In this webinar, two Skyward Professional Services consultants give an essential overview of two advanced drone platforms and answer questions about these aircraft.
Click here to watch the recording and download the slides, or read the transcript below.
Sally Huynh (00:00)
Hi everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar and Skyward’s first virtual training on Drone Fundamentals 101: DJI Inspire and Matrice 210. My name is Sally, Senior Customer Marketing Manager here at Skyward, and I will be your moderator for today’s training, which is being brought to you fully remote as all of Skyward’s employees are working from home and doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, Skyward, like Verizon, is still here, and we are ready. We are fully prepared to continue to support your drone operations during this time.
We know many of you are serving essential services or critical infrastructure, and leveraging technology has never been more important. So keep an eye out for communications from the Skyward team on how we will continue to serve you and offer more educational content like today’s webinar. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to our team through the skyward.io website.
We are very fortunate today to have two Skyward consultants who are experts in the drone industry. They will be sharing their knowledge and insights for today’s training. First off, I’d like to introduce Rodney Murray all the way from the Midwest. Welcome Rodney, and tell us more about yourself.
Rodney Murray (01:27)
Well, thanks Sally. Yes, we just had snow yesterday and I think it’s supposed to be spring, but tell the weatherman. But yes, I’ve been in the network infrastructure industry and communication industry for 30-plus years, and working as a drone service provider, we do a lot in telecom. We’re also active members of NATE, National Association of Tower Erectors, and sit on the subcommittee for NATE helping direct the guidance for UAV specifics in the telecom industry. We also are licensed 107 pilots, certified climbing instructors, and also been working with Skyward now since last year.
Sally Huynh (2:10)
Thanks Rodney, I’m glad to have you on today. And also on our panel is Paul Barr from Canada. Paul, thanks for joining us. Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself and maybe is there any snow compared to Rodney that he’s receiving?
Paul Baur (02:26)
Thanks so much, Sally. Fortunately not, it’s looking very spring-slash-summery right now, which is I think a little bit more challenging to look at especially with the given conditions in the world, but I’ll take that over rain any day.
Yeah, so a little bit of my background is, I’ve been in the drone industry since 2012 as a drone service provider and regulatory consultant. I’ve actually been part of the Skyward Professional Services Team since 2015, and I currently hold an advanced operator’s license with a flight review rating from Transport Canada and I’m also Part 107 certified in the U S.
Sally Huynh (03:09)
Thanks Paul. In addition to both these gentlemen, we have a few Skyward team members with us as well. Feel free to reach out to them in the chat and Q&A box to ask questions or maybe even share your experiences with other people on this webinar. Just be sure to select all panelists and attendees. And we’ll reserve some time at the end to address some of the questions live in addition to the ones we received ahead of time. Afterwards, we’ll send out a recording and this presentation for you to download.
I am so thrilled for this webinar because we have customers that are flying Mavics and they’re thinking, “Maybe we’re ready to upgrade our aircraft to do more.” Oftentimes that next level is deciding between either the Inspire 2 or the M210, so for today we’ll highlight both of these airframes and their specs, limitations, accessories, and common applications, and we’ll also address the most common questions we get for these two as well. I do want to preface that we do not represent DJI, nor do we have information on their product roadmap or updates regarding their drones. All right, so let’s dive in. Paul, why don’t you start us off with the Inspire 2.
Paul Baur (04:35)
Absolutely. Before we get started on the Inspire 2, I’d just quickly like to mention obviously the Inspire 1, which was obviously the first version of that. Inspire 1 is probably one of my favorite drones. I actually still have a couple of them, and it was just a commercial workhorse. It was the first DJI film making drone that integrated the HD video with a 360° rotating gimbal and the 4K camera system, and also allowed the XT thermal imaging camera to be attached onto them so it’s definitely still one of my favorites. But the Inspire 2 did some upgrades on that with the improved image processing system, which was upgraded to the CineCore 2.1, and that allows 6K capability as well as 5.2K Apple ProRes when you use that X7 camera, and we’ll take a look at some of those specifications on a later slide as well.
So let’s take a look at some of the features of the Inspire 2. As mentioned, that upgraded image processing system, the flight battery is actually the TB50, it’s a dual battery system, maximum flight time is 27 minutes, and it also allows for self-heating technology which obviously, especially where I’m living in the winter time, that’s obviously a very valuable feature to be able to have. The obstacle avoidance, it allows two directions of obstacle avoidance with a range of 30 meters. It also has a built-in sensor redundancies. As far as the flight modes, obviously it’s everything you would expect from DJI aircraft with the intelligent flight modes as well as the TapFly, ActiveTrack, the Spotlight Pro and the Smart Return-to-Home system as well. That retractable landing gear, again, it just allows for that 360° obstruction free gimbal rotation.
