If you are in the process of ramping your drone services offerings to include industrial (or enterprise) inspection services, you will need to consider what equipment you will need to perform these services. My top 3 recommendations for the best drones for industrial services are listed below:
- DJI Mavic Enterprise Advanced
- DJI Matrice 200 and 300 series
- DJI Matrice 600 series
A quick look back... The Drone Evolution
In the last 3 to 5 years, drone technology has practically exploded in the market, across a wide spectrum of interests and uses. In the early stages of development, drones were mostly considered a novelty and primarily used by enthusiasts or hobbyists, similar to other radio controlled (RC) aircraft.
We then hit a threshold where the technology had improved to a point that prompted the emergence of the use of drones in professional applications. At this point, we made a distinction between hobbyist and commercial drone operations.
Nowadays, the lines of distinction have become far more diverse in that we now have many different genre’s of drones; such as the following examples…
- FPV (first-person view) can include racing, acrobatic and stunt flying
- hobbyist and professional photo and video
- commercial real estate and other marketing type photo and videography
- Cinematic, LiDAR and other miscellaneous for the entertainment industry
- First Response (search and rescue)
- commercial inspections; such as rooftop, construction maintenance, etc.
- industrial inspections; powerline, PV solar, Wind Turbine
Again, just a short list to give some perspective of the many different types of drones and drone flight that literally continue to drive innovation and technology.
Are you ready to take your Drone Services to the next level?
Yet, so many business do not manage to grow. Why is that? Well, that depends. (Don’t you love it when someone says “that depends”?) Obviously there are variables, good and bad that can impact growth, and then hurdles to jump over, or knock down and push out of the way. For the sake of this conversation, I will stay on track and get to the point.
In the drone services industry, I have already mentioned there are different levels of service offerings. I use a simple logic to differentiate between “Entry Level” commercial services, and Industrial or Enterprise services. And believe it or not, expertise only plays a part of the equation, whereas your equipment plays an important role in extending your capabilities, or limiting your services offerings.
At the top of this article, I mentioned my top picks of the best drones for industrial services, however, I do want to clarify that I am brand agnostic when it comes to drones. DJI is definitely the leader, but I know that there are other drone manufacturers who offer phenomenal drone solutions.
So, how do I choose the best drone for my business?
I could respond very simply by answering you with the question, “What type of services are you interested in getting in to?”. On a personal note, when I reached this point in my Drone Journey, I already had several ideas for how I would like to ramp up. And I will also be transparent in saying that I found myself a little intimidated. If you are struggling with this, let me help you. Do not be intimidated. As I have taught you in my other trainings, you are only limited by your own imagination.
The same applies, if you are looking to move into higher end services, I encourage you to determine what you feel or believe will be the most interesting and fun. For me, I wanted to get into Solar. I have a particular passion for renewable energy and the idea of contributing to that effort would be fulfilling as well as potentially lucrative.
To continue with this example, I began researching what Solar companies needed in terms of aerial or drone inspections and discovered a wonderful list of opportunities. So then, I put together what equipment I would need to be able to meet those opportunities and began building out my business plan, and acquire the necessary equipment and skills to launch my solar inspection practice.
So really, that’s just how simple it is. Start with the particular industry you are most interested in, and build your practice around the specific requirements to fulfill the appropriate service offering.
I also highly recommend starting with one specific industry and give that practice time to mature organically before taking more than you can be successful delivering.
There are NO "Cookie Cutter" Solutions
The following are 3 of my recommended best drone for industrial services case studies...
As I mentioned earlier in this article, (and for the reasons I mentioned) I was particularly interested in the solar and renewable energy industry. That being said, that wasn’t the only reason I was considering solar. Again, full disclosure, I thought it would be one of the easier industrial drone services I could get in to.
The skills involved are rather simple and beyond standard drone operations, you really only need to know how to create an autonomous flight plan based on the client parameters for elevation, overlap and any other technical requirements.
Similar to PV Solar inspection, Powerline Inspection is also rather simple in logical terms. However, beyond the basic Visual and Thermal imagery, there are additional opportunities when performing powerline inspections that require industrial or enterprise grade drone equipment.
The skills involved are relatively simple, so long as you are already experienced with flying visual, thermal and Ortho, or Ortho-mosaic. Ortho allows for the imagery to be stitched together to create maps and models of the powerline network infrastructure. There is also the opportunity to provide asset inventory.
Drone operations for WTG (Wind Turbine Generator) inspections are somewhat more technically involved, but with a little bit of training (and practice) can quickly become an additional services offering. The equipment needed is also slightly different, but depending on the drone platform you choose, it may be as simple as adding a different camera. Thermal imagery will not always be a necessity, as the driver behind WTG is most often specific to the condition of the blades. WTG’s are usually positioned in harsh environmental conditions and the blades can take on serious wear and tear.
The skills involved are relatively simple, so long as you are already experienced with flying autonomous or semi-autonomous flight plans.
To address the above described industrial drone services, I offer 3 best drone for industrial services solutions:
I. The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced, the Mavic platform has mostly been considered to be “entry-level”, but the release of the Enterprise series takes this drone to the industrial level. Featuring dual sensors (cameras) that provide both standard [visual] and [thermal] sensors with the visual camera offering 48MP with 32x Digital Zoom and the thermal sensor delivering 640 x 512, which is the industry standard pixel resolution. These specs make this drone ideal for PV Solar inspection and Powerline inspection as well as well as many other visual/thermal services applications. Other features are available RTK for centimeter-level positioning. *note* I will speak to the importance of RTK further in this article.
II. The DJI Inspire 2, the Inspire platform has always been considered on the upper-end of the ‘Pro’sumer grade drones. The Inspire 1 and Inspire 2 are very popular in the entertainment and film-making industry. However, the Inspire, equipped with the Zenmuse XT2 gives you a powerful drone solution for performing PV Solar Inspections, Powerline and WInd Turbine inspections. As a personal recommendation, I would suggest going with the Inspire 2 over the Mavic platform for the following reasons: 1) Dual Battery – up to 27 minutes flight times. 2) up to 7km control range (this is important for other service offerings such as powerline inspections) 3) Versatile platform – can be utilized for many different uses.
III. The DJI Matrice 200 and 300, the Matrice series drones (unlike the Mavic and Inspire platforms) are categorized as enterprise grade and are the “Go-To” and most ideal drone solution for PV Solar, Powerline and Wind Turbine, as well as other industrial services. With it’s rugged construction, and strength when flying in windy conditions, the M200 and M300 series drones with RTK are engineered to hold flight patterns with centimeter-level precision.