Drone Technology To The Rescue
Drones have turned out to be the saving grace for inspections in the energy industry, from solar and wind farms to power lines and everything in between. Modern drone technology has made it possible to inspect infrastructure that is difficult or impossible to reach by traditional methods of manual inspection.
Using drones for energy inspection in sectors like wind, solar, gas, and oil has become indispensable. This is primarily because traditional inspection methods can be hazardous affairs, not to mention time-consuming, costly and inefficient when compared to collecting drone data for the same inspections.
Energy companies clearly face a lot of challenges when it comes to inspecting their assets.
In answer to these challenges, a large number of innovative commercial drones have arrived on the market. Commercial drones are quickly becoming the new industry standard for inspections in the energy sector.
According to Forbes, there were close to 9,00,000 registered drones in the country in October 2021 and over 40 percent were being used for commercial purposes including aerial energy inspection.
The reasons for the enthusiastic adoption of this technology are clear. A proper inspection tool should check all the boxes in terms of safety, accuracy, stability, and ease of use. It should also have the potential to capture data while reducing or completely eliminating the need for human inspectors to expose themselves to dangerous situations or environments while also reducing overall operating costs and increasing efficiency.
The answer to all of these requirements is being delivered in the incredible tech that is consistently being introduced to the commercial drone market.
After speaking with countless professionals in commercial drone operations, we've compiled a list of what we believe are the current top models available in the drone industry when. So let's take a look at the best inspection drones for 2022.
DJI Matrice 300 RTK Energy & Inspection Package
Let's cut to the chase. The DJI Matrice 300 RTK is the ultimate industrial inspection drone.
It evolved from the popular DJI Matrice 200 v2 series and has elevated the inspection game with an incredible array of internal technology, various mission-specific payloads and compatible drone software. With this UAV, no inspection job is too big or small.
What Makes The Matrice 300 RTK The Energy Industry Standard Among Commercial Drones?
Advanced Drone Technology
With six-way positioning and obstacle avoidance sensors, 55 minutes of flight time, stellar in-flight stability, advanced AI capabilities and RTK functionality, the M300 has set the bar quite high for the drone industry.
The drone is incredibly safe when flying closer to buildings thanks to its multi-directional sensors and collision avoidance system.
Impressive Maximum Flight Time
With a lengthy total flight time of 55 minutes, inspection teams are assured that they can likely capture all the footage and complete the inspection in one flight. Moreover, if they are going to cover a large area, the M300 has hot-swappable batteries. Drone operators can replace the batteries without shutting the drone down, to ensure continuous operation with minimal downtime.
Even better, the batteries take only 60 minutes to charge. This means that with an extra set of batteries and the charging station, drone pilots can achieve continuous operation by hot-swapping and charging batteries as they become depleted, with a new charged set of batteries always at the ready.
With dual batteries, the redundancy provides an added layer of safety in the rare case if one battery fails, the other can help it return home.
Combining this kind of battery power with 1080 HD transmission, triple video channels, and a 9.3 transmission range, the M300 enables commercial drone operations to inspect more assets with greater accuracy and precision.
Many Payload Options To Support Business Efforts
Another unique feature of the DJI Matrice 300 RTK is its ability to carry multiple payloads simultaneously. This feature allows an incredible amount of customization for use case-specific configurations.
Available payload options include a variety of visible and thermal cameras with wide and zoom capabilities, spotlights, speakers, a gas detector, spectrum analyzer, and more. With a payload capacity of 5.9 lb and a maximum take-off weight of 19.8 lb, there's an unprecedented amount of flexibility.
Another unique payload feature is the option to top-mount a payload. This feature is indispensable in the detailed inspection of the underside of infrastructures like bridges or telecommunications towers.
The combination of visual and thermal cameras packaged in one gives the M300 the ability to detect what the human eye cannot see. The thermal imaging camera allows for the detection of heat signatures that might indicate hidden dangers like gas leaks at energy plants, overheating equipment, or malfunctioning panels during solar farm inspections. Moreover, the high-powered zoom ability increases the level of safety as drone pilots don't have to fly as close as before to get detailed images of an asset.
The ability to switch between thermal and visual views, as well as both simultaneously at the tap of a button is another valuable feature for many different types of drone services.
M300 - So Many Advantages
The M300 also features Smart Inspection which lets you create a waypoint inspection after a manual flight for future automated missions. Incorporating this feature into the inspection process is very useful when you need to do an aerial survey over a large area periodically while replicating the same images for comparison over time.
The advanced dual control feature can be useful in large missions that require coordination between two operators. With this functionality, a drone pilot can take off from point A and have another pilot at point B take control of the drone.
This is particularly useful in railroad inspections which require large areas to be covered in a coordinated way while always maintaining a visual line of sight on the drone. This also allows for collaboration with those who are not as familiar with flying a drone.
For example, a professional drone pilot can safely fly the aircraft while another inspector can operate the payload, sensors, or camera to ensure the proper elements are imaged correctly.
The Matrice 300 has been specifically designed to meet the needs of the most demanding industries. As such, it has proven to be a great asset for drone inspection of all kinds, from oil and gas, solar inspection, and wind farms. Manual inspection is slow, risky, and inefficient. Having the M300 in your arsenal can help your team increase efficiency and accuracy, while maintaining safety.
