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Drone giant DJI targets industry with camera that can see in the dark

Not content with dominating the consumer market, drone giant DJI is determined to explore opportunities in the commercial sector too, an area set to be worth billions of dollars in the coming years as industries find new uses for the technology and governments address regulatory issues.

The company’s expansion plans include a partnership announced Thursday with Oregon-based thermal-imaging specialist Flir Systems to build a thermal camera designed especially for DJI’s drones. Such cameras show details invisible to the naked eye by using infrared technology to reveal small differences in the temperature of an object or location.zenmuse xt

The Zenmuse XT camera’s infrared scanning capabilities and ability to wirelessly transmit live video make it a useful tool for disaster-zone search and rescue teams working in the dark or in rubble, as well as firefighters trying to pinpoint the source of a blaze or a safe point of entry into a burning building.

Applications could also include crop and cattle management as well as pipeline and power line monitoring. 

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The camera, which  is compatible with DJI’s existing Inspire One and and Matrice drones, comes with a custom DJI gimbal providing smooth imagery and 360 degrees of seamless rotational movement.

DJI has rolled out a video (above) demonstrating the kit in action, with contributions from various industry representatives describing how the technology can aid their work.

“Almost every week we see new applications of our aerial technology,” DJI boss Frank Wang said in a release. “Adding thermal imaging as an additional sensor option for aerial platforms will open up new and innovative uses for our users, whether it’s gaining strategic insight into how their crops are growing or more efficiently understanding the spread of fires.”

The Zenmuse XT thermal imaging camera should be available in the first quarter of 2016. There’s no word on price yet, but we’ll be sure to update as soon as we hear.