So let’s take a look at what typically comes in the box of the Inspire 2 which is the foam case, two sets of propellers and two sets of batteries, obviously, the vision calibration plate and a charging hub that charges four batteries at once. DJI obviously offers a variety of packages which allows for those upgraded cameras which we’ll visit shortly.
Some of the aircraft specifications, the weight of 7.58 pounds so it’s quite a substantial aircraft with flight times again of 23 to 27 minutes. I think one of the biggest features with the speed is the fact that it can go zero to 50 miles per hour in just five seconds which is pretty impressive.
If we take a look at the charging hub that comes with the Inspire 2, I guess an important thing to note with the charging hub for the Inspire 2 is that it does charge four batteries at once, but it’s not active charging all four batteries at the same time. So that means it will take the battery that has the highest voltage and charge that first before moving on to the next battery. So you’re looking between 90 minutes for two batteries and 180 minutes if you’re charging four batteries.
With the variety of camera systems that we have, so we have a number of packages that offer the different cameras that are on-board so you have the Inspire 2 standard package which has the X4S with 4K and 60 frames per second, and it does have that older CineCore 2.0 image processing system that was on the Inspire 1, that just allowed I guess for much better entry level for anyone looking to upgrade from one aircraft. The Inspire 2 Professional carrier the X5S camera with that upgraded 2.1 sensor, and it does have the ability to shoot 20.8-megapixel stills, 4K at 60 frames per second as well.
The Inspire 2 premium and cinema premium packages though does have that X7 camera which is a super nice camera, and it does allow the range of 14 stops, for instance, and it does bring the S35 image sensor and the 6K capability as well. With the cinema premium package, you do get the Cendence controller and two CrystalSky 7.85 inch screens, which is super handy when you’re looking to capture a professional shot.
It’s also important to note that at Skyward we do also offer customized operations packages, and that includes ruggedized cases, variety of payloads, safety equipment, regulatory consulting, and training options as well, which is obviously everything you need to stand up your drone operation from the ground up. So that covers the Inspire 2.
Some of the limitations, I really dislike the word “limitation” so I will say these are “considerations.” Obviously you do have a limited payload selection with no option for those advanced or specialized payloads like the XT thermal imaging for instance, on the Inspire 1. The portability, obviously it’s on the larger side of the DJI aircraft scale and it does have that retractable landing gear and I would say that it is a potential point of failure for long-term use, although as mentioned, I do have those very old Inspire 1s that are still kicking around, and I have had very little issues with those.
It requires two batteries. I would say that’s a very small consideration, I would say that the addition of the redundancy and the heat capabilities really outweighs any challenges of having that two-battery system. Use cases, again, with most drones you’re probably looking, if you have high definition still capability or high definition video capability, you’re always going to be looking at these sorts of use cases: photography, cinematography, inspection work, photogrammetry, real estate — they all have the same level of requirements as far as high definition imaging.
Sally Huynh (11:31)
All right, thanks Paul, especially the throwback with the Inspire 1 comparison, that was really informative. And now that we have the basics down with the Inspire 2, let’s move on to the M200 series. Rodney, you’re up next.
Rodney Murray (11:46)
Absolutely. So the Matrice 200 series offers three versions of that aircraft: the Matrice 200, the Matrice 210, and the Matrice 210 RTK. The airframes are virtually the same on all of these versions, the flight performance is identical except for when you compare the differences in payloads and all use the DJI Pilot app. However, you can also use the DJI GO app in a single gimbal operation so the biggest differences are really the gimbal options in the 210 and then the RTK options, which is the 210 plus the RTK.
So for today’s webinar, we’re just going to focus on the Matrice 210. So I think one of the selling factors of the Matrice 210 is that this was specifically designed as an enterprise drone and it was built from the ground up with that in mind. So one of, I think, the key features is that closed-shell design. What that basically means is it’s got an IP rating of 43, which is ingress protection. Another way of saying it simply is, it’s whether resistant. I wouldn’t call it weatherproof, but I would definitely call it weather resistant. It can tolerate moisture — a lot of the lower-end drones use air pulled over the circuitry and the wires to cool it and so if that air is wet, that could adversely affect your drone operation, whereas this is closed-shell, which will help protect the electronics inside.
Also has big upgraded motors to carry a little bit heavier lift. I wouldn’t consider it a heavy lift drone, but it’s definitely beefier than some of the smaller drones. I think they spent a lot of time really with these internal sensors and it’s got quite a few and it’s a long, long list so I won’t go through them all. But basically there’s a lot of redundancy built into this platform: dual IMUs, dual barometers, the dual redundant battery system as Paul mentioned on the Inspire, this also has the heating, so it’s ideal for colder weather where cold weather does affect the LiPo batteries. And then I think the big selling point on the 210 is the multi-gimbal options so you really have three different gimbal options, we’ll go into some of that in the payloads here down the road.
