Night Vision Conservation Drones

Over the last week, ResearchDrones.com and ConservationDrones.org conducted a series of tests of low cost thermal imaging cameras.

Models tested:
1. FLIR HS-324 Patrol 19mm Thermal camera (320 x 240 res) (link)
2. NEC F30 Thermal Shot Infrared Thermal Imager (160 x 120 res) (link)

Flight tests (cloudy daylight, ~3 pm winter afternoon):

FLIR image at 100 m above ground.

FLIR image taken by conservation drone from ~100 m above ground. FLIR camera tilted ~40 degrees downwards.

NEC image at 100 m above ground.

NEC image taken by conservation drone from ~100 m above ground. NEC camera was downward facing.

Ground tests (complete darkness, ~9 pm winter night):

Conclusion:

The FLIR is the clear winner in terms of picture resolution and thermal sensitivity. But the FLIR HS-324 is also much heavier and costly (~600 g, ~US$ 7,000) than the NEC (~300 g, US$ 4,000).

Based on these tests, we believe the ideal solution might be the more compact FLIR MS-324 (320 x 240 res) (link), which has the same resolution as the FLIR HS-324, but weighs much less (340 g) and is also more affordable (~US$ 3,000).

(*Note: We are not sponsored by the camera companies hyper-linked to in this post. The cameras we tested were either rented or on loan from colleagues.)

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