DJI Matrice 30T – The Perfect Search and Rescue Drone
So I want to start this video off with a story that I think is going to help everyone watching understand why a drone like DJI's Matrice 30T or M30T is such an important and valuable tool when it comes to conducting Search and Rescue operations. So just the other night, I got a call from a local Police department asking if I could help with the search for a missing girl.
She ran away from her home. The night was approaching, so we needed to find her fast because it was getting very cold outside. Without any hesitation, I reached for the M30T because I knew that it would be the perfect drone for the job. So I loaded up my car with the drone and the portable power station to charge batteries on the go, and I was off to try and find this missing person.
The importance of the thermal camera on the Matrice 30T
Now, basically, my workflow was to fly in between 250 and 300 feet to try and scan neighborhoods, woods, parking lots, highways, roads, and literally anything within the search area. I was trying to find a hotspot on the ground using the thermal camera.
The visual camera was basically useless. Some of the neighborhoods were a little bit more well-lit than others, but the thermal camera is primarily the strong suit of this camera system on this drone because you can basically see at nighttime. You can see trees, you can see animals, you can see people, cars, and homes.
It literally gives you the ability to see at nighttime and easily pick out people in areas where they probably shouldn't be. So there are two clips in particular that I wanna share with you that really showcase how powerful the camera system is here on the M30T. Especially at nighttime when conducting one of these search and rescue operations.
The first clip is of a person that I found walking on a dirt path behind one of the neighborhoods that we were actively searching in. I flew down closer to get a better look, and at first glance, I thought there was a male just by the way that they were walking and their stature, but I wanted to make sure that we covered all of our options, all of our ground.
So I called into a ground team. They went over, they asked that person questions. They, unfortunately, didn't know where she was, so we moved on from there and continued to search.
This second clip, I think, is even more powerful because it shows how quickly you can clear a large section of woods using a drone flying above the trees.
So I was cruising around the neighborhood, trying to support some of the people on the ground that were looking for her under porches and things like that. I went, and I came across three individuals that were helping with the search on the ground and were about to go through this wooded section of the neighborhood, and instead of them going through that area, yelling her name, trying to look with flashlights, I simply flew my drone overhead, saw nothing, no thermal hotspots inside of that area, and told them, to go and look elsewhere and not waste their time rummaging through the woods.
That single clip right there should instantly prove how valuable the M30T is when it comes to conducting a search and rescue operation, as it can effectively and reliably clear such a large area in a short amount of time. Therefore, helping you speed up your efforts in trying to find the person that you are looking for.
Now, for those of you that might be wondering, yes, we did end up finding the little girl at around 9:00 PM, so it didn't get too late into the night. She was actually hiding underneath a porch. The state police found her, so no, it wasn't the drone that was able to pinpoint her location directly, but nonetheless, I'm so happy that she's okay.
I'm happy that I was able to help, and I'm also happy that the drone is able to prove to be very valuable in helping search such large areas of land.
DJI's line-up of drones for Search and Rescue
Now, when it comes to DJI's Enterprise lineup, they've got plenty of drones that you can use for a search and rescue, from the M300 to the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced to the Mavic 3 Thermal to the M30T here. And I think that this is your best bet. Your go-to search and rescue drone because of its power and portability.
In my previous videos on this drone, I've highlighted its capabilities, from the aircraft to the camera. But now, I wanted to showcase how this could translate into a scenario where an individual or a team could utilize this entire platform for conducting search and rescue missions.
Now, really quick, I've mentioned in the past that there are two different versions of this drone with the M30, just having a zoom and wide camera as well as the laser range finder. But for search and rescue, you really need to go with the M30T. T standing for thermal as this version of the drone has a camera with a thermal sensor. This will make nighttime operations much easier as you can easily identify the person that you're trying to look for.
