When UAV manufacturer SenseFly wanted to show off their eBee drones, which are designed for aerial photography (and, so we hear, future commercial use), they decided to try something different: Throwing their vehicles off the top of the Matterhorn.
At the top of the famous Alpine mountain, a team from SenseFly and nonprofit Drone Adventures flew the eBees on multiple flights and fed camera and sensor data into 3-D imaging software. Once they were done, SenseFly had the first ever UAV-generated map of the Matterhorn.
Flying UAVs in mountainous areas, where retrieval can be difficult-to-impossible, comes with its own special challenges. Line-of-sight requirements and the need to send and receive constant data to the aircraft means operators have to stay in an area with clear communications–which meant climbing to the Matterhorn’s summit. Five drones circled the base and lower portions of the mountain, while another set of UAVs systematically mapped the mountain’s peak. And the Matterhorn, which straddles the border of Italy and Switzerland, is a massive mountain, which challenges the relatively modest battery life of most consumer drones. According to SenseFly, the eBee only has 45 minutes of battery life. As a result, the company had to fly their drones around the mountain on multiple flights.
So why would a company that manufactures what are essentially flying cameras decide to do a proof of concept project in the Swiss Alps? The answer for SenseFly is simple: It shows off the camera’s capabilities to the National Geographic/Outside magazine-style demographic they’re catering to.