In this post we aim to give you a one-stop guide to what we consider to be the best commercial drones of 2020.
There was a time when the public’s definition of the word ‘drone’ was either a pilotless airplane used by the military, or a simple toy for children and hobbyists. Of course, the military association remains relevant, but the technology behind non-military drones (also known as: UAV, UAS, SUAS, RPAS) has evolved over the last few years, virtually beyond recognition of those “simple toys”. These advancements have meant that drone technology is now also becoming widely recognised as a vital tool for companies in a range of industry verticals to do their work in a safer, more efficient and more profitable way; with huge returns on investment proven.
The best commercial drones of 2020
DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
The ideal general purpose commercial drone
After a break in production in 2019, the latest iteration of DJI’s iconic Phantom range is back!
The Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 features a fully integrated 1-inch CMOS sensor that is capable of shooting 4K video @ 60 frames per second and 20 megapixel photos. The camera is mounted to an electronically controlled, 3-axis gimbal and utilises a mechanical shutter, which eliminates rolling shutter distortion, making it a great option for operators looking to create photogrammetric reconstructions.
Video transmission from drone to pilot is managed by DJI’s OcuSync 2.0 HD transmission system and DJI GO 4 app. This combination ensures a reliable stream of footage for the duration of the flight.
With respect to flight safety, the drone is loaded with obstacle sensors in 5 directions: forwards, backwards, downwards and on both sides. This autonomous system helps to prevent the operator from inadvertently flying into obstacles.
DJI Phantom 4 RTK
The tool of choice for precision mapping
Building on the success of the Phantom range, DJI launched the Phantom 4 RTK in October 2018.
Whilst the Phantom 4 RTK does feature much of the same technology as its close relative, this drone is very much designed with high-precision aerial surveying in mind. Unlike the Phantom 4 Pro, this variant uses an on-board RTK module to provide real-time, centimetre-level positioning data for each and every image taken – ultimately delivering much finer absolute accuracy in photogrammetric reconstructions, whilst reducing/removing the need for Ground Control Points.
The DJI Phantom 4 RTK can also achieve the same levels of data accuracy for users who either prefer to use a Post-Processed Kinematics (PPK) workflow; or who are flying in an area with poor RTK coverage. It does this by storing the original satellite observation data for use in your post-processing workflow.
DJI Phantom 4 Multispectral
The drone that is dedicated to farming intelligence
You’ll note a bit of a theme appearing here, but the intelligence in this drone meant that we simply couldn’t leave it off our list.
Just like the Phantom 4 RTK, the Phantom 4 Multispectral uses the same basic platform as the Phantom 4 Pro, along with all of its market-leading technology. It also features the same RTK positioning system as the Phantom 4 RTK (note the receiver on the top of the drone).
The key differentiator of the Phantom 4 Multispectral is in the camera that sits tidily beneath it. The camera body contains 6 individual sensors; one to do the job of a traditional RGB camera, with each of the other 5 responsible for collecting their own dedicated light band, these being: Blue, Green, Red, Red Edge, and Near Infrared. The resulting images contain data that is both visible and invisible to the human eye. These images can then be processed and interpreted with specialist software to accurately analyse soil condition and crop health.
DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise
Vast array of features in a hugely compact drone
Those familiar with DJI’s Mavic range of drones will already be familiar with the great levels of mobility that its foldable design provides. The Enterprise version is no different in this respect. However, that’s pretty much where the similarities end – With the Mavic 2 Enterprise, DJI have packed some serious functionality into this compact little airframe.
The Mavic 2 Enterprise is available in 2 variants: the Enterprise Zoom and Enterprise Dual. The key difference between the two variants is the type of camera that is installed. In the case of the Enterprise Zoom, you get a 12MP CMOS sensor with 2x optical and 3x digital zoom capability, making it a great choice for inspection applications. The Enterprise Dual, on the other hand, features a 12MP CMOS sensor AND a thermal sensor from FLIR enclosed in the same camera body. Needless to say, the Enterprise Dual is a popular choice for the emergency services, search & rescue teams and security companies.
Both variants also come as standard with three interchangeable modular accessories: a spotlight for enhancing vision in low-light operations; a loudspeaker to communicate with people on the ground; and a light beacon to ensure the drone can be easily seen in low-light operations.
The drone also features DJI’s AirSense technology, which enhances airspace safety by giving pilots real-time positioning alerts on nearby manned aircraft.
DJI Matrice 200 V2
The ultimate platform for aerial productivity
The Matrice 200 V2 is an out and out industrial-grade drone platform. It features a rugged design, yet simple configurability to work across a range of applications.
The Matrice 200 V2 Series comprises three individual models: Matrice 200; Matrice 210; and Matrice 210 RTK. All three models benefit from IP43 ingress protection, DJI’s OcuSync 2.0 transmission system, AES-256 encryption to maintain security of data transmission, and DJI AirSense to provide real-time notifications of the presence of manned aircraft within the airspace.
The main difference between the M200 and the M210 models is the latter’s ability to carry up to three payloads simultaneously; two mounted on the bottom and one on the top – this is a particularly useful function for users who need to capture multiple data types without having to carry out multiple flights, or for those who need to inspect the underside of objects.
If you want to learn more about how any of the above drones can benefit your operation, we’re on hand to answer any questions you might have – simply get in touch here.