DJI Phantom 2 Flir Tau 2 Thermal Camera with Brushless Gimbal install

I recently had an inspection that required the use of a thermal camera to inspect a solar panel field for failed units. I have numerous thermal imagers, but most too big or too bulky to be used on a multi. The tau series is impressive for its size, but it is not the most plug and play camera on the market. The other issue is there is no readily available brushless gimbal with a manual tilt option. First, we installed it on our workhorse S900, but it was hard mounted to the gimbal rails with the ability to manually tilt. That obviously became a huge pain because you could never get the camera the exact way you wanted it. We researched many different posts and setups, but none were going to work for the exact way we wanted it to. After lots of trial and error, we have finally got a solid unit on our hands. We have steady, jello free video installed on a light, nimble and quick to deploy phantom 2. The phantom 2 is a good platform to install it on, as the Flir Tau 2 weighs only 5 more grams than a Gopro, and is extremely reliable. The results are pretty stunning, and its a pretty simple install once you know the pitfalls of installing a tau 2 on the phantom, and what you can do to correct it. Here is the list of the parts needed to have a complete, RTF thermal imaging phantom. 

  • Phantom 2 Flir Tau2 Thermal UAV
  • DJI Phantom 2
  • DJI 2.4ghz Datalink (Waypoints)
  • DJI AVL58 Video Downlink
  • DJI Mini IOSD
  • DJI FPV HUB
  • Flir Tau2 Thermal Camera 336 (13mm Lens)
  • Flir Tau2 VPC Module
  • Beholder Lite 2 Axis Brushless Gimbal
  • Right Angle MCX Cable
  • Right Angle MINI USB to USB Male
  • 12-26 Volt to 5 Volt Regulator



We went with the 336 model with a 13mm lens. For the price, the 336 is the best option. If you are on a tight budget, the 168 model is ok, but the small price increase relative to quality for the 336 is major. The 640 is an amazing camera, but at more than double the price of the 336, we decided it wasn't necessary as of now. 

The installation is pretty simple, but some minor soldering is required. The beholder lite gimbal is almost a perfect fit, and the stock gopro gimbal settings are pretty close. We did need to order some custom right angle cables, as the way the Tau 2 is mounted on the gimbal leaves very little room for straight plugs. You also need to convert the phantom 2's 12 volts to 5 volts to power the Tau 2, which is relatively easy to do with a car usb charge adapter. 

Below is some up-close images of the install, and how everything is laid out. We also actively use the 2.4ghz datalink for waypoints, especially when performing inspections. We also did a quick demo video showing the recording quality of the camera, along with the gimbal performance. 

You can also view details, step by step how-to and tips and tricks for the installation at http://www.nue-av.com/#!DJI-Phantom-...C-629BBF0BC19E

Here is some images of the final installation and how it is physically mounted to the phantom. If you have any questions, feel free to message me here or through our website, www.nue-av.com

Views: 11582

Comment by criro1999 on January 18, 2015 at 1:44pm

Nice video. But I was expected your body image (min 2:15) to be mostly white (heat) instead of black (cold).


Admin
Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on January 18, 2015 at 2:03pm

@criro1999,

Most of the FLIR systems that I have used provide an option to use either black or white for objects with a temperature above the background temperature.

Regards,

TCIII AVD

Comment by Nue-AV on January 18, 2015 at 2:08pm

Thanks, I have been fooling around with the GUI and changing the color palette. White hot probably delivers the best results, but I was trying black hot to see how well it worked. I still haven't gotten the gains figured out, as when I have a large temperature range I get a clear hot image and washed out background. I was thinking of some sort of wireless usb device with a split signal into the camera so i can change settings in the GUI while its operating. 

Comment by Damian on January 18, 2015 at 2:08pm

Not sure if I would expose $4000 under the DJI in open with no protection ...

Comment by Nue-AV on January 18, 2015 at 2:29pm

I hear ya, but its no different than our rigs that have a gh4 or a 5diii on them. It could sit a little higher, but in the end its a flying camera and its a risk no matter what.

Comment by Nue-AV on January 18, 2015 at 2:36pm

I was also hoping to hear from someone who had some more experience with the tau lineup. I have gotten decent results, but there is so many camera options and i am not sure where to start.


Developer
Comment by Randy on January 18, 2015 at 5:37pm

@Patrick,

Thanks for sharing the info on the gimbal.  Seeing someone give the thermal camera a try is interesting to see.

Some info I've found about FLIR (and other) thermal cameras:

  • For those living outside the US, these are ITAR restricted so you only get 9hz if you buy one outside the US, 30hz if within the US.
  • They seem to be mean mostly for analog output for real-time viewing because they have a very annoying Camera Link interface which makes them difficult to transfer the digital images to small embedded Linux computers (i.e. companion computers) which means it's difficult to get the raw digital images off the cameras.
  • There's a serial interface which allows controlling the camera and also allows pulling single images at a very low rate (not sure how slow but probably around 1hz).
  • The TeAx thermal capture board can be added (for an addition $3k) which stores the digital images to an sd card and they are looking at adding a MAVLink interface.
  • The DRS Tamarisk is the closest competitor and is slightly cheaper but is otherwise very similar and suffers with the same Cameralink+Analog output.  Leopard Imaging provides a relatively cheap development board for communicating with the Tamarisk.

Comment by Nue-AV on January 18, 2015 at 9:58pm
@Randy

Thanks for the info! I found the teAx, but was never able to source a cost on it. I also found the really nice go pro/tau gimbal, but it was almost 2k.

I really wanted to be able to change color palette, gains, flat field, and others on the fly, but it didn't seem possible. All my other cameras have options which are easily accessible, along with live view/thermal mode mixed in. I was able to use a Microsoft surface with a wireless usb running the flir gui, and along with the camera having a sub spitter, power source, and wireless usb rx. I was actively able to change all camera options on the aircraft, but it was too any wires, too bulky, and most importantly, ran on 2.4ghz and I was afraid it would throw off my control signal. I will have to live with landing, adjusting, and going back up, but at least I know it is possible. Plus, I have adjusted the camera settings to the point that I get decent range no matter what I shoot.

I am mildly familiar with itar restrictions, but I was wondering what do other countries use that is comparable. I have seen the 9hz and I looked terrible. Are countries like the uk and Canada able to have their own 30hz version or are they restricted like every one else. Also, if I am traveling for work, am I able to bring my camera with me, or since it is restricted, does that mean it can't leave the country even if it's in my possession?

Overall, I'm impressed with the whole package....the size of the core opens up a lot of possibilities, and the brushless gimbal with tilt worked surprisingly well.
Comment by Jesus A on January 19, 2015 at 2:14pm

You should take a look at Optris...

They are maybe a little bigger but much cheaper and full of features

http://www.optris.com/thermal-imager-optris-pi-640

Comment by Nue-AV on January 19, 2015 at 3:59pm

@Jesus

What do you think the cost of the optris is? I have googled search and cant find out unless I get a qoute. I would be willing to give it a try for my fixed wing setup and see what I can come up with. 

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