Videos and images captured by a drone are all worth seeing. The ability to set a drone whizzing through the sky in place of a massive sized helicopter has made sure that even law enforcement agencies and other enterprises adopt drones for a wide array of purposes. Drone thermal cameras show things that were once considered invisible. They are able to pick up heat signatures and display them in the fabulous orange and purple spectacle.
These powerful thermal cameras are being deployed by the military, law enforcement agencies, wildlife conservationists, and others. In this post, we will be exploring thermal cameras in reference to drones and share with you some of the world’s best combinations of drones and thermal cameras.
Drone Thermal cameras
The cameras that can capture and interpret infrared radiation are called drone thermal cameras. The camera then portrays the captured and interpreted information on a display screen similar to other cameras. To make it simple, a thermal camera picks up any object with heat signatures. This implies that any object that emits infrared radiation is visible through smoke, darkness and perhaps even walls.
It should be kept in mind that drone thermal cameras cannot see through a wall. It is possible that the heat source is sufficient to heat the wall but these cameras function in line of sight situations only. Seeing through the smoke is also not that easy if the smoke is dense enough to return as a solid block in the image.
There are numerous ways a pilot can get benefit through these thermal cameras. Law enforcement agencies are using thermal cameras to solve crimes and capture criminals. Hey, if you remember the blockbuster Sci-Fi flick “Predator”, the cool vision ability the alien had, is in our grasp! Thermal imaging can be used for a home inspection as you can scan the house for leaks in the winters which can ensure warm nights and save up a few bucks.
Thermal imaging has its own advantages when it comes to darkness and of course, we do not need to explain the benefits that one has using night vision technology.
There are three main components of a thermal camera: an IR lens system, a detector, and a video signal generator. The infrared radiation is focused towards the detector by the IR lens system which heats up the detector and produces a secondary reaction. The secondary reaction is grabbed by the video signal generator which goes onto produce an image based on the magnitude, location, and rate of the IR radiation striking the detector and so we get a blue to red smeared imagery as result!
Blue indicates colder areas and red portrays hot objects. This can be on a configured scale or the camera may let you configure the scope. For instance, a typical scale thermal reading of your house during the winter season is blue other than the leaks or warm spots such as windows or people. During the summers, using the same configuration, all you would see in the thermal imagery is smears of red all around. Professional industrial inspection teams may limit the scale to a few degrees for accurate temperature analysis.
The blue to red imagery is quite standard but there are other color schemes available as well. High contrast colors are required by some applications while others may require lesser focus on the heat signatures with more emphasis on the environment.
Thermal cameras and drones
Drone thermal cameras have become available for contemporary drones quite recently mainly due to the plummeting component and development costs. Flir is an entrenched market leader in the field and has come up with numerous top quality thermal cameras for drones. Some of these drones are manufactured by DJI, Parrot, Autel Robotics, and Yuneec and some of their models can have their inbuilt thermal cameras as well.
As the prices of the sophisticated thermal imaging technology have dropped, this has opened a window of opportunity for local government agencies to afford the coveted gear in a bid to bolster public safety. Search and rescue, reconnaissance and maintenance inspections are some of the major uses of thermal cameras. In the past, manned aircrafts or a human stationed on the ground may have been designated to perform these tasks. With the help of drones, you get to launch these cameras into the sky with minimal costs and get a closer look at the target building or bridge; thereby ensuring that maximum benefit is reaped from this high-end technology.
DJI Zenmuse XT2
FLIR teamed up with DJI at the AUVSI Xponential 2018, to integrate high end thermal cameras to advanced drones. Zenmuse is a high-quality thermal camera conjured by DJI and FLIR which has been developed after the success of the famous Zenmuse XT thermal camera.
This camera enables the pilots to capture both infrared imagery as well as 4K UHD video footage at the same time based on the drone’s settings. The DJI Zenmuse XT2 camera is supported by DJI’s M200 and M600 Pro series drones.
Here is a cool video showing the M210 drone equipped with the Zenmuse XT2 camera in action:
FLIR Duo Pro R
In addition to collaborating with drone manufacturers, FLIR also excels at producing thermal cameras of their own. With a market share of about 37% of consumer purchases, FLIR brings to you FLIR Duo Pro R, a thermal camera for drones. Similar to the DJI Zenmuse XT2 thermal camera, the FLIR Duo Pro R also lets the pilot view thermal imagery alongside 4K UHD video footage and can be used with a companion smartphone application for easy configuration and usage. It is also compatible with any PWM and MavLink systems. The FLIR Dupo Pro R is available for $5199.
A dual camera system, the Yuneec CGOET, comprises a low light, full HD camera alongside a thermal camera for capturing infrared imagery. Utilizing an unbranded thermal camera sensor, the camera is compatible with Yuneec’s H250 commercial drone. It can be had for just $1499.
Parrot Bebop Pro Thermal
The Parrot Bebop Pro Thermal kit consists of a Parrot Bebop drone in addition to a FLIR One Pro thermal camera. The camera consists of a full HD camera alongside a thermal one that enables the pilots to capture both infrared imagery as well as 4K UHD video footage at the same time based on the drone’s settings. The drone along with the thermal camera have been engineered primarily for the construction and real estate industries as they allow for seamless inspection at an affordable price. The FLIR One Pro thermal camera is also compatible with smartphones which allows it to be used with the Parrot Bebop Pro and any USB C smartphone that provides support for the FLIR One application.
Once its shipping starts, the drone and thermal camera kit will be available for $1500.
Workswell WIRIS 2nd gen
WIRIS is another enterprise that excels at producing top notch thermal cameras for inspection purposes. The Workswell WIRIS 2nd gen is also loaded with a visual camera, a detachable lens system and an infrared camera. The user can see both the 4K UHD video and the infrared imagery on the camera at the same time. The Workswell WIRIS 2nd gen can be had as a dedicated device or in conjunction with the DJI M600 commercial drone. The camera is also compatible with any conventional RC radio transmitter.
The Workswell WIRIS 2nd gen can be had for $4,600.
FLIR Vue (Pro R)
Coming with a wide array of lens settings and speeds, the FLIR Vue (Pro R) offers 336 models with lower resolution and 640 models with a higher one. You can gets ranging between 6.8mm and 19mm. It can be used as a dedicated camera or along with Mavlink or PWM controls.
The price of the FLIR Vue (Pro R) ranges between $2999 and $4699 based on the selection of lens and sensors.
Bonus: FLIR Duo
FLIR Duo and the matching FLIR Duo R (Radiometric model) were one of the forbearers in the field of thermal cameras. Similar to the GoPro ready drones, the FLIR Duo is almost of the same size and shape, comes with a similar I/O port configuration, and functions similar to an action camera. FLIR Duo drone thermal cameras have been able to make a niche for themselves in the thermal camera market in the same way as the GoPro action cameras have done for themselves. It may not be the best one around, but it certainly is one of the most affordable ones considering its size and features.
It can be had on Amazon for just $948.
That’s it folks! This was a quick walk through the thermal cameras and a list of some of the best drones with thermal cameras available out there. Do you really believe that the commercial market will supersede the consumer and professional market? What do you think about thermal cameras? Do not hesitate to share with us your thoughts and experiences by dropping a comment in the comments section below!