DJI announced the Matrice 200 series drones a few months ago. The announcement was met mainly with excitement and enthusiasm, as DJIs first proper enterprise drone system aimed at industrial applications. As usual DJI are ahead of the curve, especially at this price point, with the M200 series sporting some very impressive features.
We have had M200 systems in for just over a month, and the M210 arrived a couple of days ago. Now having set up and flown both systems, we thought it was time to get hand on and give a run-down on these new drone systems.
M200 vs M210
The main differences between the two systems have been widely publicised, but since the M210 was announced we have had a few welcome upgrades in the package DJI have shipped.
The biggest difference between the 200 and 210 is of course the ability to mount two downward looking cameras, or an upward looking camera on the 210, giving the options for stills, zoom, thermal and other cameras (soon) to be used together, or to inspect structures such as bridges with ease.
Beyond the cameras, the main stand out differences are what extra kit you get with the M210:
- The standard controller is replaced with the new Cedence controller – this gives a ton more physical controls for the pilot which can be mapped to various functions, meaning less ficking through app menus to change a setting that is used often.
- A Crystal Sky 7 inch monitor is included, these are daylight viewable and have a great battery life – mostly a much better option than a tablet, which tend to be difficult to see in sunlight, and pretty bad battery life, especially in the cold. The downside is that third-party apps (like dronedeploy) don’t work with them yet, so if you need those, buy a tablet mount so you can still use you ipad etc for dronedeploy or other apps.
- A final bonus which was announced late on is the inclusion of two TB55 batteries (bigger – more flight time) as well as two TB50 batteries. Great for longer flight time, although these will ship mid-september for those that have orders coming n now.
Out of the box both systems are similar to set up and get ready to fly with a single camera. The legs need connected, arms folded out and locked in place, and props attached. Then attach the camera if not already attached (theres space in the case for one attached camera) and plug in the dual batteries.
It’s worth noting that M200 and Inspire 2 batteries are very similar, and either will work on either system, however M200 batteries have the IP rating, and the I2 batteries do not. The only visible difference is a cover over the LEDs on the M200 version of the TB50s.
Once the drone is ready, attach ipad/tablet or CrystalSky, power on, power on the controller (standard or Cedence), launch app, and power on the drone. The whole process takes about 5 mins with practice.
M210 Dual / Top Gimbal
The M210 ships with a single gimbal mount attached. The (small) issue here is that, while it doesnt take long, its is quite fiddly to attached the dual gimbal. It does require a bit of know-how and some tools. Im sure DJI will release a guide for this soon, but we managed to figure it out without.
For clients with less experience/dont want to get into small connectors and screws we will mount the dual gimbal before shipping – you can still run one gimbal leaving the other slot empty so this will make sense for most I think.
The upward gimbal is easier to install, however it does require mounting an external GPS module that is also included (the camera obscures the gps in the drone shell). This will fold down to allow it to still fit in the case, however it does remove the systems IP rating. I assume this is because the GPS puck is not IP rated – although in our experience they are pretty weather tolerant, so I wouldn’t worry too much.
Cameras / Sensors
The Matrice 200 series support the X4S and X5S just like I2, though without the Cinecore you are restricted to micro SD cards and 4K 100mbps video (like the P4 pro) – though this again isn’t an issue for the inspection work the systems are designed for.
The M200 also supports other (mostly exclusive) cameras. The Z30 has an awesome level of zoom, 30x optical plus digital give a 180x total zoom. While the resolution is only 2mp, what it is a amazing system for live inspection work, with an engineer on the camera they can simply tap on an area to zoom in live and get a super close up to make an analysis. However, for service companies that instead to pass imagery onto analysis post-flight, the X5S at just over 20mp is probably a better option, with a 45mm fixed lens or even a power zoom (with a bit of extra balancing) you can get close to the Z30s zoom level, when considering the 20mp image size. The Z30 is the only IP rated camera here though – so bare that in mind too.
The XT comes in many different specs, with loads of options, what s worth pointing out here is that if you already have an XT, it needs to go back to DJI to be upgraded to V2 to work with the M200, they also need an adapter mount, which does not ship with the m200. We do however supply them to any customers that order an XT with m200/210. Also while the XT is not IP rated, a slight rain shower wouldn’t worry me.
DJI will most definitely be releasing more cameras for the Matrice 200 line, most likely IP rated. With the DJI buyout of Hasselblad I think we could see some super high end high resolution cameras down the line…
In terms of custom/non dji sensors and cameras. There isn’t much space for mounting anything, the M210 does however have external power, so there are options… we like to design our own mounts, so watch this space.
The M200 series are a joy to fly, very similar to the Inspire 2. DJI have done a great job fine tuning the flight control to make it responsive yet smooth and accurate. The M200s are slower moving than the Inspire 2s, with some tuning this could probably be changed, but out of the box they are tuned for the inspection work they were designed for, slower and more accurate than the cine-filming I2 counterpart.
At the time of writing we had issues installing the DJI Pilot beta app on our android tablets – so we were restricted to using DJI Go 4, it works fine, however it does not support dual camera feeds (apart from the pilot FPV camera), so we couldn’t test switching live feeds from the X4S and Z30 we had mounted. Hopefully DJI will have a full release of the Pilot App soon.
While we haven’t flown an M210 RTK, we do have experience with DJIs RTK kit for the A3 flight controller, which is essentially the same tech. The RTK version is essentially the same as the M210 with RTK added for increased GPS accuracy and better resilience against EM interference – a great extra line of safety when flying close to live/dangerous assets such as electricity pylons or telephone masts.
While in theory the RTK should also give enhanced geolocation accuracy in any images taken, it should be noted that this is all relative to the location of the DJI RTK base station, so in order to get absolute (global) accuracy of the images down to the advertised 2-5 cm, the base station must be given accurate co-ordinates.
If you are interested in the RTK version and getting global accuracy correct, we have a workflow for this, and include it in the training we provide with all the RTK systems we supply.
I think at this point it’s worth talking about the M200s redundancy and safety. A lot have noted that being a quadcopter, a motor failure could lead to total loss, unlike a hexacopter or octocopter. While this is a valid concern, a few points alleviate this:
- The system has two lines of communication and power delivery to the motors, the standard line through the ESC and a back up line direct from them main controller to the motor. This creates an excellent level of redundancy, where motors can still be made to turn and provide lift in the event of control or power line failure.
- While technically motor failure itself is still possible, this is extremely rare, and even faulty motors can still be made to turn and provide lift with direct power delivery – while there would be less control, it would be enough to safely land a system.
- Props are another weak point, but with proper management, pre and post flight checks, faulty props can easily be identified and replaced before causing an issue.
There’s a ton of info we haven’t gone into here. We have loads of experience with DJI systems. So if you’re thinking about a M200 series, get in contact and we can help you choose the best options for your application. All our systems come with training, and tons of on-going support and backup options.