Every day, people use drones for a wide range of aerial photography, from weddings to surfing to motocross, and much more. Aerial imaging also has broad commercial uses in industries like transportation, real estate, construction, and others.
Now, with DJI’s new Zenmuse XT, based on FLIR’s Tau 2 camera core that can identify heat, even in total darkness, or through smoke, dust, or light fog, you can add firefighting, agriculture, inspection, search and rescue, and other industrial use cases to that list.
The Zenmuse XT will work with DJI’s high-end Inspire 1 and Matrice M100 drones, and integrate automatically with DJI’s gimbal stabilization system and its mobile app and across its Lightbridge live video downlink system. That means users can see real-time photos and video through the app that identify small variances in temperature that can indicate hot spots due to fire, the location of an injured person in a disaster area, or differences in crop health.
Thermal imaging is used widely by the military and law enforcement, but DJI decided not to promote the camera for such uses, a spokesperson told Fast Company, due to the concern some in the U.S. may object to a Chinese company selling technology in those fields.
The Zenmuse XT is expected to be released sometime during the first quarter of 2016. DJI did not announce pricing for the device. DJI and FLIR say they will also likely partner on future products, but did not say what those might be.
The new camera is by no means the only method for shooting aerial thermal imagery. Other companies offer third-party ways to combine the technology with drones, even some made by DJI. But to date, there has been no way to seamlessly integrate a system from FLIR with any of DJI’s drones.