And another key feature I think that distinguishes this from the Inspire 2 is you get an additional battery option. So you can fly on the TB50 batteries like the Inspire 2, but you can also upgrade to a beefier battery, the TB55, that will give you a max flight time of 38 minutes. Again, the payload capacity is not what I would consider a heavier-lift drone, but it does handle about two kilos or roughly three pounds. And then it has all the great features that DJI puts into their drones with auto sensing and obstacle avoidance and infrared, and this one also has an FPV camera, which is separate from what is on the payload.
So what comes in the kit? Ah, good question! it depends. So one thing you’ll learn real quickly when you start advancing into the enterprise drone systems is you get a lot more options. And so I would say a basic kit comes with these things: aircraft, remote controller, I will tell you it does have a different remote controller if you’re used to flying on some of the other systems, this is the Cendence controller. I really do like it, it has some really cool features. It’s got a few more buttons if you’re not used to it so that part takes a little bit getting used to.
It also gives you the CrystalSky which is DJI’s monitor, and that has some really nice features, don’t have time to get into all of that. I typically find that people either love it or they hate it. It is an Android-based system, but that gives you an option, it has a really clean interface to mounting it and that actually has a separate battery option with the WB37.
So again, you get propellers, you get the TB50 batteries, you can upgrade, like I said. You get the same charging platform that you get in the Inspire 2. You can charge both the TB50 and the 55 batteries. They are smart batteries, which is wonderful. So it doesn’t charge all the batteries at once, but what it does is it senses what battery has the most charge and starts with that in order to get your battery off the charger quicker. And then a case and a couple of gimbals. Depending on how you configure your gimbals in your payload that’s where you start to see a lot of change.
The next slide. Okay. On specification there’s a lot. I didn’t want to go into every single thing because it is a lot, but basically the dimensions you can see there unfolded with landing gear included is roughly 35 inches by 35 inches by 15. The max takeoff weight, so that’s the max takeoff weight is 13 and a half pounds depending on the weight of the payload. Like I mentioned, the max payload is roughly three pounds. So you notice the operating temperature here, minus four Fahrenheit to 122° Fahrenheit, so it’s a much more weather tolerant drone,. and I mentioned the IP43 rating already.
A couple other things that I don’t have on this slide, just specifications I think that are important to point out, it does have the DJI flight autonomy like I mentioned, the FPV camera, the obstacle avoidance and the precision hovering. I think that’s really great that DJI offers those because it does make it easier to fly. Also this one includes OccuSync 2.0, which is a little bit of a deviation from Lightbridge, but it’s got some very cool features I think worth mentioning. Mainly it allows DJI to upgrade this without getting into the hardware piece of it.
And then one of the key features I think are important is it has the DJI AirSense, which has that ADS-B receiver which is that sense-and-avoid aircraft feature that they’re starting to put in all their drones now.
Okay, we talked about the batteries a little bit. The main difference really is you get a few more milliamps on the capacity, it’s almost double. Same voltage output, same type of battery, same connector, and the weight is slightly more with the TB55, but you do just get a little bit more runtime with that. But one thing I will point out is even though the connector is the same and essentially the voltage and all that is the same, the TB55s won’t physically fit on the Inspire 2 so what happens is the retractable landing gear run into it. So, where you can run the TB50 on the TB55 batteries on the Matrice, you can only run the TB50 on the Inspire.
Okay. I talked about the charger a little bit, just one other point to mention as you can also plug in your controller with this so the batteries just snap on there and then they charge in a sequence. That is giving you the ultimate and optimal charging sequence possible.
So this is the big discussion point. I’m not going to get into every nook and cranny of every camera, but this is some of your options. Like the Inspire 2 you do get the X4, X5, X7 options, but one of the big things I think a lot of people like is the XT2, which is essentially an X4S camera with the XT FLIR thermal camera built into it. And you get the Z30 camera which gives you that optical zoom, which is great if you need to get into critical infrastructure that might be difficult to fly around. And then also the gimbals, I like the fact that you can use this as an upward gimbal which mounts on top, or you can do a dual gimbal. There are some nuances in that, and I would just say that make sure you do your homework with that because, just for instance, you can’t fly the upward gimbal and the downward gimbal at the same time, you have to swap them out. And on the dual gimbal there are some configurations where only the thermal camera will fit into the option port 2 or the Z30 camera. So there are just a few little nuances there. You can also get the single gimbal for the M210.
So limitations, I think max payload really is one if you’re trying to find that drone that might do a heavier lift, but you’re still really limited to about three pounds. And I think I like Paul’s comment about limitations, these are more like considerations than limitations. They were designed specifically for certain types of use cases, so it’s not an end-all-be-all drone. Like I mentioned, the upward gimbal and downward gimbal, you can’t use them in combination, but you can swap them out and the position too. And then one other thing if you’re not familiar with DJI Pilot, to use that thermal camera, you have to use Pilot or XT Pro, which are DJI apps you can download for free. And then in some cases you do have some limited intelligent flight modes so you just have to check your flight mission to make sure.
Use cases, there’s many so I try to just pick out a few that people might be interested in. Bridge inspections, I think, is a big selling point for this drone because of the upward facing drone, or excuse me, upward facing gimbal. You can literally fly under a bridge and look straight up, whereas many drones just have the downward facing or forward facing gimbal, you get some upward tilt on the camera, but you’re eventually going to see the bottom of the drone or you’re going to be limited to how far you can tilt the gimbal up. So this I think is a great example use case for it.
One thing I will say just with bridge inspections is just make sure when you’re flying under you recognize the fact that your GPS will probably get blocked by the bridge. Transmission towers is another great example, because of the zoom camera capabilities where you’re picking up electronic magnetic forces coming off of the transmission towers that could interfere, although this is very tolerant to that, but that radio frequency could give you some problems. So having the ability to stay far away safely at a safe distance and use the zoom is a big selling point. And then again, I think with the thermal, there’s many things you can talk about, water tower inspections I think is one and SAR, Search And Rescue operations is another one. So those just a few use cases for this drone.
Sally Huynh (23:06)
Thanks Rodney for the insight. I’m loving the amount of chatter that’s going in the chat and Q&A box. Again, just a reminder for everyone, if you have an answer to someone’s question, please select “all panelists and attendees” and share your experiences.
So speaking of questions, now that we know a little bit more about the Inspire 2 and the M210, let’s address some of the two most common questions. And so this first question we get most often, how do I decide which aircraft and payload is right for me? Paul, I think you should take this one.
Paul Baur (23:45)
Yeah, absolutely. So I see the typical approach is people fall in love with a particular drone and then they try and fit it into a variety of use cases, where I would recommend starting from the end process. What is it that you’re looking to achieve, and what is the level of quality that you’re looking to achieve doing that with, and then reverse engineer that and start fitting the specifications of the aircraft more into the use case. So don’t go out there and buy that Mavic and then want to strap on a LIDAR system. It just makes sense to start from the back and work your way forward, sorry, from the end and work your way to the start again.
Sally Huynh (24:38)
Right. And then because both of these aircraft are larger and more expensive than the consumer drones you can get off the shelf, we also get the second question quite frequently: is certification or training required? Rodney maybe can speak to this one.
Rodney Murray (24:59)
Sure. No to the certification question. There is no additional FAA requirement to fly it. It fits under the under 55 pound category so your Part 107 is adequate for that. But as far as training requirement, again, not necessarily required, I think I would say strongly recommended. These aircrafts do add a bit more complexity, they’re obviously bigger than your typical Mavic or Phantom or Skydio, etc, but you can change out the payloads and change out the batteries, especially on the M200 series, and so that can affect flight operations and use case obviously. So not required, but highly suggested.
Sally Huynh (25:47)
So today’s complimentary training is only a small offering that Skyward’s Professional Services Team provides. We do offer an extensive version for both the Inspire and the M200 series which covers the aircraft in more detail, and it includes hands-on flight training. So in addition, Skyward’s Professional Services Team could also help you develop policies and procedures, offer waiver and regulatory support, and test use cases or proof of concepts. And if you’re interested in any of these services, let us know by answering our next poll question.
You can select Aviation Management Platform, maybe those professional services that was mentioned in the previous slide, hardware procurement, or you’re just not ready. We’ll be sure to reach out and get in contact with you after this webinar. I do want to note that travel is temporarily suspended for Skyward due to the pandemic, but like I mentioned before, we’re here to help, even if that means the help is done virtually.
And while you’re completing out that poll question, I’d like to talk a little bit more about Skyward if you’ve never heard of us. We are more than just professional services or a software platform. Skyward helps companies and enterprises use drones to gather critical, actionable data quickly, safely and efficiently. We’ve already talked about our suite of drone consulting services with the current state of the shutdown due to recent events, now could actually be a great time to build up your program standards while field work is on pause.
It’s also a good chance to have pilots take an online course to prep for Part 107 certification or re-certification. In addition, Skyward also offers an Aviation Management Software Platform, which provides an airspace intelligence map for drones as well as near-instant access to controlled airspace with LAANC and a whole lot of other tools for planning operations, logging flights, operating in the field, and managing personnel and aircraft. And finally, Skyward conducts research and development for connected drones through our Aviation Development Centers.
As a Verizon company, we have access to the nation’s number one cellular network, and we can work with our customers and partners to test and deploy connected drones over 4G LTE and 5G. And while our Aviation Development Center is closed today due to the circumstances, we would be happy to discuss strategic partnerships for enterprise connectivity in the future.
So that wraps up the main content. Let’s open it up for Q&A because I know we’ve got a lot of them. Thank you so much to those who submitted your questions prior to this webinar — we received over 70!
