A few years back, drone-maker senseFly launched its eBee fixed-wing drone with a firm eye on agricultural applications, though the drone's mapping capabilities drew the attention of those working on search and rescue applications, too. Now the company has announced an upgrade, the eBee Plus, which along with longer flight times, packs a new sensor promised to provide more precise mapping.
The eBee Plus looks much like the original drone on the outside, but it packs a little more functionality inside that senseFly and parent company Parrot will hope can expand its appeal. This includes a new propriety sensor dubbed S.O.D.A (Sensor Optimized for Drone Applications), an RGB camera with a 1-inch sensor, and global shutter that is capable of snapping images with a spatial resolution of 2.9 cm (1.1 in) while flying at an altitude of 122 m (400 ft).
The wingspan has grown from 96 cm (37.8 in) to 110 cm (43.3 in) and flight time is boosted from 45 minutes to 59 minutes, allowing the drone to map 220 ha (540 ac) on a single flight. The company claims this is more area than any drone in its weight class. Routes are planned through the senseFly's accompanying flight-control software, eMotion 3, which allows for multi-drone missions and also handles the data management.
While the drone comes loaded with the S.O.D.A sensor, this can be swapped out for any of the company's fixed-wing RGB, thermal or multispectral sensors, such as the Sequoia released earlier this year. There is also the addition of RTK/PPK functionality which is available as an optional extra and draws on satellite data for more precise positioning information about objects on the ground.
The company will be showing off the new drone at mapping conference Intergeo in Hamburg next week. Though there is no information on the pricing for the eBee Plus available at this stage, we have enquired with senseFly and will update the story when we hear back.
Update October 7: senseFly has confirmed the price for the eBee Plus as US$17,990, or $26,990 with RTK/PPK activated.