Thermal Cameras Guide
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Best Thermal Camera for a Drone: Top Picks from DJI, Yuneec, and FLIR

Shopping for a thermal imaging camera for a drone? 

Thermography has multiple benefits in the drone industry simply because of its ability to translate thermal energy (heat) into light that the human eye can see and comprehend to make sense of a form.

However, the benefits of a thermal camera for a drone are not just limited to the drone industry; it has profound benefits and uses for other industries, too, which are discussed further down in the review.


What's In This Buying Guide 

We have compiled together and compared some of the best thermal cameras for a drone in this guide. We’ve mentioned their unique selling points, pros, and cons.

We have reviewed only the best brands along with their differentiating factors, so it’s easier for you to make a pick.


Best Drone Thermal Imaging Cameras Reviewed

night vision camera for drone
  • Zenmuse XT2 R

  • Best overall

  • Infrared Res:
    336x256 p

  • Infrared Frame Rates:
    9 or 30Hz

  • Infrared Lens Options:
    9,13,19,25 mm

  • Dual Sensor:
    4K Visual + Thermal

  • Weather Resistance:
    IP44

night vision camera for drone
  • FLIR DUO PRO R

  • Best for portability

  • Infrared Res:
    336x256 p

  • Infrared Frame Rates:
    9 or 30Hz

  • Infrared Lens Options:
    9,13,19,25 mm

  • Dual Sensor:
    4K Visual + Thermal

  • Weather Resistance:
    Not Rated

night vision camera for drone
  • YUNEEC CGOET

  • Best for video production

  • Infrared Res:
    1920 x 1080p

  • Infrared Frame Rates:
    30Hz

  • Infrared Lens Options:
    1/3" 2M

  • Dual Sensor:
    Dual HD and infrared Sensor

  • Weather Resistance:
    IP44


High-quality and budget-friendly, DJI and FLIR have really hit the mark with their partnered product, the Zenmuse XT2 thermal camera.

Not only is it good for beginners who are looking for inspection or surveillance, but it’s also a great choice for professional hunters.

Pros

  • Built-in 4k visual camera which offers amazing graphics
  • Quick and easy installation
  • User can get direct control through the DJI Pilot app
  • Offers good value for the money
  • Rated for dust and water resistance

Cons

  • The TB60 batteries included are long-lasting but very heavy (3 lbs.), adding to the overall weight
  • The overall brightness of the screen could be a bit brighter, according to some users

Our Review

Being the brainchild of the best thermal camera brands, the Zenmuse XT2 has a lot to offer, including 12MP RGB photos, higher resolution 4K RGB videos, and full compatibility with DJI’s M200 and M600 PRO series of drones.

Its 3-Axis mechanical Gimbal stabilization and user flexibility in the choice of lens (9mm, 13mm, 19mm, or 25mm) really add to the overall performance.

So the user gets to choose between the frame rates (9Hz/30Hz) and the digital zoom capacity (4x or 8x).

This smart combination of features ensures smooth functionality and amazing results, even in low-light conditions.

Moreover, the overlapping of thermal and optical camera sensors, known as MSX (multispectral dynamic imaging), offers accurate temperature measurement and detailed image outputs. 

Issues and Limitations

A slight limitation with the XT2 is that you can only mount it only on the M200 Series or the Matrice 600 Pro.

Moreover, it lacks smart features such as Heat Track and Quick Track if used with the Matrice 600 Pro drone.

Bottom Line

Overall, the XT2 is a multi-functional and durable thermal camera capable of meeting the demands of any industry.


2. Best for Portability: FLIR DUO PRO R

night vision camera for drone

The FLIR Duo Pro R is a cutting-edge dual-sensor camera that has all the qualities that a thermal camera needs to offer high-quality radiometric thermal and visible light imaging.

Its compact size and low weight make it ideal for people who are likely to be on the move.  

Pros

  • Users get real-time thermal and color videos
  • The lightweight body makes it super portable
  • Able to obtain a 2-megapixel thermal video in good resolution
  • The MSX-blended feature offers clearer images of the thermal data in daylight conditions

Cons

  • Too expensive for beginners

Our Review

This compact thermal camera by FLIR is capable of so much because of the inclusion of amazing features, such as the remote camera control and onboard recording, which offers precision and regulated temperature capacities in each pixel. 

When it comes to a thermal drone, visibility and accuracy are the most important features, and this thermal camera embodies both.

Operators can also take control of features through real-time remote control.

Issues and Limitations

Some users have faced issues with programming the autopilot feature to trigger at predetermined intervals.

The thermal camera does a good job of reporting the signal to the app on the phone, but it does not produce a beep, and sometimes the images don't show up on the SD card. 

