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Thermal pros - where's the best place to start?

Mar 17, 2019
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The (small) media company I work for wants to get into drone work. At first I thought they only wanted to do the photography side, but they're also interested in exploring thermal work. I see a lot of resources out there but being 100% ignorant of all things thermal, it's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. If anyone can answer a couple of questions, I'd really appreciate it:

- What specs should I be looking for in a thermal camera? If we end up going down the thermal road, it will probably mostly be building inspection work. Not a whole lot of farms around here, and the power companies all have their own drones/helicopters for line inspection. We have close relationships with local PD's, so SAR is an occasional possibility, but I would assume anything good enough to inspect a roof is good enough to find a kid in the woods, yes?

-Do you only do aerial thermography, or do you also do inside work with handheld equipment?

-What training should our pilots get for best marketability? Thermal 1? 2? Other recommended training? (all pilots will, of course, also have the part 107 cert).

-What has been in your experience the ROI? How long did it take to get into the black after buying the equipment and training?

-Anything I should be thinking about in my research that I didn't ask?

Thanks again in advance for taking the time.
Sep 22, 2018
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I am in Isreal with the new E10Tv 640x512 thermal camera. The thought was to use it for doing Agriculture reports and monitoring. You see the information that there is a new Micasense camera with thermal and there is so much more information gained from this new thermal for the ag. But when you start trying to get into the information and how or who will analyze the data (photo) there is no real answer. For roof inspections, there is an app within the DD market. For doing solar farms there are a couple of solutions out there you just need to do some research to find them. I know you said you are not in the AG part do to where you live. SAR and Fire departments most of them are now owning their own equipment to an aggressive campaign from DJI targetting these departments. Wish you the best.


Premium Pilot
May 1, 2016
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N. California
Establish your equipment needs through what the potential customer needs, not by what’s being done by other businesses. Investing in equipment and training with hopes customers will come to you afterwards rarely works. Market demographic research is conducted from a customer perspective, not vendor. Vendors only tell you what part of a market is already saturated, not necessarily with any success. We should understand that any market sector that can be served with the cheapest, least capable equipment and personnel is already over saturated.

Training requirements and equipment are simple to determine. Once customer needs have been established obtain the best equipment to fulfill those needs that you can afford. If you have the ability and potential customer base you may find it wise to obtain higher end equipment that will strain your financial capability or require financing over time. Once the equipment is established learn everything possible relative to effectively using the equipment. Attend training courses offered by equipment and software manufacturers.

Recognize that customers will not be satisfied with product obtained with low level equipment, they always want the best that can be obtained. If you provide low grade product the best you can hope for is minimal returns. Unless you encounter someone that “fell off the truck”, customers already know that crisp, clear, well defined thermal imaging is available so don’t go in the door with poorly defined imagery.
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