Autel EVO II 640T Roof Inspection Package
Autel has marketed the Autel 640T as the most compact and advanced thermal drone on the market. And they've got good reasons to call it so. It features multiple temperature measurement modes, an infrared analysis tool,10 thermal color palettes, and a host of other great features.
How Does The Autel EVO II 640T Work For Inspections?
The EVO II 640T uses an 8K Visual Spectrum Sensor and 640 Radiometric Thermal Sensor, giving inspectors the ability to perform multiple roof inspections in half the time it takes by conventional methods. As a part of this package, you'll also receive Autel's new Smart Controller, which provides you with the best possible situational awareness and control with a large, bright built-in screen.
With the combination of a flight time of 38 minutes and 8k video recording with 4X lossless zoom, it’s one of the most advanced roof inspection drones available. It also features an integrated high-resolution 640x512 radiometric thermal sensor that allows you to read heat signatures from up to 100 meters away.
Its thermal capability helps identify roof leaks and insulation issues by indicating hot spots and cold spots on the tops of buildings without having to climb up to gain physical access and risk injury. In terms of ease of use, this drone's controller comes with a 7.9 screen for easy viewing of thermal and visual spectrum images.
Part of what makes the Autel EVO 640T such a popular choice is the combination of ease of use and portability. Weighing only around three pounds and able to fold up, it is very easy to transport.
In a nutshell, the EVO II 640T is perfect for drone inspection of rooftops, chimneys, vents, skylights, and other difficult-to-reach places that traditional inspection tools may not be able to reach. It’s also useful for detecting cracks, corrosion, and other anomalies. EVO II 640T allows you to optimize your inspection workflow, enhance worker safety, and reduce inspection costs.
Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced Industrial Scout Package
The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced is the direct competitor to the Autel 640T. Made by DJI, the company behind our #1 pick the Matrice 300 RTK, the M2EA is a compact drone solution equipped with dual visual and thermal cameras.
It is capable of capturing high-quality aerial shots and thermal mapping, and can record 4k video at 30fps - all with an impressive max flight time of 31 minutes! It also offers optional RTK capabilities for increased position accuracy.
This makes the M2EA is a top choice for drone inspections across the energy industry.
How does the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced Work for Inspections?
The Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced industrial package has been designed keeping in mind the specific needs of industrial inspections. Whether it's inspections of power grids, construction sites, oil & gas, or agriculture, this is the complete package.
This drone model also comes with a 1/2 inch CMOS 48 MP visual camera and 640x512 radiometric thermal sensor. The visual camera has a 4x lossless zoom and up to 32X digital zoom allowing you to view fine details accurately from a safe distance.
This is particularly important in inspecting power lines, wind turbines, etc. as is the dual vision capabilities which can be deployed with the switch of a button.
This package also comes with DJI Care Enterprise - a comprehensive enterprise-level insurance plan.
Two Drones Are Better Than One
For organizations with larger or more demanding operational requirements, the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced Industrial Fleet Package is a compelling choice for those starting or expanding a drone program.
Having multiple drones for your team means redundancy and continuous operation - allowing your team to maximize their efficiency at work. Like the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced Industrial Scout Package, our M2EA Industrial Fleet Package includes all the accessories your team needs to optimize your drone inspection efficiency, right out of the gate.
DJI Matrice 30T
The Matrice 30T is DJI's newest Enterprise drone offering. This professional grade drone features a combination of a laser rangefinder with wide-angle, zoom, and thermal cameras, as well as enhanced obstacle detection sensors on all six sides of the aircraft- all with IP55 protection to weather the elements.
As a mid level drone halfway between the top level M300 and the powerful but compact Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced, the DJI Matrice 30T is set to become an extremely popular option for many applications of drones, including inspection.
How Can The Matrice 30T Work For Inspections?
Perhaps the most compelling feature of the M30T relevant to inspection work is its hybrid camera payload offering both visual and thermal data. The Matrice M30T features all of the capabilities of the H20T- a 48MP optical zoom, 12MP wide angle, and a 640×512 radiometric thermal camera - all in a single, fixed (non swappable) payload.
Having this kind of imaging capability in a single payload helps reduce the need for inspection teams to repeatedly swap out and attach different payloads depending on the use case.
The optical zoom and wide angle cameras ensure that inspectors can take crisp, high quality images - allowing inspectors to effectively assess the situation even at a distance. The radiometric 640x512 thermal camera allows the M30T's operators to capture and collect per pixel temperature data - crucial for helping to ensure that equipment or structures are within their optimal temperature ranges.
Reliable Flight In Tough Conditions
On all six sides of the aircraft, reliable and secure Dual-vision and ToF obstacle avoidance sensors are mounted; ensuring the aircraft's and your mission's safety even in complex environments.
Speaking of safety and environments, the M30T's previously mentioned IP55 rating ensures that this workhorse can power through your operations even in less than ideal weather - ensuring operational continuity in harsh environmental conditions.
With dual drone batteries, and hot-swappable capability like the M300, the M30 minimizes downtime even further with an impressive 41-minute max flight time combined with unique fast-charging capabilities.
Well, that's our take on the best inspection drone models for 2022. All of them are excellent choices for inspections to maximize energy production and power generation assets, power line inspections, as well as infrastructure of all kinds. If you need help deciding on the best drone for your needs, remember that we're always here to help. For any questions, contact DSLRPros today!