DJI Zenmuse XT FLIR Thermal: Resolutions, Framerates & Lenses

DJI’s game changing Zenmuse XT thermal camera is now available to order from Heliguy. Using FLIR technology and a DJI stabilised gimbal, the XT is compatible with the Inspire 1 range and the Matrice. It means you can switch from a standard airborne camera to a thermal one in just seconds. It’s the complete kit for a professional drone operator.

There’s even talk of the XT being used on the Osmo handheld stabilizer but DJI cannot confirm that.

DJI Zenmuse XT thermal imaging camera

The DJI Zenmuse XT thermal imaging camera

The XT was announced last year and we’ve been asked constantly when they’ll be available. We expect delivery at the end of March or the beginning of April. The camera is available in a whole host of versions so you’ll need to choose yours carefully.

XT thermal camera options

First of all there’s the choice of sensors. There are two on offer – a 336 X 256 and a 640 X 512. The larger sensor obviously gives a better, more detailed image but it also affects the field of view of your chosen lens. The larger sensor gives a field of view that is around twice the angle of the smaller one. So, if you were to choose the the widest angle lens, the field of view on the 336 sensor would be 45 degrees but on the 640 sensor it would go up to 90 degrees. However there is a digital zoom of 2X, 4X and 8X on the 640 sensor and 2X and 4X on the 336.

Secondly you have a choice of lenses. There are four for each type of sensor but you have to choose it at the time of purchase and it can’t be changed afterwards. Your choice of lens doesn’t affect the price dramatically but you need to be sure that you’ve got the right one for you and the sort of jobs you’ll be using it for. The field of view you need will differ dramatically depending on how close you can fly to the subject.

Both sensors can take can take a 9, 13 or 19 mm lens. For a wider field of view the smaller sensor (336 X 256) takes a 6.8 mm and the larger sensor (640 X 512) has a 7.5 mm.

XT lens chart

The third option available to you is frame rate. The faster the frame rate the smoother the video. The slower rate is 9Hz or 4.5fps in NTSC or 8.3Hz/4.15 fps PAL. The higher frame rate of 30Hz or 15fps NTSC is 25Hz or 12.5fps in PAL. The MP4 video will be displayed in 720 × 480 (NTSC) or 720 × 576 (PAL) but of course the camera is capable of taking stills too in either jpeg or TIFF. You can also shoot stills while you’re recording video.

The camera, which uses a Tau2 sensor, is essentially the same as FLIR’s own Vue Pro UAV camera with the added bonus of DJI’s excellent gimbal stabilisation and video transmission expertise.

XT configurations

What can the XT thermal camera do?

The Zenmuse XT is the ultimate solution for rapid and reliable aerial thermal imaging. It enables you to capture thermal data faster and with pinpoint accuracy. You can cover large or inaccessible areas quickly and easily. All of the images can be viewed live on your tablet thanks to the DJI GO app that Inspire and Matrice pilots will already be familiar with. Images and video can be saved to the camera’s onboard micro SD card for more detailed analysis back on the ground.

When your XT thermal is up in the air you can use the GO app to view spot temperature reading when you line up the sight in the middle of the frame. And all the time you’re getting real time, low latency pictures of what the camera sees, exactly the same as it works with a standard camera.

From the app you can control:

  • Digital zoom
  • Single or interval shooting modes
  • Photo, video preview and download
  • Take photos while recording video
  • Various camera settings and parameters including:
    – Palette, also referred to as Look-up Table (LUT)
    – Scene, also referred to as Automatic Gain Correction (AGC)
    – Region of Interest (ROI)
    – Isotherm mode

Scene allows you to adjust and save pre-sets so that you can switch to a favourite configuration.

Isotherm mode allows you to adjust the display so that you only see the temperature range that you’re interested in. It will show up in colour on a grey scale background.

You can also use a scroll wheel on the remote controller to operate the digital zoom or to change the colour palette.

Infrared imagery needs optimization to to produce the best definition for capturing information. The Zenmuse XT has a special set of image enhancements designed by FLIR. It includes Digital Detail Enhancement™ (DDE); Smart Scene Optimization™ (SSO), which enhances extremes in bi-modal scenes; Active Contrast Enhancement™ (ACE) that adjusts scene contrast relative to its temperature difference; and Information Based HEQ™ (IBHEQ) which compresses complex image data to create the best quality image.

 What can the XT thermal camera be used for?

FLIR says that most of the sensors that they sell around the world are used for surveillance but when a thermal camera is attached to a UAV there are loads of other applications. Before we give you some idea of the jobs it can be used for it might be useful to remind ourselves what FLIR thermal cameras are capable of.

  • Non contact measurement of temperature
  • Enhanced Long Range Imaging – reduced atmospheric interference and better contrast
  • They can detect people and animals
  • Can detect gas leaks from a distance
  • Capable of seeing in total darkness – true 24/7 imaging
  • Can see through obscurants –  for example smoke, light fog, rain, dust, foliage

They aren’t able to see visible light or to see through glass. They cannot see through walls our clothing but they can pick up temperature differences caused by what is behind. Your eyes are sensitive to the 0.4 to 0.7 micrometre waveband. The Zenmuse XT is sensitive to the 8 to 12 micrometre waveband (long wave infrared).

Uses for XT camera

So the possibilities for this camera, especially when it’s mounted on a DJI quadcopter, are vast. Detecting heat loss from roofs and buildings is an obvious use that springs to mind. The camera will pick up hot spots in other situations too like overheating cables or circuits in an electricity substation or on solar panels.

The ability to detect people means the camera can be used for security or surveillance but it can also be deployed for search and rescue or humanitarian relief. Finding lost walkers in a forest or spotting flood / earthquake survivors are good examples.

Scientific research is another area that airborne thermal cameras can be used in. Checking on everything from glaciers to volcanoes are a couple of possibilities. Counting or tracking wildlife is another.

We’ve had a lot of interest in the XT thermal camera from Fire and Rescue services in the UK. A lightweight, easily deployable drone like the Inspire is a great way for firefighters to get a camera aloft to assess and then monitor fire grounds. Having an airborne thermal camera gives them even more information about hot spots and potential flash points because, as we’ve learned, it can see through smoke. It helps keep firefighters out of harm’s way until an accurate assessment can be made.

First Person View

It’s worth pointing out that a second, first person view (FPV) camera is worth having. Remember that the camera on an Inspire or a Matrice can rotate 360 degrees and won’t always be pointing in the direction that the pilot needs for accurate orientation. On top of that the images from the XT camera will be harder for the pilot to interpret so a visual spectrum camera at the front of the UAV will be invaluable. Heliguy has supplied and fitted an add-on FPV camera since the Inspire was released. A similar unit could also be fitted to a Matrice.

FPV camera Inspire 1

The FPV camera on the DJI Inspire 1

Night flying

Another thing that’s important to remind commercial pilots about is night flying. Your standard flight assessment will cover you for daytime flying (half an hour before sunrise and half an hour after sunset) but there could be more demand for thermal camera work after dark. To have to correct PFAW for night flying you would need to have another flight assessment. As a National Qualified Entity, Heliguy trains commercial pilots and can carry out flight assessments for additional ratings.

Request a quote now

Export regulations mean that Heliguy is only able to supply the Zenmuse XT Thermal camera to UK customers. You will need to give us information about yourself, your business and what you intend to use the camera for. We cannot sell to anyone who wants to export the camera. For more information contact our sales team by filling in a quotation form

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