Ask most anyone if they know about drones and they'll probably mention the name DJI. Better yet, they'll likely mention the "Mavic" product line from DJI. Why? Because DJI has strong grip on mainstream consumers and hobbyists when it comes to drones.
But, there's more to DJI than allowing consumers or professionals to capture cinematic aerial footage. DJI also has a strong grip in the world of enterprise support. Now, DJI is upping the ante on commercial drone solutions with a new thermal imaging system and custom payload options.
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DJI's enterprise appeal starts with its hardware, as the firm continues to offer business support its wide range of aircraft such as the Inspire and the larger and more powerful Matrice 600. Each aircraft is designed with efficiency in mind offering a wide range of operation (up to 7KM in some instances) as well as hardware built to withstand rigorous use and harsh elements such as desert heat or fires. Payload capacity is important, as it allows drone operators to equip one of the top-notch camera systems developed by DJI—cameras that can be used to produce crystal clear images and video for site surveys and inspections
Going beyond hardware
Being able to cover several kilometers is definitely beneficial to a myriad of industries, but consider the life of an infrastructure management team. Granted, suspended power lines may be an oddity to see in today's suburban areas as a lot of lines are buried. On the other hand, there are rural and mountainous regions that run miles and miles of suspended power lines. How can an inspection team efficiently verify that the equipment is structurally sound?
First, DJI allows the Matrice line of drones to be equipped with up to two imaging payloads. Ideally, the Zenmuse Z30 and new XT2 models are a good fit for these types of jobs.
The XT2 not only provides crystal clear imagery, but it also has a FLIR sensor to allow the drone operator to analyze thermal data of the equipment being inspected, according to a press release. The XT2 sensor is housed in a weather resistant casing, and features machine intelligence for real-time data processing as well.
The Z30 offers a 30X zoom. The combination of the two payloads is a great answer to how an inspector can fly to the site for survey and literally zoom in on the problematic equipment for an expert analysis, according to DJI's site.
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Consumers are warned when purchasing their first drone to be mindful of power lines. Yes, the drone could possibly crash into the suspended power lines, but there's the concern of electromagnetic interference disrupting the controls of the aircraft. This is less of a concern with a D-RTK system mounted to drone, DJI's site notes, as it will help withstand the electromagnetic interference.
Upright gimbals are another available option in contrast to the typical bottom-mounted gimbals and payload seen on drones. This application would work well for looking under structures such as bridges, as well as other infrastructure equipment. Why rent some type of water vessel to inspect the underside of a bridge, when you can just fly a drone to handle the task?
More enterprise control
With access to the Flight Controller SDK and Payload SDK, an enterprise can develop drone tools to be more specialized for its tasks. DJI has offered documentation to get a development team started with making the drones integrate more with day-to-day tasks and systems unique to their respective enterprise.
As noted, payloads that offer thermal imaging can provide an important data set. Sure high temperatures would be noted, but what about trending temperature ranges? Additionally, the new Payload SDK "enables non-DJI cameras, sensors, and payloads like air-to-ground communications tools and devices to be mounted and integrated directly into DJI's Matrice 200 Series drones," the press release noted.
The Matrice series of drones have flight controller software that includes a collaboration between DJI and Skycatch. Skycatch provides tools for site survey and inspection as well as an answer to the demand of aerial 3D mapping. It also has its more rugged aircraft available with this software. Superior hardware coupled with superior software will bring in more accurate data needed to handle these daunting tasks in verticals such as construction.
It's fascinating to see where the drone industry will go within the next decade. Camera and imaging technology continues to advance, and the use of AI and data analytics will continue to grow as well. R&D of materials just may bring an even more advanced piece of hardware capable of taking on even more rigorous flight tasks, possibly addressing an unfrseen need in another industry in the future.
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- DJI Mavic Pro: First impressions from a drone novice (ZDNet)
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Ant Pruitt is an IT Support Professional with a passion for showing the non-geek how great technology can be. He writes for a variety of tech publications and hosts his own podcast. Ant is also an avid photographer and weight lifter.