The big story in the drone industry over the last year has been the collapse of several high-profile consumer-facing efforts and a pivot to industrial-grade units. Now the market leader is getting in on the action. DJI announced the Matrice 200 today, an all-weather unit that can carry up to three cameras at once and packs a wealth of sensors that allow it to capture navigate with centimeter lever precision.
The M200 has a forward-facing camera built into its nose for the pilot, and has a dual gimbal underneath that can carry a powerful zoom lens and thermal imaging camera at the same time. If you’re in the market for something that can do bridge inspection, DJI also offers a top-mounted gimbal that can face directly above the drone.
This camera combo could be used to look for heat leaks on a large building or structural faults on a power plant. The thermal camera finds the right area, and the zoom lens allows the drone to get a detailed view of a particular area without getting too close. DJI claims the camera can identify millimeter-sized faults in buildings, roads, and bridges in real time. In a search and rescue situation the thermal camera could be used to identify a heat source, and the zoom lens to grab a closeup.
The M200 is the third unit in the Matrice line, smaller than the M600 hexacopter and a bit larger and more fully featured than the M100, which was meant primarily as a testbed and developer platform. The M200 has two batteries, giving it 35 minutes of flight time. You can also hot swap the batteries, allowing you to quickly replace a depleted unit without turning the aircraft completely off.
The M200 has sensors on its front, rear, and top that scan for obstacles and work to prevent collisions. It also has an ADS-B receiver built in. ADS-B is the system used by all manned aircraft, so the M200 will be able to detect when a passenger plane is entering its airspace well before the pilot or sensors can see the actual aircraft.
The M200 will be going up against units like Yuneec’s Typhoon H520, SenseFly’s Albris, Freefly Alta 8, and Intel’s Falcon 8. DJI hasn’t released a price on this unit yet, but says it should be available to purchase in the second quarter of 2017.
Photography by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge