DJI reported Lives Saved: A Survey of Drones in Action, DJI compiled a number of reported cases of lives being saved by drones. DJI, the largest consumer drone manufacturer, has maintained a consistent record of working against needless and complicated restrictions over airspace and flight regulations. Recently we’ve seen them up against a recent threat level classification by the FAA which would place many toys and consumer drones in a higher threat category than necessary. As part of the Drone Manufacturer’s Alliance, they are also up against a recent change to Canada’s drone airspace regulations that makes flying more restrictive for hobbyists.
After even a cursory glance at DJI’s report, it’s apparent that DJI aircrafts are the stars in over half of the cases (at least 10/18, though in some cases the drone used was not mentioned). So why are DJI aircrafts featured in the majority? Of course one can say DJI is keen on focusing on their own aircraft, but as described above, their motivation isn’t entirely selfish as any case where a drone was essential to someone’s safety was included in this report.
Here are a few practical reasons why DJI aircrafts across the board are used for public safety:
1) Presumably main reason of course is availability. DJI has captured so much of the market (about 70%) with their aircrafts that nearly anywhere a disaster or emergency occurs there is a DJI aircraft within a few miles.
2) DJI drones are also almost always immediately ready to fly. The batteries charge in about an hour and most pilots have charged batteries on hand. It takes most DJI aircraft less than 2 minutes to get up in the air whereas some others have significantly longer setup times.
Joshua (TX) Fire Department.
3) Range and flight time. DJI aircrafts like the Mavic Pro and Phantom 4 Pro have the longest range and flight times of any consumer or enterprise drone on the market, by far. With and off the shelf range of 5 miles and flight times pushing 30 minutes per battery, even amateur pilots can survey huge areas for maximum coverage.
4) The quality of the video feeds coming from DJI aircrafts is high enough quality for previously invisible details to be seen from afar. 1080p video is pretty much necessary when you are flying up to 400 feet in the air. The videos themselves when grabbed from the onboard SD cards are full 4k, so even tiny details can be seen.
Photo: Midway Fire Rescue
5) Thermal and zoom cameras. DJI crafts like the Matrice and Inspire lines can carry an array of cameras. The 2 most commonly featured in Search and Rescue and public safety cases are the Zenmuse XT (thermal) and Z30 (zoom). The XT offers stabilized and glitch free video whereas other aircrafts with thermal cameras send a jerky and static ridden video back to the pilot – making the already low resolution thermal image even harder to view. The Z30 is one of the only affordable high-zoom cameras available for commercial drones and can only be mounted to DJI drones.
Overall, it’s fantastic to see a company as large as DJI working for pilots. If it were left up to regulatory agencies, restrictions may be even tougher on using drones for safety. We need a major manufacturer to be a voice of reason and show how powerful a tool for public health drones can be.