Just like we saw in those clips I shared towards the beginning of this video to help you understand where the M30 fits in DJI's Enterprise lineup, I've got all their major offerings sitting here in front of me. So I've got the Mavic, and this is the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced. I've got the Matrice 30, the M30T, and I've got the M300.
So this is the big boy, right? And what I love about the M30 is that it sits in between these two drones and offers the best of both worlds. You've got a super-powerful drone that packs a lot of the same features as the M300 into a smaller, foldable design that takes on the portability of the Mavic.
So again, you've got the best of both worlds, giving you a really powerful package in a more portable form factor. Having a portable system is a must for search and rescue missions because you're always going to be on the move. This case is small enough to fit into the cab of a truck, the trunk of a car.
You can even carry it in a backpack if you need it to hike and then launch. In that backpack, you can even fit extra batteries too. On the line of portability, the setup time is super fast, as you just unfold the arms, turn the drone on, turn the remote on, and fly. The M300, on the other hand, would need to be built by attaching the camera and the landing gear.
On the topic of speed. Just like the M300, the M30 also has a dual battery system that not only makes it safer in the air, but if one battery fails, it can rely on the other to power it for the rest of the flight. But it also lets you hot-swap those batteries for minimal downtime on the ground. Like you might be on the drone for 10 seconds, if that.
No more waiting for the drone to recalibrate and the GPS to reconnect. It just goes right back up. Now, as I mentioned, this drone has some serious power for its size. The specs are exactly what you'd expect from an enterprise drone in 2023, giving you a reliable flight experience. It has a fast top speed to get you from spot to spot quickly.
It's agile when flying vertically, up and down as well. It can withstand pretty brutal conditions like high winds and even a heavy rainfall, as it's IP55. Waterproof. Perhaps even more important though is the 41-minute flight time, so you'll be able to stay in the air when searching for a very long time.
And the transmission between the drone and remote is incredibly strong for a seamless flight. No matter your distance, you'll get a reliable downlink to the remote with a clear video feed from OcuSync 3 Enterprise, so you can increase those distances that you can search with the drone from your takeoff point.
So the drone itself is more than capable of every day, all-day missions. You can really put this through hell and back. But what really impresses me is its level of redundancy, right? The safety features that are built into this drone, which are mirrored from the larger M300. I went over all of this information in much greater detail in my Matrice 30 aircraft overview video.
But this list here shows all the safety features built into this drone. This is important in any scenario that you put this drone in, and it isn't only limited to search and rescue. We're never recommending a drone to a police department, fire department, or construction company. Literally, for anyone that is going to be putting some serious hours into their drone, I can't recommend the M30 and M300 enough because of these safety and redundancy features.
Think about it. You could have this drone in the air nonstop for days amongst multiple pilots, and you want to make sure that if something goes wrong, the drone has backup systems to rely on.
Okay, so enough about the drone itself. Now let's move onto the camera because this is what really. This entire system is useful in a search and rescue scenario.
I really don't want to spend time nerding out over the specs of the camera because, really you're going to be analyzing the live feed from the drone in real-time trying to find your subject to the person that you're looking for. It's definitely important to know what your camera system can do. So I am gonna give you the rundown of the specs here on the screen.
But now let me give you a better look at what this camera can do by actually going outside and showing you. If you'll be flying during the day, both the wide and zoom camera have plenty of resolution and dynamic range to give you a viewable image. The wide camera is great for cruising around and sweeping through streets, fields, or anywhere you might be looking for someone.
This is the best camera to use for navigating around, too, as it gives you the best view of what's in front of the drone. So it's the widest field of view. The zoom camera, on the other hand, gives you plenty of power to zoom down and further identify what you're looking at. It uses a mix of optical and digital zoom for a good blend of distance and clarity.
I wouldn't recommend flying around with the Zoom camera active all the time, though, because it could lead to you crashing. But this is, of course, a powerful tool for getting a closer look while keeping your drone high in the sky and away from any obstacles near the ground. Chances are, if you're conducting a search and rescue mission, You'll be in some pretty tough environments.