Again, if we run out of time and do not get to your question, our team will do our best to follow up with you after today’s webinar. I do want to preface again, that we do not represent DJI, nor do we have information about their product roadmap or updates regarding their drones. A lot of the answers that Paul and Rodney will provide are based on their experiences.
All right. So let’s start with the first one. This came in quite a quite a few times. Thoughts on the upcoming Matrice 300 series and a possible Phantom 5. Rodney, maybe I think this is right up your alley.
Rodney Murray (29:33)
Okay. That’s a great question. So right now the rumor mill has been hinting that the 300 would come out at the end of April, but I think with the current situation that could be delayed. So I would say that we’ll see a 300 on the market. I think for sure it’s safe to say we’ll see it in 2020, so stay tuned for that, and of course we’ll be ready for that when it hits the market.
As far as Phantom 5 goes, you’ve seen rumors floating around for that drone for I think it may be even two years — it’s been a number of years at least and they’re kind of persistent — but from our industry connections and people that are close to DJI, it seems like it’s a dead platform and so I don’t think that DJI has plans to invest anymore in it. We could be all surprised by that because DJI has a way of not letting all their cards be known. So I would say if it’s not officially from DJI, then it’s just as good as every other rumor on the market.
Sally Huynh (30:43)
All right. Next question, how low can you go in drone specifications or price and still have a UAV that can have separate camera controls? What models can do that at a reasonable price point?
Paul Baur (30:59)
Yeah, so I’ll take that one. The Inspire 2 is obviously a great platform, especially for looking at the Inspire 2 standard if that’s the only real requirement is to have that dual operator capability. There’s obviously the Matrice 200 series and the Matrice 600 series if you’re looking to do that. But you could also pick up like a DJI Inspire 1 for instance and still get that dual operator capability and you still have the ability to use that X5 camera. I know for a fact just because I have those Inspire 1s, parts are still being sold so it is a viable solution if you’re looking to keep the cost point really low.
Sally Huynh (31:49)
All right. How should we address security concerns with the use of Chinese drones from critical infrastructure applications? And actually, this was another common question that we received in, and I just want to say that every company’s security protocols will be different, and you should follow the ones where you work, follow the ones that are laid out by your company. It’s always important for your organization to determine your data security plan and risk assessment on all equipment involved in data capture, whether it be drones or cell phones or other devices.
And if flying a specific brand or model can’t meet your internal requirements, reach out to us. The Skyward team can work with you on recommendations for alternatives as well as best practices for security, like using Skyward InFlight, our own mobile GCS system.
All right. So what are some preventative maintenance you would recommend or how would you extend the motor and prop longevity in use and storage?
Paul Baur (32:59)
Yeah, that’s another great question and actually one that I get quite a bit as well. The main thing is, just make sure that you’re removing those propellers once you are done conducting flight operations, that’s the biggest one and I see people bending and putting stress on those propellers quite easily doing that, so obviously look for signs of chips and discoloration on the propeller — that could be the dead giveaway of fatigue or anything that may be going wrong with that propeller.
And obviously for the motors, it’s very important to understand that brushless motors have magnets in them, so anytime you’re operating in an area where there may be some sand, some dirt, some gravel, any debris that could actually magnetically be sucked into the motor, and so it’s just a very good practice to get into once you’ve completed doing your flight operation is to manually turn those motors once everything is powered down and you’ve taken those propellers off. Just make sure that you’re manually turning those motors and getting rid of any debris that’s in there and you can just use some compressed air to blow out any debris that may be lodged in there, but that’ll just keep the motors from overheating or seizing when you’re using them especially in those warmer summer months.
Sally Huynh (34:22)
Yeah, great. Thank you. Next question. Will either the DJI Inspire or the M200 series, do either of these carry a LIDAR sensor?
Rodney Murray (34:39)
Yeah, I’ll take that question. We get that question a lot. It’s really dependent on the manufacturer of the LIDAR system. I do know of several third-party companies that offer LIDAR systems for the Matrice 200 series drones. DJI doesn’t offer them, but you’d have to check and I would recommend that you check with the vendor that you’re looking at purchasing that payload from to see what they’re compatible with, because it’s a payload issue that has to do with weight and interface and integration and gimbal. So typically though I would say just as a rule of thumb, you tend to see LIDAR systems on the heavier lift drones like the M600, for example, if you’re wanting to stay inside the DJI family, but the main thing is check with the vendor to see which drones they support.
Sally Huynh (35:38)
Next question and again, everyone, and these are great questions, please keep them coming, we’ll try to get to as many as we can. What are some of the most common failure points, incident discussions, and mitigation?
Paul Baur (35:55)
Oh, this one’s a loaded one. Okay. So I would say that some of the biggest failure points-
Sally Huynh (35:59)
I have confidence in you Paul.
