DJI Matrice 200 Review
With the cutting edge technology that DJI has developed in the past couple of years comes the DIJ Matrice 200, the first drone engineered by DJI not meant solely for aerial photography. Instead, this massive and highly optimized industrial quadcopter is designed to assist commercial applications that involve collecting aerial data and performing aerial inspections. With that thesis in mind, not only is this drone hyper-intelligent, but it implements safety features that’re the first of its kind (within DJI engineering).
Make no mistake, this is a commercial machine meant to endure rough weather, heavy payloads, and a whole lot of flying. Since DJI already has an arsenal of drones that take the cake for aerial photography, it only makes sense that they would release a drone that appeals to those who could benefit from aerial data, mapping, search & rescue, research, and more. The Matrice 200 is not the first ever drone developed for this purpose, but the first of its capabilities to be consolidated into one easy-to-use maverick of a machine.
Similar to the Mavic Pro (but a lot larger), the Matrice 200 is based on the foldable platform now seen in an array of different drones. Its weather-resistant and durable chassis is easy to assemble and disassemble in any given environment. The 17” quad propellers are meant for harsh conditions and most importantly to endure. That’s what DJI had in mind when developing the simple yet optimized chassis of the M200: stamina.
For the first time, DJI integrated a gimbal mount that faces upwards, rather than downwards or directly perpendicular. This is due in part to keeping the tech guts beneath the M200 accessible; they are easy to inspect and maintain. In terms of compatibility, it’s fit to sport the X4S, X5S, Z30, and XT. Although we could go into the camera specifications, we’ll leave that research to you, as this drone is not tailored towards professional photographers/videographers. Do note the M200 is not capable of uncompressed footage in 5.2k, since the SSD card required for that grade of aerial photography is not built into the airframe. As for the video transmission system, it comes equipped with Lightbridge 2 technology, so you’re not going to have to purchase a separate FPV system, and it has its own FPV-dedicated-camera onboard (stealing from and improving on the Inspire 2 design).
There are also two other versions of the Matrice 200; the M210 and the M210 RTK. Each has its own design. The M210 allows for more camera configurations: it can sport a mount that faces downwards, upwards, or a gimbal mount that has two parallel downward-facing camera slots (yes, it is compatible with two working cameras, so that there can be two functioning systems in addition to the built-in FPV camera). The M210 has more cargo space and ports for connection that are for future optimization. This will be particularly useful when DJI releases accessories and upgrades for the M200 series. The M210 RTK is the same as the M210, but is capable of running D-RTK modules (Real Time Kinematic GPS positioning), which, if you’re unfamiliar, offers near-perfect flight accuracy.
It’s also going to be compatible with the new FPV goggles DJI is set to release, most likely for use by a dedicated pilot (especially when it comes to the intended applications of the Matrice 200).
For the first time we’ve seen in a DJI drone, the M200 is equipped with an integrated ADS-B receiver (a platform now called DJI AirSense). An ADS-B receiver is basically a GPS unit that receives data from aerial traffic advisories in real-time. This means that M200 will be able to receive information about its current environment and have a real-time update on other aircraft in its proximity. The altitude, speed, and distance of those aircraft will be livestreamed as well. As a whole, drones are evolving to become more integrated in the aerial data network, so it’s not surprising to see the addition of systems associated with manned aircraft.
The M200 also has its own obstacle avoidance system. Sensors on the front and bottom detect nearby obstacles and, when the system is active, will avoid them autonomously. But what truly makes this drone a hallmark of drone engineering and the first of its kind, is its synchronization. The plethora of internal sensors (integrated compass, GPS unit, IMUs, barometers, gimbal actuators, etc.) and external sensors work to produce the most reliant, accurate data and keep the drone stable in heavy conditions. In fact, the M200 is the first drone to have an IP43 classification, which basically states that the drone is built capable of flying in rainy and windy conditions.
Two standard batteries are provided with M200. They do not function simultaneously – instead, the system has been built to swap one for the other. While that may seem redundant, they transfer flawlessly (like two gas tanks for a propeller plane). DJI states that a pilot will experience around 20 minutes of flight time without maxing out the payload, but with upgraded batteries, the M200 can fly for up to nearly 40 minutes.
Without surprise, DJI incorporated the autonomous features into the M200 as well. It sports Active Track, a feature in which the drone can actively follow a subject with its FPV camera, all the while allowing the other camera(s) to collect surrounding data. It sports Point Of Interest, which is basically a feature that autonomously presses the drone to orbit a subject, gathering data and information of the subject’s whereabouts, surroundings, and a target person in the process. These two systems are particularly useful in search & rescue operations, since the drone can follow a target while the rescuers process and distribute the incoming data as needed.
It also sports spotlight, which can lock the camera onto a subject and allow the aircraft to move freely. This is sort of the inverse of the abovementioned feature, as a pilot could use the FPV camera to fly the drone, while the camera used for processing data could remain fixed on a target (despite the direction the drone flies). Tripod is a feature that is integrated as well, allowing for the M200 to fine-tune its position and angle midflight for safer navigation through difficult environments.
