Drone Thermography: Infrared Data Capture and Processing

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PrecisionHawk offers specialized drones, sensors, flight services, data processing services, and training for thermal (infrared) data.

Thermal, or infrared, sensors enable drone operators to see invisible temperature data. Deployed on drones, thermographic sensors make it possible to collect radiometric data over wide areas and hard-to-reach places. Recent advances, such as built-in visual imaging, heat analytics, and infrared intelligence, have made thermal analysis accessible and cost-effective for a wide range of applications, such as:


  • Scanning building electrical equipment, such as breaker panels, fuses, bolted connections, and switchgear
  • Identifying overheating equipment in electrical plants, substations, and towers
  • Pinpointing the source of water leaks and energy inefficiencies in building roofs and facades
  • Investigating the impact a fire is having a building’s structural integrity
  • Measuring crop foliage temperature to identify heat stress, water use, and plant metabolism
  • Surveillance and security
  • Search and rescue (SAR)

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Fly it Yourself


Collect your own thermal data using drones: get a drone and thermographic sensor from our portfolio of vetted drone hardware.

Hire Drone Pilots

Get thermal data, starting now. With the largest drone pilot network in the world, drone-based thermography is at your fingertips.

Hire Data Analysts


Avoid technical and time-intensive thermal data processing by hiring PrecisionHawk's data team to produce maps and models.

A Business Case for Drone-based Thermography

New to thermography? Already using infrared data but haven’t tried drones? Here’s how to make the case for a drone-based thermography investment--we identify the four criteria of a strong business case and offer guidance on how to present it, including: 

  • Building your team
  • Developing and evaluating a drone solution
  • Gaining buy-in through effective communication
  • Managing change
  • Drafting the case 

Learn from our experience working with leaders in major industries, government, and Fortune 100 enterprises and present a winning drone-based thermography business case.


How Thermography Works

Thermal sensors measure the relative temperature of surfaces, whether they be geologic, organic, or man-made. When long-wave infrared radiation (8-12 micrometers) emitted from these objects reaches the thermal sensor, it heats up a microbolometer, changing the electrical resistance. These changes are stored as data which can be processed into thermal imagery.

Using thermal sensors, heat can be quantified, allowing the user to gauge thermal performance and evaluate the relative severity of heat-related issues.

It’s often helpful to pair thermal, or infrared, sensors with a standard visual camera. This allows the user to blend photography with thermography and use a variety of color palettes. Those users requiring precise thermal calculations should use a calibrated radiometric sensor.

Applications of Drone-based Thermography

Solar Hotspots
Livestock Monitoring
Equipment Inspection
Building Envelope (Roof and Facade) Inspection
Emergency Response
Liquids Management

Talk to our team about your goals in deploying drone-based thermography.


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Selecting a Thermal (Infrared) Sensor

Thermal sensors range in resolution, framerate, and temperature sensitivity. Choosing the right drone-based thermal sensor starts with considering your goals, in terms of precision and quality, and how you’ll be using the data. For example, if you just need a rough location of hotspots in a building envelope a simple thermal-only sensor--such as DJI’s Zenmuse XT--might suffice. However, if you need to reference precise thermal signatures in equipment against high-resolution visual images, you should consider a high-resolution dual-sensor configuration like the FLIR Duo Pro R. For agriculture applications, use a sensor that captures multispectral and thermographic information in a single flight.

Our team of thermographers has vetted each sensor in our portfolio for various industrial applications. They’ve evaluated the quality of thermographic output and sensitivity to radiometric signals.


FLIR Duo® Pro R

The FLIR Duo® Pro R matches a high-resolution radiometric thermal sensor and 4K color camera to deliver dual-sensor imaging in a drone-sized package. While flying, you can view thermal and color imagers and record video and stills to two microSD cards. The sensor’s integrated GPS receiver, IMU, magnetometer, and barometer georectify orthomosaics without necessitating external controllers. Set color palettes, image specifications, PWM inputs all in a flight interface.

  • 7.5 – 13.5 µm
  • 30 Hz frame rate
  • <50 mK thermal sensitivity
  • 336 x 256 thermal resolution

DJI Zenmuse XT2

The Zenmuse XT2 brings together FLIR’s high-resolution thermal sensor and 4K camera with DJI’s stabilization and machine intelligence. Its high-sensitivity imager comes in a fully-integrated dual payload that integrates with DJI’s enterprise drones. The Zenmuse XT2’s IP44-rated housing allows pilots to fly in difficult conditions, such as rain, snow, and smoke.

  • 7.5 – 13.5 µm
  • <9 Hz frame rate
  • -40° to 550°C scene range
  • 640 x 512 thermal resolution

DJI Zenmuse XT

The Zenmuse XT captures thermal imaging in two thermal resolution options (640 x 512 or 336 x 256). Fly it on DJI’s Inspire 1 and Matrice 100, 200, and 600 series drones. Use the DJI Go app to adjust color palette and level and span.

  • 100 m range
  • 905 nm
  • Large field-of-view
  • High power and temperature range

Choosing a Drone for Thermography

In selecting a drone for aerial thermography, consider the sensor you plan to deploy and the environments in which you’ll fly. Most thermal sensors are of a size and weight such that you can deploy them on a medium-sized drone, such as DJI’s Matrice 200 V2.

To gather thermography with precise geolocation data, you’ll need a drone that can fly with RTK equipment, such as DJI’s M210 V2 RTK.

DJI M200 V2

The M200 is the ideal drone platform for infrared sensing, as flight stability and gimbal performance are essential to capturing clear, crip thermographic data. The dual-battery system heats batteries for flying in low temperatures and its enclosed design make it rugged against the toughest flight conditions. Our M200 V2 drone packages come with sensors, batteries, and controllers--everything you need for a thermal deployment.



DJI’s M210 RTK V2 combines the features of DJI’s M200 drone with onboard device power and built-in RTK modules that are compatible with D-RTK 2 Mobile Stations. The M210 RTK V2 can capture precise geospatial location data appended to thermographic imagery, essential for gathering thermal data over wide acreage or large buildings and equipment.

Ready-to-Fly Thermal Drone Package

Looking for a single, turnkey package to get you quickly collecting thermal data? We’ve assembled a Ready-to-Fly thermal package, featuring DJI’s M200 V2 drone, the Zenmuse XT2, batteries, controllers, and everything else you need to get flying now.

Get in touch now and get ready to take off.

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Need Help Collecting and/or Processing Drone-based Thermal Data?

In many applications, thermography can be more advanced than taking photos on your drone. In fact, there’s a certification for it. If you need to collect, process, and analyze precise thermographic data, we can help.

We’ll Fly & Process Thermal for You

PrecisionHawk offers a staff of on-demand thermal (infrared) drone pilots available for single-day data capture or months-long projects.

Back in our data analysis center, our thermographers can process thermal data and produce a wide range of maps and models.

We’ll Train You How to Fly Thermal

If you’d like to fly thermal sensors yourself, but need a little help getting off the ground, our expert pilot team offers a 2-day training course. It’ll teach you everything you need to know about collecting thermal data via drone. Classroom and field training include hardware, flight planning, safety, airspace, and other flight operations issues. We can come to your place or host you at ours.

Speak with a Thermography Expert

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