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Thermal Drones: What You Need to Know

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3 December 2021

Thermal Drones: What You Need to Know

In recent years, drones with thermal cameras have been used for a range of purposes. From search and rescue operations to industrial inspections, the benefits to be gained from using highly advanced thermal cameras combined with the portable nature of a drone are being readily recognised.


How do thermal drones work?

Thermal images are generated by collecting and analysing the heat signature being emitted off a subject. Drones with thermal cameras use an infrared (IR) camera to generate thermographic images, displaying differing temperature values of a scene. An aerial perspective provides a comprehensive view of an environment, allowing for highly detailed data to be captured.

From locating missing individuals to facilitating ‘precision agriculture’, drones with thermal cameras have become vital for many industries.


What is thermal photography used for?

Thermal imaging drones are used for a variety of applications, and these are continuously expanding. These drones serve to improve safety, enhance efficiency, and collect real-time insights which are crucial for making informed decisions.


Thermal drones have been adopted in various fields including:


1. Search and Rescue Missions


Drones have proven vital in helping locate missing persons. Drones with thermal cameras can search large areas quickly, while officers at ground level can view these images in real-time and pursue any potential leads.

For example, Wiltshire Police used a drone with a thermal camera to locate a missing dementia patient in 2018. An 83-year-old woman was declared missing in Corsham. Within an hour, officers were able to locate the lost individual in the woods through detecting her body heat using a drone.

The capabilities of drones with thermal cameras can prove vital in preventing the death of missing victims, and ultimately improve public safety.


2. Asset Inspections

The benefits of conducting industrial inspections using drones are plentiful. Not only do drones minimise costs and lower the risk factor involved, but they can also reach difficult-to-access areas and reduce the time required to perform inspections.

Thermal cameras can be used to conduct utility and building inspections. Thermal photography measures surface temperatures so can be used to identify electrical issues or detect leaks. For example, drones with thermal cameras can be used to monitor assets such as pipelines, powerlines and solar panels.

Drones allow for highly detailed industrial inspection reports to be produced quickly.


3. Fire Incidents

Thermal imaging drones are increasingly being used to manage fires. Thermal sensors can see through smoke, fog and darkness which allows them to be used at any time. Drones with thermal cameras provide an aerial view, allowing firefighters to detect hotspots without putting themselves at risk. Informed decisions can be made as a result.


4. Agriculture

Thermal cameras are increasingly being adopted within the agricultural industry to monitor crops and livestock.

Thermal imaging offers extensive insight into crop health, bringing to light any issues of plant disease, crop yield, crop ripeness etc. Farmers are provided with critical information, enabling any issues to be detected and remedied before proving detrimental.

By gathering data quickly, drones allow for ‘precision agriculture’. This ensures soil and crops receive exactly what is required for prime productivity and health.


Best Drones with Thermal Cameras

What drone you should get depends on what you are using the drone for. Some drones even have the capability to provide temperature readings alongside thermal images, which is particularly useful for conducting activities such as asset inspections.

So, what are the best drones with thermal cameras?


DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced

The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced is one of DJI’s most efficient drones. Its portable nature combined with its built in, high resolution 640 x 512 radiometric thermal camera helps take thermal imagery to the next level. Furthermore, its self-heating batteries enables this drone to operate in conditions as cold as -10°C.

Attaching a DJI RTK module to this UAV can result in centimetre accurate data being achieved.


Parrot ANAFI USA Drone

The Parrot ANAFI USA Drone can produce thermal readings, observe thermal losses of a building or monitor subjects. Integrated with a FLIR radiometric thermal-imaging camera, users can measure and reveal thermal differences. With a 32x zoom camera, images are highly detailed. The Parrot ANAFI USA allows for visual representations of temperature differences to be produced and thermal leaks to be made visible.

Furthermore, this drone proves cost-effective by eliminating the need for expensive equipment such as scaffolding to perform inspections.


DJI Matrice 300 RTK

The DJI Matrice 300 RTK is the most versatile and effective commercial drone platform. With up to 55 minutes of flight time, this DJI drone is capable of carrying up to 3 payloads at once with a maximum combined weight of 2.7kg.


While the M300 RTK does not have a thermal sensor, it is compatible with the Zenmuse H2OT payload. This quad-sensor solution was specifically designed for the M300 RTK drone and boasts a 640 x 512px radiometric thermal camera as well as a 20MP Zoom camera and a 12MP wide camera. With its advanced software capabilities, operators can capture a huge amount of data in one flight.


Flyability Elios 2


Designed specifically for indoor and restrictive space inspections, the Elios 2 is one of the most reliable drones on the market. Providing highly precise data, with its inbuilt thermal and 3K cameras, and features including dustproof lighting (an essential for inspecting industrial indoor spaces), this drone is great for conducting utility and building inspections.



Thermal drones can be used for a variety of applications such as search and rescue operations and industrial inspections. Thermal imaging cameras reveal, measure and capture the invisible. Combining thermal imaging with the manoeuvrability of a drone results in enhanced efficiency, improved safety, and reduced costs.

DARe-3D’s unique and secure B2B Drone Hire boasts a range of thermal drones and equipment for daily and weekly rentals.

Alternatively, with a team of trained UAV Pilots based around the UK, DARe-3D offers a wide range of drone services. Contact us today to see how we can conduct drone thermal inspections for your business.


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