Controls & Software
Despite the common DJI GO application, a new app called DJI Pilot is going to be released for the M200, which is specifically designed for enterprise pilots (if you couldn’t guess by the name). Along with that, a separate application will allow for preset data to be administered before operations. That means pre-planned flights, waypoint tracking, 3d mapping routes, geofencing, and pre-calibrated flight stats will become a reality for the M200. However, just to clarify, the M200 can still be flown and customized using the DJI GO 4 application.
The dual-operator control system of the M200 makes it even more versatile when two pilots are flying the drone. As stated above, DJI FPV goggles will be compatible with the FPV system. The built-in FPV system transmits via the renowned Lightbridge 2 technology, and it’ll be able to support the controller from the Inspire 2.
It will be one of the most calibrated, data-fluent, flexible, and reliantly controlled drones that DJI has released in the last couple years. This makes sense since DJI set out to create a drone capable of assisting enterprise pilots in their aerial applications. When considering some of these applications involve saving lives, then you know why the M200 needs to be the safest, most reliable drone in the DJI inventory.
“Drones have quickly become a standard part of the enterprise toolkit and industrial users have come to rely on DJI technology to efficiently collect aerial data,” said Paul Guo, Director of Enterprise Solutions at DJ. “With the M200 series, DJI introduces a holistic solution designed specifically for these users. We are revolutionizing professional workflows by making it possible to use advanced sensors in various combinations to make sophisticated tasks such as bridge inspections, land surveying and search-and-rescue missions, easier, safer, and more reliable than ever before.”
The M200 is capable of flying over 50mph and up to 15,000 feet. It’s a drone that not only took the core foundation of the intelligent Inspire 2, but optimized, restructured, and expanded the platform. With DJI AirSense, dual-frequency control systems, 1080p Lightbridge FPV livestream, up to 40 minutes of flight time, an IP43 classification, and the failsafe tech integrated, this is truly a machine for those with aims of capturing aerial data in taxing or normal conditions. Take the XT for example, a thermal imaging camera that is compatible with the M200: if it’s fit to the M200 it allows for the drone to scale a building that’s on fire, find the source of the fire, and notify the fire department and accompanying parties. Not only that, but it could track through difficult terrain in harsh conditions and locate missing people via thermal imaging. At the same time, it’ll be streaming data regarding its surroundings, knowing where and how far away the surrounding aircraft are, what sort of weather it’s facing, and continuously gathering/livestreaming data.
To summarize from the DJI website, some of the industrial applications of the M200 include:
- Energy Facility Inspections: Manned maintenance can not only be costly, but incredibly time-consuming. With the M200, extensive power line networks can be inspected from all angles. This includes wind turbines, vertical infrastructure, and offshore oil rigs.
- Construction Site Mapping: Despite weather conditions and external factors, surveying and mapping must always be done for future construction sites. If desired, construction staff can (hire a pilot(s) and) use the M200 to do their commercial mapping for them.
- Public Safety: When issues arise, first responders rely on haste, reliability, and efficiency. The ability to count on an aerial platform could greatly assist search & rescue parties, natural disaster workers, and those facing any operation that involves putting people at risk. Drones are often a safer and more efficient approach to gathering data or experiencing the first look at a given situation.
- Critical Infrastructure Inspections: This one is big, since inspectors have notably been at risk throughout history. Inspecting massive infrastructure is no easy task, but with a drone that can handle the conditions and is built for sustainability, this alternative inspection tool could very well be cheaper, safer, and more efficient. “The M200 can identify millimeter-sized faults in buildings, roads and bridges in real time, making those operations more safe, efficient, and effective.”
DJI calls the M200 a “drone built for enterprise solutions”. As you can see, the advertising is not hype. The M200 takes all we value in the Inspire 2, removes the extra aerial photography tech, and replaces it with a highly developed flight system. This system is the first of its kind for DJI, but it might just be the safest, reliable, most optimized flight system yet produced yet. In fact, it is.
The M200 is currently in the preorder phase, with the release aimed for sometime in Q2 of this year. That means anytime from April to June. But aside from being so technically advanced and purpose specific, the M200 stands for something more important: this purposeful drone represents a vision of the future of drones which is only now materializing.
Drones are evolving from toys and aerial photography tools to machines used for industrial applications. With the evolution of drone technology (FPV systems and the camera), it has now become feasible for drones to carry manned applications, and to carry them out in a safer and in just as or more efficient a fashion. The M200 is the first drone of its kind capable of carrying out search & rescue missions, identifying fires, executing dangerous inspections, and more. The M200 is an incredibly impressive piece of machinery (generally affordable only by commercial entities), but it could very well be a machine that reshapes the tools used in certain industries, and save lives in the process. If anything, DJI has shown us that the M200 is the mark of the future.