Drone Company DJI Makes Customization More Accessible

The world's largest consumer drone manufacturer announced a new development kit that could attract boundless commercial clients.

DJI

At an event in California on Wednesday, the largest consumer drone manufacturer, DJI, announced two new products. One of these, the Zenmuse XT2, is a thermal-imaging sensor. The other is a development kit intended to alleviate compatibility issues for DJI customers, by allowing them to modify their drones with custom parts, sensors, and payloads. 

Unlike other DJI events, this particular announcement had no promotional lead-up, but the news itself is exciting enough to warrant a thorough examination.

According to Quartz, DJI’s decision to offer customers more open-source modification isn’t a mere appeal to the consumer’s frustrations. Instead, there’s impressive foresight to this business move, with the argument for long-term sense already evident. For example, we recently reported on Skycatch ordering the largest shipment of DJI Matrice 100 drones, only to modify them with in-house software, and then sell them off to construction surveying companies. Why not cut out the middleman?

The new development kit reportedly liberates DJI’s Matrice 200 drone series of various restrictions that have plagued consumers. By using an adapter DJI calls the Skyport, users can finally modify the drone’s gimbal, power supply, and the company’s APIs (which any compatible sensor can be attached without the need for extra cables or batteries). 

What this means, in basic terms, is that any company relying on its own sensors to fulfill their product’s needs can now strap them onto a DJI Matrice 200 drone, providing they build a Skyport-compatible unit. The Skyport, by the way, also allows any onboard sensors to interface with the Matrice’s embedded data communications system, letting the UAV wirelessly transmit collected data back to DJI’s management system. All in all, this is a pretty significant update.

Regarding the new Zenmuse XT2, which DJI developed alongside thermal-imaging sensor company Flir, there’s reportedly been a significant update to the hardware that could vastly benefit commercial users in the fields of firefighting, inspection or monitoring. In addition to the XT2 capably reading thermal signals in the drone’s field of view, it can now also track temperature changes in real time. The system can set off alarms if a nearby object reaches a certain temperature, for instance, which seems extremely practical for anyone aerially monitoring an object transmitting thermal energy. 

DJI

The Zenmuse XT2, in action.

While this announcement may not provide as much palpable enthusiasm as the Mavir Air 4k unveiling in January, it’s one that reveals DJI’s foresight into the drone industry. By maintaining its leadership position as the largest hobby drone manufacturer in the world, and opening its clutches to provide relief to commercial companies requiring some open-source compromises, DJI is attempting to corner both markets. 

In time, we’ll be able to tell if this was the beginning of something grand, or a forgettable appeasement to commercial companies.