Paul Baur (36:02)
You might change your mind after this. I would say that one of the most common failure points starts well before the flight operation itself, and that’s due to lack of adequate flight planning. That’s understanding your airspace and preparing a site survey and understanding is there a cell phone tower where I’m operating, is that going to cause some interference with my GPS system and so on. So I would say that 80% of your effort should be spent in the planning phase, and if you’ve done it correctly, then that phase will always seem like a much lighter lift than it will be typically if you don’t.
As for the aircraft itself, I would say that the biggest failure point is firmware. The amount of times, even myself I’ve done everything on that 80% flight planning part and that includes making sure that my aircraft is on the latest firmware, and then you get out to the field and sure enough the firmware has been updated or the firmware is mismatched and so now you have video feed issues between the aircraft and the controller. And if you’re out there and you have no data coverage, downloading that firmware can be a real pain.
Then obviously there’s the GPS-related issues. Again, understanding that environment that you’re operating in and making sure that you’re taking those steps, or even just knowing that you’re going to be expecting those GPS issues is something that can save the flight operation period.
Another one is the propellers. We mentioned before about how to look after those propellers and what some of those issues are. I wouldn’t look at the propeller’s failing point as my propeller is going to explode and the drone is going to fall out of the sky. I would more look at it as if you have chips and issues with the propeller, the propeller is not working efficiently and it’s causing vibrations, it’s going to be causing those vibrations throughout the system so that includes the gimbal and the cameras. So now you’ve spent five hours or three hours or whatever it is out in the field capturing this data just to get back to the office and realize that all the images are blurry, your video doesn’t look great. So the biggest cost in that will be having crews then have to go back out to a site and recapture all those images and re-fly the flight operations.
Sally Huynh (38:47)
Yeah. Thanks Paul. I have to agree with everything that you said, especially when it comes to the importance of preflight planning, and in Skyward we do offer checklists and we always recommend to our customers to use those checklists before, during, and after any flight to make sure that they have everything that they need, because you talk about firmware and I just flew my drone yesterday and I was like, “Oh no, I didn’t have the former updated.” So I had to go back to get connected to wi-fi and get that updated. So that’s a great tip, thank you.
Next question, do the airframes have integrated use with full LIDAR Topobathy, and how does that compare to photogrammetry? Sorry, I butchered that word really bad, but Rodney, I think you would be a great on that one.
Rodney Murray (39:55)
I thought this was a fundamental webinar.
Sally Huynh (39:58)
I know, I thought so too!
Rodney Murray (40:00)
That’s a deep subject. Bathymetric LIDAR is a more complex subject matter than we probably have time to go into and photogrammetry is for that matter. Just as a whole to sort of answer the question, the airframes could support it. But like my previous answer, I would defer to the vendor because again, a Bathymetric LIDAR system is going to be a custom payload. It’s not something DJI offers and so you’re going to really have to question the vendor of that system to see if they support those drones. My guess is they will say no on the Matrice 210. They’ll probably recommend a heavier lift drone just because of the system.
But the field of LIDAR, it’s been around for a long, long time. And topographic LIDAR systems mounted to airplanes have been around forever. But the technology is getting smaller and better and more cost effective because they can be very expensive systems. So if you’re asking LIDAR questions and my assumption is you have a base of LIDAR experience there. And so we do have a data scientist on staff that we could defer and refer questions like that to as far as which is better for a use case.
There are different technologies. Photogrammetry obviously is using optics and LIDAR is using lasers and so they’re very different. And so I think we would want to study the use case and make a recommendation. But again, our data scientists would be… It’s a little bit above my pay grade, frankly, so I would probably defer to one of them.
Sally Huynh (41:50)
All right, thank you. And then this next question doesn’t have anything to do with either of the aircraft, but we did receive it, and I thought it would be great to answer. Where do you see the reach of LAANC being in the next five to 10 years as it continues to evolve? And in case anyone on this webinar does not know what LAANC is, it stands for Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability. Greater efficiency has always been one of the central promises of commercial drones, and I think LAANC has contributed to that. The old 90-day authorization process was clearly not efficient, so LAANC was the first building block to safe access to controlled airspace.
And then we have Remote ID, which is the next building block. We cannot safely integrate drones into the national airspace without it. So BVLOS, Beyond Visual Line of Sight flights at scale are on hold until we have Remote ID regulation. And because knowing who is flying is foundational to safety and security, I think both LAANC and Remote ID are the pillars for a universal traffic management system. And that’s how I see the evolution, like LAANC is a piece of that puzzle to a much larger picture.
Next question, what is the best way to update the firmware for DJI drones? So we talked about what you should do before you fly, update your firmware before you go out in the field, but what’s the best way to update the firmware for DJI drones. Paul maybe you can take that one.
Paul Baur (43:42)
Yeah, I’ll happily take that one. I would honestly recommend, what I do is I plug the aircraft in and it’ll prompt me whether there’s a firmware update and I just follow those instructions. But otherwise DJI does have the DJI assistant, which allows you to plug the aircraft into the computer and then you can force updates through there as well. So I would definitely follow the manufacturer’s recommendation on that. The last thing you want to do is really brick yourself out of the aircraft.
