Coptrz Thermography partner FLIR are world leaders in Thermal Imaging technology and have spent years developing specialist sensors for aerial applications. FLIR offer a diverse portfolio for a number of applications in government & defence, industrial, and commercial markets. FLIR’s product range strives to strengthen public safety and well-being, increase energy and time efficiency, and contribute to healthy and intelligent communities.
Thermal Technology gives you the ability to sense or see radiated energy that comes off an object. Thermal cameras can translate the reading so that we can measure temperature without contact. The advantages of Thermal Technology include the ability to see through smoke and fog, visibility in total darkness which is great for locating people or animals and the ability to see if componentry is failing or operating at a normal rate. Thermal technology is quickly becoming a vital tool for public safety, inspection and surveying organisations around the world. That’s why Coptrz have partnered with FLIR and are the only Enterprise Dealer in the UK.
Randall Warnas visits Coptrz
After establishing the Enterprise drone market at DJI, Randall Warnas now runs FLIR’s global sUAS business in the industrial and civic space. Randall has worked with thousands of users pioneering drone technology and uses the media to help grow the industry worldwide. With aerial thermal imaging being one of the most proven applications of drones in the commercial space, his experience of use-cases allows Randall to evaluate and validate potential applications for Thermal technology.
Randall shares insights on the future of Thermal Technology
As part of COPTRZ relationship with FLIR Randall visited our headquarters in Leeds. His two-day included spending time training our team by sharing industry insights on thermal imaging technology. He then hosted a specialist workshop with members of Emergency Service teams including representatives from fire and police departments in the UK.
Watch Flir and Coptrz in our joint webinar
Finally, Randall hosted a 55-minute webinar covering the basics of Thermal Imaging. Co-hosting the webinar is Coptrz own Sam Denniff, UAV Expert for the Public Safety sector. Sam specialises in the use of drones within the military, police, fire services and search & rescue. He has supported the supply of UAV solutions to some of the UK’s largest and most pioneering emergency service drone teams including Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police, Leicester Police, Air Accidents Investigation Branch and Kent Fire and Rescue Service.
Q&A with Randall and Sam
This was a live Q&A with Randall and Sam on our joint webinar on January 24th. If you want to listen to the full recording then head here.
What is the best solution for Search and Rescue and Inspection within a £5,000 budget?
“When it comes to the Thermal aspect as long as you have a 640 by 512 camera, it doesn’t matter necessarily what aerial platform you work with. So when dealing with a limited budget you might use a 640 by 512 FLIR Vue Pro and integrate that with a less expensive air-frame. When you have a limited budget scrimping on cost for a lower resolution is just going to give you a less reliable deliverable, I think you’d be better not using the technology at all. The highest quality product out now would be the Zenmuse XT2 integrated with the Matrice 200 airframes. This allows you to have a high-resolution thermal camera, a very stable gimbal system, decent flight time and good features built into the camera. For Search and Rescue, you can fly at an altitude that’s going to be sufficient for most terrains that you’d be flying and you’re going to have the pixel count that you need to identify a person. With Search and Rescue the longer the flight time the better, so if you put something on to say a Phantom, the additional payload would bring you down to 20 minutes flight time which might not be ideal. I would stick with integrated if you can, if not lowering the cost by doing some integration yourself and choosing your platform would be the answer for that.” Randall Warnas
How much of a skill is Thermography? So how much of it can you do out of the box and where would you be limited if you just tried to pick up a drone with a thermal camera?
“So I think Thermography would be talking about measuring temperature and to measure temperature accurately is something that does require some sort of training and definitely a lot of practice. So we, FLIR have ITC Courses (Infrared Training Center) to give you level 1 through to level 3 thermography certification and that differentiates you and also gives you the tools that you need to measure temperature accurately. If you are just looking for hot spots or if you are just trying to do a thermal mission, I think then you can get a good grasp of what an anomaly looks like pretty quickly. Just watch some videos, we have our FLIR Delta set of content that walks-through some of the most typical uses cases and give you some best practices there. So for solar inspection and roof inspection following some of those guidelines should be pretty easy but if you’re trying to do sub-station inspection and you’re measuring the temperature of different components then that can be a little more tricky because of things like emissivity and calculating for all the variables that come into play. As well as things like holding your drone in position with electromagnetic interference, could take a little more time and a little more process otherwise you should be able to understand thermal pretty much out of the box.” Randall Warnas
Can the XT2 Cameras auto-focus?
“So they are auto-focused to infinity on the XT2 so yes.” Randall Warnas
Does the lens affect the resolution? I know the answers no but having a 25mm lens, is that a higher quality image than say a 9mm lens?
“So, again the number of pixels available is fixed at 640 by 512 let’s say but, if you narrow the field of view you’re putting all those pixels in a smaller area so you’re going to get much better detail and much better context from the camera. So the image quality yes will be better with a narrower field of view, you’re just going to see less.” Randall Warnas
With Thermal mapping and Thermal orthomosaics what are the best flights paths and software to use when doing this?
“Both PiX4D and Drone Deploy have made very strong efforts in creating thermal orthomosaics in their software platforms. With PiX4DReact software, we’re working to make it so that you have a pathway to those orthomosaics, less processing time and on a variety of different platforms. If you’re doing solar inspection I suggest you look at a company called Sightmark which is based in Belgium, they one of the most impressive orthomosaic generation as well as anomaly detection AI systems on their platform. I think that most of the big mapping companies are making those efforts but the leaders are skilled in the thermal orthomosaic processing as well.” Randall Warnas
So are the 160 by 120 Thermal Cameras not much use?
“They can tell you if something is hot or cold from a certain altitude, you can pick out something of interest. With something like Search and Rescue if you’re able to fly a slightly lower altitude and you’re prepared to maybe get a few false-positives and false-negatives, you’re accuracy isn’t going to be 100%, then yes there is a use for them. They’re not going to be cover-all, fail-safe products like the higher resolution cameras but if your budget only allows for something of that level then its better to give yourself some sort of thermal capability than it is to just go ‘we can’t afford the top-end so we’re not going to bother’. I would point out that a few people have mentioned during this webinar that they have a thermal camera with that resolution and it works perfectly for their needs. It just depends on the level and that’s where you’d want to come and speak to us here at Coptrz. We can direct you and say ‘yes this is going to fulfil the applications you need’ or ‘no maybe you need to think about stepping up in terms of what hardware that you go for’. The technology is there for a reason and it fits a certain category but yes there is definite limitations.” Sam Denniff
What does the future of Thermography look like for FLIR?
“Sure, we are trying to reduce the size, weight and price of our payloads so that thermal imaging can be more available to a larger number of users. Because weight translates to flight-time we’re trying to reduce the size of our thermal payloads. The next generation of payloads will be in that smaller class and also less expensive. There is a gap between these 160 by 120 resolution drone systems and the higher resolution sensors, I think FLIR will try to narrow that gap as best as we can to make it more affordable for public safety providers, universities and our core market. We’re also going to branch out into other areas where we have core technology whether its radiation detection or optical gas imaging we’re going to put these into unmanned systems so that you can use that technology from the air.” Randall Warnas