving safety and efficiency.


Comparison chart - the Elios 2 versus the Elios 3

This chart is meant to highlight the main differences between the two drones. Complete versions of the technical specifications can be found on Flyability knowledge base.


Get ready to upgrade! 

After 5 years in the air (and underground, in silos, sewers, and power plants), the Elios 2 is ready to retire. The Elios 3 is a more capable drone with more use cases and adaptability. In combination with it being easier to fly than the Elios 2 and providing more data, it is the better drone. 

Now is the best time to upgrade. Flyability is offering a limited offer until the end of September 2024 for Elios 2 users to trade-in their old drone in exchange for a discount on an upgrade to the Elios 3 - but the offer is on a first-come first-served basis. For this reason, we recommend that if you wish to make the change, you do so quickly to benefit fro the offer. Upgrading quickly means not only will you get more capabilities with the Elios 3, but you can get it for a lower price. 

Should you be interested in upgrading to the Elios 3 or have any questions, you should contact your local area sales manager or Flyability reseller. Alternatively, you can fill in the contact form to talk to our team

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