Sally Huynh (44:15)
Great. And then what DJI drone can be adapted to use infrared and other specialized equipment?
Rodney Murray (44:25)
Oh, we’re getting a lot of those questions, aren’t we? Yeah, so the thing with the DJI family of products, they gear them towards, like the Inspire is really geared for photography, the Matrice series are geared for more enterprise inspection level things so you do have a bit more flexibility in the Matrice 210. However, it is still very limited to what is currently on the market because DJI only offers so many payloads, mostly camera and thermal, and then anything outside that you’re going to have to go to a third-party vendor that makes those payloads.
And again, like my previous answer, it depends on the vendor. Some support it, and that’s true with parachute recovery systems and other things like that that can be added to the drone. So you really need to talk to the manufacturer of that particular payload or sensor to see what they are compatible with. Because there’s a question of payload and how you mount it then there’s a question of how do you power it and then the question of how do you interface if you’re using a multi-spectral camera. You’re going to need a piece of software to interface with that. So again, I’d defer to the vendor that makes the sensor and the payload and they can tell you what drones they support.
Sally Huynh (45:50)
Great. And then can the M200 series fly autonomously following a waypoint and also avoid obstacles at the same time?
Rodney Murray (46:00)
Yeah, the DJI Pilot actually has a ground control station built in to fly waypoints, and it does take advantage of the functionality built into DJI drone for obstacle avoidance. There are circumstances where some of the sensors might be disabled in certain flight modes and so you just need to be aware of which ones those are. And then actually Skyward has a GCS that supports many DJI drones as well.
Sally Huynh (46:34)
Yeah. And then which of these two handle best in the wind, we do facade inspections in Chicago and when is a major safety factor that restricts our ability to fly? Rodney, I know that you’re from Chicago, but Paul, I think you wanted to answer this question.
Paul Baur (46:55)
Yeah, I’ll definitely steal this one from Rodney. Yeah, this is one of those cases where I would say that aircraft mass is going to be your friend. If it’s going to be windy, it’s great to have that added mass for stability in the sky. It obviously depends on what the typical weather looks like in your area, what are your typical winds. But more importantly, look at your gusts and compare that to the aircraft specifications and what it is that you’re looking to achieve and obviously that goes back to that preflight planning and then scoping to make sure that you’ve selected the right aircraft for the output.
But overall, I would say that the most important factor in there that we haven’t mentioned is personal limitations and your proficiency as a pilot. I feel comfortable with a Mavic in very strong wind just as much as a M210. It just goes back to how much work are you putting in for your own proficiency in order to make those goals and ambitions line up.
Sally Huynh (46:04)
Great. And then which drone is best for CEI for bridges? Rodney, maybe you can explain what CEI is and then recommend the drone.
Rodney Murray (48:16)
Yeah, Civil Engineering Inspections. I think the Matrice 210 is really suited well for that. Like I mentioned earlier, that upward facing gimbal will let you fly under the structure safely and view it up. It’s very difficult with another drone, you could probably get under the bridge and see straight ahead and slightly up. But if you want to look at the bottom of the bridge, I think that Matrice 210 upward gimbal is the way to go.
And then the other thing I would just say is I would probably recommend the RTK unit, which is the M210 RTK unit because once you fly under that bridge, you have to take in to account that your GPS signal may be blocked, which could then affect Return-to-Home and some of the automated features that DJI builds in. So if you’re going to do that and you don’t have RTK, I would definitely disable some of that and fly in a ATTI mode, a manual mode where you’re staying in control of the drone. So it could surprise you, I guess, if it goes into Return-to-Home mode once it loses the signal. Or just go with an RTK unit. They can be a little bit more pricey, but your accuracy with an RTK will be better.
Sally Huynh (43:33)
And Rodney, while we’re on this subject, this question came in, does the M210 RTK handle more payload than the M210?
Rodney Murray (49:41)
No, because basically they’re the same aircraft. With the RTK unit, you’re actually adding weight so that is a good question. And when you factor that in, you need to consider, and that’s where I mentioned earlier where the aircraft, they’re a bit more complicated, so you need to really factor in battery weight and payload weight and include RTK because that is payload weight and it’s not super heavy, but that does add up after a while. You only have about a three-pound window to work with so if you’re putting a lot of heavy sensors on, you could easily get into that threshold pretty quickly.
Sally Huynh (50:22)
And speaking of batteries, this question is to both of you if you have any experience with this, but can you travel with the TB50 or the TB55 on an airline? Not that anyone is really traveling right now, but still a valid question.
Rodney Murray (50:42)
Yeah, Paul, you want to take that one?
