Sony/3DR announce new Enterprise camera for Solo

As part of today's 3DR Enterprise announcement with Autodesk, we also announced a new camera coming to Solo. This is the UMC-R10C, which is designed to be deeply integrated and fully controllable by the Solo software stack and companion computer. More details coming ahead of the launch in April. 

From The Verge:

3D Robotics partners with Sony on a drone that can map the world in 3D

The competition to capture big industrial customers is heating up

By Ben Popper

The drone business is booming, and companies which manufacture these aerial robots are increasingly trying to produce units that can straddle the divide between the consumer and enterprise market. 3D Robotics, one of the biggest US drone makers, announced this morning that it is partnering with Autodesk and Sony to create a high end version of its Solo drone. The new unit can scan a location — a construction site in progress or bridge that needs inspection — and upload a 3D model or map to the cloud from the air, allowing those files to quickly get into the hands of offsite engineers or managers.

Up till now the Solo drone worked with cameras from GoPro. Today it announced that the new Sony UMC-R10C, a camera that will be officially unveiled at NAB in April, will integrate with the enterprise edition of the Solo. That camera allows for far more detailed image capture, pulling hi-res data to the cloud without having to land and remove an SD card. The enterprise edition of the Solo will also come with a Sony tablet preloaded with Autodesk's FORGE software. "The demand is just huge," says Autodesk's Dominique Pouliquen. "There is not a single construction company we work with that does not have a UAV initiative."

Along with the new Sony camera, 3D Robotics says it is planning to introduce a multispectral and thermal camera, hardware specialized for scanning agricultural sites, chemical plants, and oil rigs.

Autodesk has been moving into the drone industry for a while. Last year it invested in SkyCatch, another company which has been using drones to create 3D maps of construction sites in real time, maps which are then used to guide robotic bulldozers. SkyCatch is currently focused on building its business in Japan, where regulations around commercial use of drones are much lighter, and where demographic trends have created a shortage of human workers.

WILL DJI'S DOMINANCE LAST?

DJI is dominating among the drones used by companies which have filed commercial exemptions in the US and it recently introduced a unit designed specifically for crop spraying. But "it's still very early days, and we're number two [in commercial exemptions]," argues Chris Anderson, 3D Robotics co-founder and CEO.

Anderson believes that DJI's lead on the commercial side is an extension of its consumer dominance, and that this advantage will fade as the enterprise market matures. "So far it's mostly consumer vehicles being used in a commercial context. There are very few large scale enterprise deployments, and the whole workflow has not been touched. The Solo is the first example of an enterprise drone that is integrated from end to end, from drone to camera to cloud."

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Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on March 7, 2016 at 9:00pm

Ian, the QX1 does actually have WiFi onboard.  I'd think the new one does as well?

Comment by John on March 7, 2016 at 9:20pm

@Chris,  Will the camera be on a fixed mount or a new gimbal??


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on March 7, 2016 at 9:26pm
@John: New gimbal
Comment by Jeff Foster on March 7, 2016 at 10:44pm
Wow - great news for 3DR Chris! Would love to have you guys demo in the NAB aerial Robotics & Drone Pavilion in Central Hall (we have a 60'x60 cage, big screens and 100 seats) if you're ready for it by then.
Comment by benbojangles on March 8, 2016 at 1:00am

I have been thinking about buying a QX1 for drone use as I already have a Nex/Alpha camera & lenses. 

It seems from what I have studied, there are some caveats to it, preventing it from being perfect. Someone help me resolve if these issues do/don't exist?

1) No HDMI out?

2) No USB/IR triggering?

3) Battery saving shutdown after 30-seconds on idle?

Also if I remember, the QX1 was released back in 2014 so should be due for v2, hopefully it will be ironing out the creases, because I'll be gimbal mounting it for sure if it does.

Comment by Jesus A on March 8, 2016 at 1:34am
QX1 is one of the best cameras out there for UAV mapping. However has several problems:
- Disconnection if no wifi for x seconds.
- No manual mode. Only mode S or A but not M
- Really bad quality 16mm pancake lens

Anyway if some are resolved it is a great addition.
Will this new "model" be available to the rest of us?
Comment by Nick Sargeant on March 8, 2016 at 1:58am

Exciting news. It is interesting watching Autodesk's movement into the drone space with likes of Skycatch and now 3DR. A quality camera for the Solo makes sense'; the UAV is just a means to position a sensor in 3D space and all to often there is too much emphasis on the platform with rather than the sensor it is carrying. I expect to see a Sequoia announcement soon too :). Chris, will the new camera have HDMI video out and precision trigger feedback to the autopilot? What level of integration is the camera going to have? Are we looking at tightly integrated, bespoke camera&gimbal (i.e Zenmuse X5) or are we looking at a COTS camera on a purpose built gimbal (i.e. 4Scight)?
Given the mapping focus, it is safe to expect that the camera will ship with a prime lens but for inspection applications, will the camera and gimbal be compatible with zoom lenses?

Thanks!

Comment by benbojangles on March 8, 2016 at 5:12am

@Jesus - I quite like my 16mm, it's not an L-series lens or Voigtländer, but it's one of the best/lightest/csc lenses, makes perfect frame aspect ratio for vertical mapping

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on March 8, 2016 at 6:25am

Apparently the 20mm is much better.  The corners on the 16mm are pretty smeared. The best lens for these are probably the Zeiss Touit 12mm, or Loxia 21mm.  They're about $1000 though, and heavier than the 16 and 20mm Sony lenses.  The Tuoit is 260g and the Loxia is 394g, making them 200 and 330g heavier than the 16mm.  So it might be a bit much for the Solo to lift unfortunately.  This is where it's nice to have a larger machine. 

BTW, Hasselblad is rebranding the Sony lenses, and they're actually cheaper than the Sony equivalent.

You can do wired triggering, not via USB, but just buy any of the cheap "bulb" triggers available for Sony cameras and hack it.  With this method, the QX1 can manage an impressive 1 fps continuously!

Comment by benbojangles on March 8, 2016 at 7:00am

yea i'm hoping to mount the qx1(v2) on my hexacopter, perhaps even print a gimbal mount if all goes well.

Didn't know about the hasselblad thing, thanks

Most of my lenses are old manual focus ones, (Radioactive) Super-Takumar 50mm f1.4 things like that, they're much to heavy to mount to a drone, I think if Sony release a QX1 successor which is lighter, then it's a winner.

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