The drone start-up Beagle Systems can now provide on-demand aerial images that have up to 50 times the resolution currently provided by commercial satellites. The drone "Beagle M" can be controlled from the company’s headquarters in Hamburg, while it is located together with its hangar in Hanstedt (Lüneburger Heide) in Lower Saxony.
When it comes to collecting geodata for agriculture, forestry, infrastructure and construction projects, satellites have long been the preferred choice. They offer long range, high speed and regular viewing times. But despite these advantages, satellites also have some disadvantages, the biggest of which is their dependence on weather conditions for optical imagery: when the sky is overcast, it is almost impossible to collect geodata. Therefore, a lead time of two to four weeks is common. Beagle Systems has ambitious goals here with its self-developed drone “Beagle M”: “We want to provide our customers with the desired image data with a lead time of only 48 hours,” Oliver Lichtenstein recently emphasised. He is one of the three founders of Beagle Systems. The costs for the service envisaged by the start-up are in a similar range as for satellite-generated data. However, with the appropriate sensor technology, the drone delivers image data with a resolution of one centimetre per pixel: that is fifty times the resolution of conventional satellite data.
Founding History & Support
Together with his two co-founders Mitja Wittersheim and Jerry Tang, as well as the lawyer Dr Amos Münch as a strategic partner, Oliver Lichtenstein has specialised the start-up Beagle Systems in long-distance flights with unmanned aerial systems (UAV). In order for the team to be able to dedicate themselves to the project full-time without having to take on part-time jobs, Beagle Systems applied for EXIST funding at the end of 2018: “I came across EXIST online. Since we lacked the necessary university connection and the Nordakademie does not fund founders due to the dual system, we contacted Nils Neumann from beyourpilot. I was then approached by Helmut Schmidt University during a lecture: They were enthusiastic about the project and took on the mentorship. On the part of beyourpilot, the start-up advisor Dr. Andrea Otto has been supporting us since 2018; she gave us excellent support during the nine-month application process and continues to stand by us to this day,” says Oliver in beyourpilot’s start-up story.
First ascent permit for flights without visual contact
Beagle Systems received a general ascent permit for non-line-of-sight flights in the state of Lower Saxony in summer 2020. This made it one of the first companies in Germany (and the EU) to receive a BVLOS long-range flight permit. This has only enabled the company to pursue its daily work as a drone service provider. Since then, the startup has also begun building a nationwide network of landing and charging stations for drones, from which they can be flown on demand to the point of use anywhere in Germany.
A drone in Lower Saxony is controlled from Hamburg
Since Beagle Systems has an EU-wide permit to fly beyond visual contact and in non-populated areas, the drone can be controlled from the company’s headquarters in Hamburg, while “Beagle M”, including its hangar, is located in Hanstedt (Lüneburger Heide) in Lower Saxony. This means that there is no need for a pilot to be on site. This makes drone flights much easier and more flexible to implement. The self-developed model “Beagle M” can now scan as well as record 200 hectares per flight, has a wingspan of 2.50 metres and can transport a load of up to three kilograms.
Intended network expansion in the direction of international expansion
The drones from Beagle Systems are currently used for the inspection and monitoring of large infrastructure facilities such as power grids. They can also be used, for example, to check for pest infestations on large areas of farmland or forest. For the future, the company has targeted the multi-billion dollar delivery, courier and express services market. However, the company’s current reach is limited by its network of charging stations. By 2024, the start-up wants to cover all of Germany with its network. To do this, about 40 charging stations would have to be installed nationwide. International expansion would follow afterwards. Until then, the images from commercial satellites will have to suffice.