Chinese drone manufacturer DJI is continuing its aggressive and relentless pursuit to rule the skies, this time giving its drones thermal-vision capabilities so they can see the invisible. Continuing its busy product release schedule, DJI has teamed up with thermal imaging specialists FLIR to develop a new camera called the DJI Zenmuse XT.
Designed to work seamlessly with the Inspire 1 and Matrice M100 drone platforms, the Zenmuse XT can be used in conjunction with existing on-board smarts, such as high resolution video feeds via Lightbridge, point of interest functions, the super steady gimbal system and return to home.
The camera uses the same gimbal mount as DJI's Zenmuse X3, X5 and X5R cameras, giving it 360 degrees of rotational movement and making it also potentially useful for the handheld Osmo camera as well, although DJI has not confirmed compatibility with Osmo.
Multi-spectrum cameras strapped to drones are not new. FLIR itself has been developing products independently in recent times. But this is the first time a product has been designed specifically to integrate into DJI products, which are already among the most advanced and popular on the market.
Generating images of 336 x 256 or 640 x 512 resolution, the new FLIR camera provides impressive sensitivity for a prosumer type product, with 50 mK infared scanning at 640/30 FPS or 336/60 FPS. DJI says these sensitivity levels are enough to provide accurate temperature measurements for proper analytics and strong telemetry data.
"Both cameras are available with four lens options to meet different business needs. Stabilized and controlled by a custom DJI gimbal, it provides smooth, clear imagery and 360 degrees of seamless rotational movement," DJI says.
But what's the point in having a multi-spectrum camera on your drone? Well, the applications are many and varied and, initially at least, have their most obvious appeal in the agricultural, firefighting and search and rescue fields. In basic terms, the FLIR camera allows normally invisible variations in temperature to be seen clearly by the user, thereby providing an indication of damaged equipment or buildings or the location of people.
"Adding thermal imaging as an additional sensor options for aerial platforms will open up new AND innovative uses for our users, whether it's gaining strategic insight into how their crops are growing or more efficiently understanding the spread of fires," says DJI founder and CEO Frank Wang.
Along with the new hardware, new image enhancement software will also be released to make the most of the new setup. DJI says the software smarts have been developed by FLIR and include: Digital Detail Enhancement (DDE), Smart Scene Optimization (SSO), which enhances extremes in bi-modal scenes, Active Contrast Enhancement (ACE) that adjusts scene contrast relative to its temperature difference, and Information Based HEQ (IBHEQ), which compresses complex image data to create the best quality image.
DJI has been on a bit of a product release frenzy in recent times. This year alone it has unveiled it's new high-end Inspire platform, a hand-help stabilized video camera called Osmo and a specific $US15,000 weed-spraying drone platform named Agras. Not to mention updates to its hugely popular and excellent Phantom and it's variations and a slew of minor products to compliment the big releases.
Pricing details are yet to be announced, but the Zenmuse XT is set for release in the first quarter of 2016.
The unit is introduced in the video below.