Sony cameras increase Upteko’s drone image quality and flight times

The innovative Danish drone services company, Upteko, has selected Sony’s latest viewfinder-less ILX-LR1 camera for its mission-critical North Sea drone operations. With an ultra-lightweight design and a 61MP sensor, this camera has revolutionized the capabilities of Upteko’s drone designs. Offering super high resolution, an exceptionally functional form factor, and deep integration through the Sony Camera SDK, the ILX-LR1 proves to be the ideal choice for demanding maritime drone applications.

How we helped
Challenge icon
The Challenge
  • Upteko operates in challenging maritime environments
  • Drones are utilised for offshore package delivery, wind turbine inspections, ship inspections, and various remote tasks
  • Tasks require precision, safety, and repeatability
Solution icon
The Solution
  • Sony’s ILX-LR1 camera selected for its extremely lightweight design and powerful imaging capabilities
  • Features access to a wide range of Sony E-Mount lenses
  • Utilises the Sony Remote Camera Software Development Kit (SDK)
Outcome icon
The Outcome
  • Achieved world-record flight times for the drone class
  • 43% weight reduction with Sony’s ILX-LR1 cameras onboard
  • Robust and highly automated drone platforms

Without the Sony ILX-LR1 and its ultra-sharp images, we would not get sufficient resolution from the drones to capture small details during our drone inspections. We would not be able to detect detailed damage on the wind turbines. With the low weight of the ILX-LR1, we have a record flight time of 69 minutes without payload and 53 minutes with the new payload and camera; it is the best flight time in the world in its class.

Benjamin Mejnertz
Product Director and Partner, Upteko

Purpose-built for industrial drones

Upteko aims to enhance the offshore sector using advanced aerial and robotics technology. To fulfil this objective, the company sought a high-performance camera. The Sony ILX-LR1 boasts the same exceptional sensor as the Sony A7R V, inheriting many capabilities of the larger camera but without the bulk of a viewfinder and in a more compact body. This makes it the ideal form factor for high-resolution industrial drone photography, significantly enhancing Upteko’s capacity to consistently deliver top-quality images.

Sony ILX-LR1 camera

Dramatic efficiency gains

Commercial drone operations hinge on efficiency, with flight times being a critical factor. Short flight times result in reduced range and frequent interruptions for battery changes. Opting for the lightweight Sony ILX-LR1 addresses this challenge. Under industry-standard conditions, Upteko achieved a remarkable 43% weight reduction, claiming a world-record flight duration of 51 minutes for this drone class. With the Sony camera integrated into its drone platform, Upteko has successfully shed a substantial 5 kg compared to its previous platform.

A drone with a camera

Extreme Resolution

At the heart of the Sony ILX-LR1 lies a full-frame 61MP sensor. Boasting a still image resolution nearly eight times that of 4K video, it marks a significant advancement in imaging detail for drone photography. In this context, a single shot holds the same visual information as four or six shots from a conventional drone camera. This capability enables the drone to capture more of its target with fewer shots or capture significantly more detail in the same number of shots. In hazardous maritime conditions, it also permits the drone to maintain a safer distance from structures like wind turbines while still capturing detailed shots.

End-to-End Security

Data pertaining to the renewable energy and marine sectors is commercially and strategically sensitive. Given that Upteko’s drones capture highly detailed images of operational structures, there is no room for risk regarding its own or its clients’ data. Consequently, Upteko ensures the complete security of its drone platform by designing and manufacturing it in Denmark under its direct supervision, employing industry-standard data encryption. The integration of image and positional metadata is part of Upteko’s proprietary software, developed around the Sony Camera Remote SDK.

Upteko chip

Sony Software

Upteko utilises the Sony Camera Remote SDK to seamlessly integrate Sony cameras into its operations. This SDK provides in-depth and comprehensive access to camera functions, enabling configuration and operation remotely through custom-built applications. Sony’s software comes with direct support from the SDK development support team, and the company collaborates closely with all SDK customers to assist in building robust, task-specific software across a diverse range of sectors.

Full Frame Sensor

The ILX-LR1 produces ultra-detailed images with the Sony Exmor R™ CMOS sensor, optimized by a cutting-edge BIONZ XR processor. The 61MP full-frame sensor is also capable of shooting 4K video. The full-frame design facilitates wide-angle shots with various lenses, and the abundance of pixels allows for cropping to “zoom in” without sacrificing apparent detail.

Wide Range of Sony Lenses

Upteko opted for Sony cameras not only for their ability to capture extreme detail but also for their compatibility with the Sony E-Mount lens system. With a diverse range of focal lengths and other characteristics to choose from (subject to weight and balance requirements), the drone services company can select the ideal lens for its applications.

Three Sony ILX-LR1 cameras with interchangeable lenses

Autonomous, Automated Missions

For navigation and automation, Upteko is developing systems that utilise deep learning. The ILX-LR1, with its ultra-sharp and detailed images, plays a crucial role in this process. Conventional drone cameras struggle to capture small details during inspections. For effective deep learning, having more information to train on is crucial. The company is also integrating LIDAR sensors with Sony’s Camera Software Development Kit to aid the development of systems that can “understand” the drones’ positions by interpreting the images they capture.