Advice welcome - thermal cameras and commercial work

I currently have the DJI Mini 3 Pro, Operator & Flier ID and I am studying for A2 CofC.

After helping with dog search & rescue, I’m considering a Mavic 3T (thermal imaging) but they’re costly. So I need to pay somehow for it’s keep and charging distraught owners of lost dogs doesn’t sit well with me.

My problem is the Mavic range is great, but you need the Mavic 3E for Survey / Mapping jobs and the Mavic 3M for farm work, crop assessment and planning, so that would require a fleet of 3 drones since the Mavic 3 Cine is outstanding for video work.

Are there agencies offering regular work for pilots throughout the UK?

Your thoughts and guidance would be very welcome, also are there alternative manufacturers that I should be considering such as Autel?

Thanks in advance.


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I’m afraid you’re several years too late to the game Colin @Excellor

The race to the bottom began long ago, and ended with the advent of reliable <250g drones with high quality cameras on them.

It saw every man and his dog doing roof surveys for only £25 quid a pop and estate agents taking their own photos.

If you’re going to drop £5k+ on a thermal camera you’d need to work out the cost to get your ROI, all the while factoring in deprecation and that thermal requirements are few and far between.


If you are serious about search and rescue, earning money and using a thermal camera one solution would be to use a DJI Matrice 210 - now superseded but still a very capable tool…

Available second-hand around £3000 to 4000 you can mount a range of cameras - X5S for 20 megapixel still and 4k video, Z30 for 30x optical and 6x digital and the Zenmuse XT thermal imaging camera.

The 210 has a dual camera mount and cameras can be synchronised to one another, ideal for search and rescue - the thermal camera will obviously show a heat source but it may be a rabbit or a deer, the Z30, synchronised to point in exactly the same direction, can then be zoomed in (up to 180x optical and digital combined) to check on the object seen by the thermal camera.

The aircraft can also be fitted with a top mount for a gimbal so a camera - any of the range above - can be mounted to point upwards with an unobstructed view - ideal for tasks such as bridge inspection. The Z30 is useful for inspecting structures as the powerful zoom allows you to stand off a reasonable distance from the object you are looking at.

The 210 is available also as an RTK version which allows repeatable GPS positioning to a couple of centimetres which is acceptable for mapping although you will need ground equipment (trimbles) to set up such accuracy. You will also need some form of photogrammetric software to make sense of the images you take, most such programmes are niche and therefore expensive.

The problem you have is that, as a pilot, you only have skills in flying. Unless you also have experience in the industry in which you intend to fly, knowledge of what the structures you are inspecting should look like and, more importantly, what faults are expected and how they look, you aren’t that much use.

You can teach an engineer in, say, the power transmission industry to fly a drone rather more easily than you can bring a drone pilot up to speed on what is required for power line inspection.

Sorry to sound negative, I’m not trying to discourage you but just to point out some of the realities of the situation.


Thank you for the valuable informationm this is the advice I seek and need, to make a sensible decision going forward.

Welcome to the group

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