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M30T or Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced for thermal imaging of solar panels

Nov 7, 2023
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We are a solar installer looking at getting a drone to survey commercial solar PV systems and see if any panels are faulty. I have been advised that the Mavic 2 Enterprised Advanced will work well, or the Mavic 3 Thermal Drone if it comes in stock, but also that the M30T is also very good, but its twice the price.

If we dont need the M30T are we better to wait for the Mavic 3 Thermal to come back into stock, or go for the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced?

The Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced is a good aircraft, but it is more tailored for Search and Rescue than solar panels, although it can inspect them.

All three aircraft mentioned have a 640x512 resolution thermal imaging sensor of Chinese origin (Infiray I think).
The Mavic 3T and M30T have enhanced images from the 640 sensor and are of superior quality image-wise, but would still be similar when assessing the radiometric (temperature) values.
All three aircraft's thermal images work in DJI Thermal Imaging Tool, and can be converted in aftermarket software to radiometric JPEG and TIF for use in photogrammetry software to make thermal orthomosaic maps, and Drone Deploy will take the images as is and do the same.

All three aircraft have or will have Remote ID with the M30T and M3T having it right now and the Mavic 2 EA getting it soon (The firmware is out and the aircraft is transmitting, but this will not be finalized until DJI and the FAA work out the DOC- Declaration of Compliance).

The Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced is based on the older Mavic 2 airframe and this airframe is for the most part retired, except for this aircraft. End of Life will come for this aircraft well before it does for the M3E and M30T. Batteries are still available, but this can and will change in the future.

The M2EA has a pure digital zoom that can only view a license plate at around 80 feet, while the M30T 900 feet and M3T 250 feet easily best it with hybrid (optical and digital) zoom. Solar inspections should both be a thermal and RGB inspection and the zoom on the M3T and especially the M30T will help to spot soiling, cracking and delamination from much higher and further.

The M30T has RTK built in with two RTK antennas that allow for operation in some types of heavy interference and with two antennas can know the azimuth it is facing. The M3T RTK is an added cost and will not help in azimuth positioning in interference. The M2EA also has an RTK module that must be purchased separately.

The M3T and M30T both use the newer Pilot 2 flight software and this is a newer more refined experience than Pilot 1. Pilot 2 allows you to work in FLight Hub 2 with a wealth of tools available such as Live Streaming, On the Fly map generation, mapping, waypoints and much more.

The M30T and M3T both have an important feature in Sun Burn thermal sensor protection. While all vanadium oxide thermal imaging sensors resist sunburn in the M3T and M30T both have a feature where the thermal shutter used for NUC/FCC will close when viewing the sun in an attempt to save the sensor. The M2EA does not have this feature. I had sun burn on my personal M2EA and while the sensor did heal in that the sun's image eventually cleared, the thermal shutter burned out due to it opening and closing while the sun was in view.

The M2EA does beat both in one field though, included accesories. It comes with a loudspeaker, anti-collision beacon (Built-in on the M3T and M30T) and spotlight. These accessories are available for the M3T and M30T but are all aftermarket non-DJI except for the load speaker for the M3T.

While live viewing and attempting to get the best contrast for what you are viewing the M2EA is totally lacking. The M3T and M30T both allow you to choose the highest and lowest (span/range) temperatures to base the colorization on the screen to. This is a useful and perhaps basic thermography setting and that the M2EA lacks this makes it a step down as a thermography tool. But you can change this is post using DJI Thermal Imaging Tool.

Of the three, only the M30T has an IP rating, not that you will be doing thermography in the rain, but you may have other use cases for your drone.

Flight times favor both the M30T and M3T. In the real world my M2EA gets 20 minutes when landing at 20%. Also the way the battery locks in the M2EA is inferior and as the batteries age and if there is any swelling, they have been known to popout, but this is easily prevented with proper battery maintenance and the simple step of properly disposing of a puffy battery.

With all of above, the M2EA can meet your requirements, but not as well as a M3T or M30T.

All three aircraft come with a complimentary DJI Care/Refresh, but the M3T and M30T both come with a complimentary Maintenance to help your aircraft stay in a state of air worthiness, but also help to meet the requirements of Part 107 and COAs.

If money is a factor the highest I would pay for a M2EA right now would be $4000.00 and it must also include the RTK module and a second year of DJI Enterprise Care.

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