To fix this, users have found a loophole; you can take the image as a multi-image capture instead of a single shot image, a setting that is safe as it makes no significant change in the quality of the image. 

Bottom Line

Overall, the Flir Duo Pro R is a great option for those who want to have the flexibility to switch between color and thermal views, which allows for multi-functionality such as handling other settings while the live video feed is on. 


drones with night vision camera

The Yuneec Thermal Camera is the best high-end thermal camera for professional drone users and is worth every penny it is marketed for.  

Pros

  • Features dual sensors that give detailed image outputs.
  • Offers temperature measurement and display options.
  • Multiple color spectra offer users selectable visualization of heat sources.
  • Adjustable temperature detection scale for specific ranges.
  • Gimbal-mounted IR for smooth detection display.

Cons

  • Some users have reported the 360-degree rotation to not be as fast as one would expect it to be.

Our Review

Some features that make the Yuneec Thermal Camera stand out are the dual sensors, lowlight, and IR with an integrated gimbal.

It can effortlessly record infrared and FHD standard videos. It is compatible with Yuneec’s flagship Typhoon H and has a super-easy setup process.

It has various color palettes, so the user can choose the one that offers the best visualization of objects or forms in that particular scenario. 

Issues and Limitations

There is no such issue that users have had to face with this thermal camera by Yuneec except for the resolution not being up to the mark if they decide to zoom in beyond the 200-yard mark.  

Bottom Line

If you are looking for a killer thermal camera worth investing your money in, this is the one to go for. It is totally worth the money.


Buying Guide: Selecting the Best Drone Thermal Camera 

drones with night vision camera

Choosing a thermal camera for a drone can be tedious if you don’t know what to look out for or what their application is.

The software of the scope, which includes all the features, plays an important role in its workability, just as much as the hardware does.

But before you move on to the features you need to look out for, you should familiarize yourself with your own needs of the thermal camera. To help you make the best decision, make sure you consider:

Purpose of Purchase

There are hundreds of both low-budget and high-end thermal cameras available on the market.

Filtering them to come up with the one suited for you requires determining what usage you will make out of it. The top uses of thermal cameras are:

  • Marketing: High-resolution photos along with 4k video
  • Survey: GPS-enabled maps with relevant elevation data
  • Inspection: High-resolution video transmission to the remote controller and a 20fps mechanical shutter

Frequency of Usage

The next step is to know how frequent your potential use will be. This will help you save time and money, as frequent usage calls for a better and long-term insurance plan.

So for daily or weekly use, you will probably require a professional drone protected through a good insurance plan.

On the other hand, quarterly or annual usage calls for “on-demand” insurance coverage.

Type of Images and Videos

Once you sort your intentions out for the thermal camera, you will know what you're looking for. We have put features into different categories below, so you know what to look for:

Media Use: Panoramic wide shot camera, self-flight modes, 3-axis gimbal 

Visual Inspections: Collision detection system and a 3-axis gimbal

Focus

drone with thermal camera

Thermal cameras usually have three types of focuses; fixed, manual, or automatic. Beginner cameras usually offer fixed focus, while professional thermal cameras have either manual or automatic focus.

Determining which one of these is the best comes down to your purpose and preference.

Field of View (FOV)

The FOV is the viewable area determined through the camera lens. For close-up work, a lens with a wide-angle FOV (45° or higher) is required, while for long distances, a telephoto lens (12° or 6°) works better.

Some cameras offer various lenses to be compatible with different uses.


Features to Consider When Buying a Drone Thermal Camera

drones thermal imaging

Listed below are some of the most important features that impact the overall functionality and performance, so keep an eye out for them when deciding which drone thermal camera to go for.

Detector Resolution

The detector resolution has a minimum and maximum limit of temperatures that the camera can measure.

 Some thermal cameras offer various ranges, so the user can choose the best based on the distance and details they need.

Some industrial uses such as measuring furnaces call for higher temperature ranges than others.

The IR resolution, on the other hand, determines the number of pixels that the camera embodies. Higher resolution will give out more detail and thus a more precise measurement.

Depending on your use of the thermal camera, a low-resolution thermal camera may even suffice as the price goes up relatively with this feature.

Thermal Sensitivity

Thermal sensitivity describes the minutest temperature difference detectable through the camera. The lower the number, the better the thermal sensitivity of the infrared system.

If you need temperature measurements from different targets that have big temperature differences, you won’t require a camera with low thermal sensitivity, but for things like moisture detection, you will need it.

Radiometric vs Non Radiometric

Radiometric thermal cameras are capable of producing a thermal image and giving out accurate temperature measurements.

A radiometric system allows users to save pictures for post-flight image analysis and accurate temperature measurement to help get quantifiable results.

