Quadrotors have dominated headlines where Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are the subject because they are highly stable and precise platforms that require almost no interaction or flying ability by the user. They are being used by law enforcement, private companies, and by well-heeled hobbyists and for photography and surveillance. For as little as a thousand dollars you can buy a gyro stabilized, autonomous platform for taking pictures of your neighborhood, house, or club flying field. While they are capable of hovering stationary over a target, the disadvantage of quadrotors is that they are slow-moving and therefore have limited range. Conventional airplane configurations don't suffer the speed and range problem, but they are always in motion.
While pricier than many lower end quadrotors (higher end model run above $10k), the eBee flying wing platform from senseFly, at about $12,000*, not only incorporates many advanced sensing and monitoring systems, also removes the requirement for piloting ability because it is capable of landing autonomously. I'm guessing the senseFly still needs an operator smart enough to hand-launch it since it has no wheels.
Uses for the senseFly include 2D and 3D mapping, surveillance, and commercial photography. Keep in mind if you buy one that the Academy of Model Aviation (AMA) membership insurance does not cover for-hire activities.
Check out the senseFly website for full details or watch some of their videos embedded below.
* As reported on the Model Airplane News website.
senseFly Features and Overview Video
senseFly Mapping of Quarry Video
senseFly Autonomous Flight and Landing Video
Posted January 25, 2013