LAS VEGAS -- Drones aren't just for fun flights or taking photos. The upcoming eXom, by senseFly, is a professional-grade drone designed for civil engineers, mappers and surveyors to get high-quality images and other data of hard-to-reach surroundings.
A prototype of this impressive high-quality drone debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015 here. Pricing and a release date for the eXom, as well as its battery life, have yet to be determined.
The eXom is equipped with a camera for taking HD video and ultra-HD photos and can also record 3D topography of its surroundings, a senseFly representative told me at CES. Not only that, the eXom can also record thermal data. The camera and other sensors can capture in 270 degrees, including directly above the drone.
For example, an engineer might use the eXom to examine a bridge for rust, stress or other damage, and could even use the eXom to look at the bridge's underside.
The eXom also has ultrasonic sensors for detecting its proximity to other objects. When you need a close-up look at something, you'll be able to tell how close the drone is to it. And if you get too close, the eXom's four propellers are protected by shock-absorbent carbon-fiber bumpers.
Users control the eXom via an accompanying mobile app, to which the eXom will stream live video from its camera. The drone has two flight modes -- interactive and autonomous. In the former, you can just tap on an object in the video stream, and the eXom will fly toward it for a closer look, using its proximity sensors to make sure it doesn't crash.
In Autonomous Mode, users have to use the accompanying mobile app to define an area on the map, and the eXom will generate a flight plan, begin scanning and photographing that entire area, and then land itself at the end of the flight.
The eXom is developed by senseFly, a subsidiary of Paris-based drone maker Parrot.
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Jill Scharr is a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she regularly covers security, 3D printing and video games. You can follow Jill on Twitter @JillScharr and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.