In a previous blog entry, we’d looked at some of the options available to anyone looking to introduce aerial thermal imaging into their work, such as the XT2 camera, FLIR Duo Pro and MicaSense RedEdge. However, while those are all extensions for an existing drone, with the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual, DJI has created a one-stop solution right out of the box.
The difference between the Dual and the original Enterprise is both small and huge in equal measure; the only fundamental change being the camera. But when you’re dealing with systems that use the camera largely as a tool to collect data, then changing the type and amount of data you can see, gather and analyse can make a massive difference to your workflow.
When the Mavic 2 Enterprise was first announced, with its modular design enabling the addition of further accessories to the core model (which is essentially a Mavic 2 Zoom), we’re sure many people thought that a thermal solution would be a good idea. However, whereas the existing add-ons – the Spotlight, Speaker and Beacon – are there to support any existing professional use cases, a thermal solution requires a fundamental change in approach, with a purpose-built camera integrated into the heart of the model and that’s something you just can’t plug into the Mavic 2 Enterprise. Enter the Dual…
The FLIR Factor
As mentioned, the craft is otherwise the same as the Mavic 2 Enterprise, which means the same obstacle avoidance tech, the 31 minute flight times, a top speed of 45mph, 5 mile range (legal restrictions aside) and all of the same intelligent flight systems – not to mention the same foldable frame for easy storage and transportation.
It also boasts the same security measures (password protection for on-board storage, GPS timestamps, local data mode etc.), the AirSense tech for real-time alerts on any manned craft in the area, and OcuSync 2.0 minimising outside interference and maintaining rock-solid communication with your controller. Plus, those modular add-ons mentioned above can all be added to the Dual to further broaden your operational capabilities.
This brings us to that one big change: the camera. Once again produced in collaboration with thermal specialist FLIR, which had previously brought us the aforementioned XT2, the FLIR Lepton introduces its smallest thermal camera yet (it’s described as a “micro-camera” for a reason!) and is placed alongside a standard 4K/12MP ‘visual’ camera – so you really can get the best of both worlds at the same time and in perfect sync.
On a base level, the potential use cases for such a model leads us back to that previous aerial thermal imaging article. So we’re talking emergency services, inspection work across the likes of construction and agriculture, energy and so on – anything where the need to see and analyse differences in temperature or thermal composition is critical.
Likewise, a model like the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual is also great for night flying (permissions pending) or even just in low-light conditions, such as checking inside large storage containers or around infrastructure and interiors cloaked in shadows. Potentially you could use the existing Mavic 2 Enterprise with the Spotlight attachment if you’re only after visual imagery in such locations, but the thermal capacity of the Dual opens up a wealth of further inspection opportunities.
The scope for use within the emergency services would include police and search and rescue teams looking for people and also the fire service peering through the smoke or checking for hotspots (or safe spots) within the flames – but this also crosses into wider use cases, where fog or other areas of poor visibility or impeding environmental factors may otherwise hinder your inspection work. The Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual enables you to see what the human eye can (or rather a ‘visual light’ camera), but also what you might be missing.
The new camera does bring with it some additional intelligent display modes, which can be used to help tailor the data you see or collect to suit your own specialist needs. FLIR MSX provides a multispectral solution that enables you to view and compare the thermal or infrared imaging with the RGB camera, helping you not only see the hotspots but to correlate them to the object or location. For example, if one solar panel out a thousand is showing irregularities on the thermal camera, you can use the RGB image to pick out the ID number or some other visual identifier to send someone out to the right place to fix it.
The Spot Meter displays an average temperature of your target object to keep an eye on any potential fluctuations, while the Area Measurement tool also provides info on the coldest and hottest spots on the screen. So if you were inspecting a building this could be used to show you where heat is perhaps escaping due to poor insulation (or building up through a lack of ventilation) or maybe colder areas where damp or some other issue could be a concern.
The Dual also comes with a fully customisable Isotherm system which enables you to set your own parameters and colour palettes to make it even easier to spot the specific data or differences within it, that you need. So a police unit looking for a missing person on a cold, dark night, might be better equipped using different parameters to a fire crew looking for site management above a roaring industrial fire. On a more technical note, you can also make such changes according to the emissivity or reflectiveness of the surface material you’re inspecting, or where bright sunshine might offer different, and potentially misleading results to colder weather.
That’s all possible with the Dual, where you can even set up a number of profiles to quickly swap between on the fly – such as in agriculture where you might be looking for drainage problems one moment and soil temperatures the next.
An Enterprising Solution
If your work is geared more towards the visual spectrum, then the existing Mavic 2 Enterprise remains an excellent choice – with the additional optical and digital zoom offering up some great ways to maximise your aerial work. However, if you are operating in an industry where thermal data is just as important, if not more so, then a dedicated thermal imaging solution is a must.
There are more specialised (and more expensive) products out there if you’re looking for the best of the best, both in terms of the craft and interchangeable cameras/sensors (an M200 with an XT2 camera, for example), but for all but the most demanding of users, the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual offers up a great way to get started with the minimum of fuss and in a highly portable package.