So this is a better option if you need a detailed analysis for industries such as agriculture.  

Meanwhile, non-radiometric thermal cameras can only produce a thermal image. Hence, it is better for use in the security industry pertaining on power plants and petrochemical industries, for guarding the perimeters and identifying objects and people in low-light conditions.

Range

The range of the thermal camera for a drone refers to the range of wavelengths detected by the sensor and is measured in micrometers (µm).

Most gas detection cameras have a spectral range of 3µm to 5µm and are mid-wave cameras. All others used for electrical inspections have a spectral range of 8µm to 14µm and are considered to be longwave.

Durability

If the body of the thermal camera is water or weather-resistant, it might be a bit pricey but will last you for a long time.

Some models are even scratch-resistant, so they can maintain the quality of the shot even in the harshest of territorial conditions. 


Applications of Drone Thermal Imaging Cameras?

drone thermal camera

The use of drones has often been highlighted across multiple industries, and with their development, their usage is now extending onto a larger landscape.

When it comes to drones attached to thermal cameras, the possibilities become endless. Some common uses include:

Roof and Building Inspections

When it comes to roof and building construction, builders use thermal cameras to guarantee quality in terms of insulation and leakage before the property is up for sale. It also helps in better surveillance to avoid any workplace accidents.

Solar Field Inspections

Thermal cameras can keep a check on solar panels for any physical or mechanical defects, such as overheating. 

Electrical Inspections

night vision camera for drone

You can use a drone thermal imaging camera to analyze power grids for any possible signs of failure or correction.

They can also help firms collect calibrated radiometric temperature data quickly for power lines, waterworks, telecoms masts, etc.

Oil and Gas

Thermal cameras are designed to detect gas pipeline leaks in industrial sites and can monitor potential breakouts.

Agriculture

Thermal cameras in agriculture can help with crop inspection. You can also use them for collecting IR data which would display ripeness, irrigation, and crop yield and bring out any potential diseases out in the open.

Road and Bridge Inspections

With drone thermal cameras, commanders can see through smoke and keep records of their workers in large construction scenes.

This way, the crew would know which area is the most exposed, so they can be careful while approaching it.

It can also help point out potentially dangerous or structurally weak spots for prior caution.

Public Safety and Security

Thermal cameras can help monitor everyday activity on the streets, specifically in places where, at night, criminal activities might otherwise be untraceable if viewed through a normal surveillance camera.


Limitations of the Drone Thermal Cameras

As with any technology, a drone thermal camera has its limitations. The first obvious limitation is the high investment cost.

Even though thermal imaging technology has been around for a while, drone thermal cameras are still not widespread due to the price.

Plus, the ones that fall in the lower price range don’t offer substantial benefits.

Secondly, the images can be difficult to analyze when it comes to reading off objects that have inconsistent temperatures.

Moreover, temperature readings can be disrupted by varying emissivity(s) and reflective surfaces. Their use has still not been extended to the study of underwater objects. 

Lastly, these cameras cannot see through glass or walls, thereby limiting their use for inspections.


FAQs

What is the price range of thermal imaging cameras in the market?

The price will depend on what brand or specifications you go for. If it is just for residential or beginner purposes, you can find the FLIR One Gen 3 at $180, whereas a more professional-use thermal imaging camera such as the FLIR E8-XT is available for over $2,500.

What is the visual capacity of thermal cameras?

The visual capacity in terms of the distance of a thermal vision camera depends on multiple factors such as the lens (9mm to 25mm), the type of detector (cooled or uncooled), sensitivity (1 μm to 14 μm), size of the object, and the temperature of the target and the background.

Are drone thermal cameras of any use in hunting?

Thermal cameras can see through extremely low-light or even pitch black conditions and do not take visual camouflage into account, which makes them great for hunters.

They don’t require light to work, thereby allowing hunters to have their position intact. Usually, warm-blooded animals are active at night, using the benefit of darkness to remain unseen.

These can show up clearly in a thermal image, in any weather condition.

Is the usage of thermal drones legal?

According to US law, recreational drone users must register their drone with the FAA, mark the outside of the drone with the registration number, and carry proof of registration when flying.

The operator has to keep the drone below 400 feet in uncontrolled or "Class G" airspace. For more specific rules, you can check the guidelines provided by your manufacturer about the type of airspace and height limitations that come with that thermal drone.


Final Verdict: The Best Drone Thermal Imaging Camera

Our favorite from the list is the DJI Zenmuse XT2, and for all the right reasons, it offers a visual treat because of the inclusion of dual sensors that offer a clear and wide display.

This, in turn, enhances site safety and overall results for the user. We also love some of the smart features that make it suitable for almost all industries.