Paul Baur (50:44)
Yeah, you can definitely travel with those, you just need to make sure… Obviously each airline has their own independent policies and I’ve seen a variety of different policies. And I used to travel a lot to race drones, and I’ve had to leave batteries behind and do things like that. But mainly make sure that you have a LiPo safe bag to travel with and just understand that it does need to go into the plane with you and not checked in with your luggage is the main one, but yes, they do allow them.
Sally Huynh (51:20)
Awesome. And then Paul, while we have you, can the Inspire 2 carry a thermal camera?
Paul Baur (51:26)
No. So the Inspire 2 is a photography and cinematography platform. I think that was the biggest shock from the Inspire 1 to the Inspire 2, everyone thought the Inspire 1 was such a great commercial workhorse, we can strap thermal on it, we can do all kinds of stuff, I think everyone thought that we could attach a variety of payloads onto the Inspire 2, but that simply just did not happen. And I think that’s mostly because they were concentrating on the enterprise line for that, which is obviously the Matrice 200 series and the M600.
Sally Huynh (52:02)
All right. And then, while we’re on that subject, are the cameras weather resistant as well? They didn’t specify which cameras and I’m assuming any of the cameras that we talked about during this webinar.
Paul Baur (52:16)
That’s a great question, I’m sure they could take light precipitation, but I think at the end of the day you really have to question what is it that I’m looking to do with this, so if you’re looking to take gorgeous pictures or videos with it, how viable is that going to be with raindrops all over the lens, for instance.
Sally Huynh (52:40)
All right. And then, let’s see here. A person asks, they’re interested in determining what features would be required for use by the fire department or emergency responders.
Paul Baur (53:00)
Yeah, so I have a little bit of experience with that, I do provide services to search and rescue in Canada, and I have also trained the Royal Mounted Police in Canada as well, and they were using the Matrice 210. And they’re basically more looking for doing accident reconstruction work, so you need a high definition camera. You need a nice stable system, which is another reason why I mentioned that with the question relating to strong winds so it’s nice to have that nice big stable platform. And having that weather resistance as well is nice and that thermal payload capability and just being, so you’re able to operate in a variety of different weather. Again, you have to look at what that output is and it’s also great to have that CrystalSky system as well so you have that nice crisp high definition display as well on the ground station.
Sally Huynh (54:05)
Great. And then have you tested or experienced performance limitations if you fly in temperatures below the recommended operating temperature for the Inspire 2? It’s open to anyone.
Rodney Murray (54:25)
Yeah, I would not recommend exceeding the manufacturer’s specification. In fact, when we do our training for our customers, we do specify that you need to fly within the limitations of the manufacturer’s specifications. You obviously need to fly within the limitations of the FAA requirements and really all the way through your business standard operating procedures and your own personal limitations. So that’s a thing that we like to stress in our training. So I would never encourage anyone to push an aircraft beyond what the manufacturer recommends.
Sally Huynh (55:06)
Right. And then, next question how close can either fly to a high voltage tower? It’s probably also in line with what you just answered Rodney so maybe you can take this one.
Rodney Murray (55:21)
Yeah. There’s the opportunity to run into interference with charge electrical lines and again, I’ll just go back to that comment I just made, you want to fly within the specifications of the aircraft. Aircraft doesn’t really say a certain distance, they do put obstacle avoidance in that does default to certain distances from objects. But if you’re flying near energized lines, the drone sensor may not pick it up, so you could have the opportunity to get too close. And drones use frequencies for the telemetry data which EMF can interfere with. So it’s a subjective question. I would say, if you’re concerned about it and you’re doing visual observation or inspections, you might consider the Z30 camera that allows you to fly at a safe distance and still get close-up pictures. But again, I think that a lot of that has to do with your ability as a pilot and your policies and what you deem as a safe distance.
Sally Huynh (56:31)
Okay. And then I think we have time for maybe one last question. Are your customers using Mavic Enterprise and what are some of the use cases or industries that are using the Mavic Enterprise?
Rodney Murray (56:47)
I’ll take that one. The Mavic Enterprise is a good drone, we like it for certain things, it does have some options and sensories that the Mavic 2 Pro or Zoom does not have, like the thermal capability, like the light, it does have a speaker. So now with all of the social distancing guidelines coming out, I’ve seen some articles recently where they’re using the speaker on the Mavic Enterprise to make announcements. The light is very useful as well, and of course the thermal. So I can think of a lot of different use cases for that particular drone.
Sally Huynh (57:32)
Great. And like we mentioned multiple times during this webinar, if you ever need assistance on testing out use cases or deciding on payloads and hardware, the Skyward Professional Services Team is here to help you. You can reach out to us in skyward.io or send us a note in the chat.
So that’s all the time we have for Q&A. Thank you everyone for joining us today. If you haven’t already, let us know how helpful was today’s webinar on a scale from one to five — that’s the last poll question, so five being the most helpful. We always appreciate the feedback. And also if you would like us to cover specific topics in the feature, use the chat window to let us know and we’ll leave it open. So again, thanks everyone for joining. Stay healthy!