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DJI's drones get thermal vision

11 Dec 2015

UAV specialist DJI to integrate FLIR's Tau 2 thermal imaging core in its new stabilized camera.

Two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from China-headquartered drone specialist DJI Innovations are to feature thermal imaging from early 2016, thanks to a technology development partnership with FLIR.

DJI’s new “Zenmuse XT” stabilized camera is based around the infrared imaging company’s Tau 2 thermal camera core. It features an uncooled microbolometer sensor that operates between 7.5 µm and 13.5 µm, and is already used in UAVs such as AeroVironment’s Puma and Lockheed Martin’s Desert Hawk III.

The Zenmuse XT is set to debut on DJI’s Inspire 1 and Matrice aerial platforms early next year. It will combine the drone firm’s stabilized micro-gimbal technology, said to have become a common platform for demanding aerial cinematography applications, with the Tau 2 thermal core.

DJI and FLIR say that the development will expand the range of options for commercial drone operators and infrastructure inspection. “Using FLIR thermal imaging on small drones brings new capabilities to dozens of commercial applications, including search and rescue, firefighting, agriculture, wildlife protection, and the inspection of energy infrastructure, bridges, and buildings,” they announced.

The long-wave infrared (LWIR) thermal view will allow operators to see through smoke, dust, and light fog, as well as in the dark, and to observe very small temperature differences that can be used to indicate the presence of people or animals, or monitor the health of mechanical and electrical equipment remotely.

DJI corporate video:

In the corporate video above Michael Perry, DJI’s director of strategic partnerships said that the collaboration with FLIR would “transform aerial imaging for the industry”. Jeff Frank, senior VP of FLIR’s global product strategy, added: “The Zenmuse XT provides users with superior thermal imagery, and sensitivity to better than a tenth of a degree.”

“By integrating the XT with DJI’s Inspire and Matrice airframes, we are giving people incredible precision and empowering them to put it into the sky almost instantly,” added Frank, with DJI CEO Frank Wang claiming:

"DJI's collaboration with FLIR in thermal imaging signals our intent to innovate in sectors where technology can be a game-changer. The result will be joint, best-in-class solutions that are intuitive and easy to use."

• FLIR recently acquired DVTEL, a developer of software and hardware technologies for advanced video surveillance, for approximately $92 million in cash. The New Jersey firm will add to FLIR's expertise in video management and analytics.

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