The best tool to use, though, by far, is the thermal camera, which is best suited for nighttime operations. If you're trying to use this on a hot summer day, it'd be pretty much useless, as the body heat of a person would just blend in with the surrounding environment. At night, though, when the temperature drops, a human would be easy to pick out, especially with the resolution of the sensor. It has a resolution of 640 pixels on the long side.
So when flying at higher altitudes, you can still identify a person from, say, an animal or some other anomaly that is holding heat. To take us back to the clip I shared at the beginning of the video. You'll notice that when I'm flying up at 200 feet, I can easily identify a person down on the ground. There are three individuals on the ground and they're really easy to spot.
And as I fly over them and look through the woods, I see no thermal activity whatsoever, no hotspot. So I know instantly that the person that I was looking for in that scenario wasn't in that area. Now, I of course, came across a lot of other animals, deer, foxes, horses even, and you can really easily tell because of the high resolution of the camera that isn't a person, right?
If you just zoom down. Fly down closer. You can easily say, hey, that's too small. That's a small fox. So that's a small rabbit. Maybe you see a larger animal. It could be a deer, but just know that when you are using the thermal camera, it should be pretty easy to pick out what looks like a human body.
Now, while you might not use this feature in the heat of the moment, I just wanted to mention the smart low-light photo shooting mode, which is flat-out ridiculous. Like even in a pitch-black parking lot. It can produce photos with a zoom camera that look like they were captured during the daytime.
Just to give you an example, here's what I saw in my live feed. This year is the photo taken with the wide camera, which is actually decent. And then here is a photo taken with smart low light photo taken from the Zoom camera. It really is impressive. Now, it would be really cumbersome to fly around, take photographs, let that photograph process, and then go to the album and view it like that's a lot of time.
Your drone is just hovering there when you could actually be looking for the person or subject that you're looking for. So I'd say the thermal camera will be your best bet for most of your search and rescue missions at nighttime. But if you do need a color view, a more clear view that isn't the thermal view, you could always use this photo mode, the smart little light photo mode, as a backup option.
Now on the topic of cameras, I just want to mention that the FPV camera used by the pilot is also really good at seeing in low-light scenarios. So, if you have two pilots operating the drone. One is flying, and one is controlling the camera. The pilot that is in charge of flying will still have a good view of general obstacles in the way, even when there's very little light, don't rely on the FPV camera to fly in tight spaces.
In low-light scenarios, though, you won't be able to see smaller objects, like branches or power lines, all that well.
DJI RC Plus remote controller for the M30T
Now I want to briefly touch on some other pieces of technology that are used here with the M30 platform that can be very helpful in a search and rescue scenario. The first is the remote controller.
The RC Plus is like the ultimate way to fly a drone and offers a lot of benefits when using it for search and rescue missions. The screen size is, of course, great. It's got a 1200 nit, seven-inch, 1080P panel and has a full-sized HDMI port so you can output your video feed to a larger monitor that others can easily view instead of pinning their neck over your shoulder to see the screen on your controller.
All the buttons on the remote also make it really easy to operate the drone fluidly. So there's no second guessing how to make changes while in the air. Once you master this remote, you'll be able to control everything you need with tactile buttons mid-flight without having to dig through the settings and different menus.
Finally, the removable battery and internal battery give you a long runtime with the ability to hot-swap batteries for an indefinite runtime on the remote controller. You can just keep feeding batteries and go.
Accessories for the DJI M30T
The final piece of technology that I want to touch on are the attachments made for the M30 that attach right to the front of the drone using the four screw mounts on the top side.
While I don't have any of these attachments, I do have some colleagues that use them on a daily basis, and they say that they wouldn't fly without them. They are that valuable. Being able to see better and communicate remotely is huge for search and rescue operations.
Search and Rescue Pro talks about the DJI M30T
So speaking of colleagues, I figured I'd leave it to a true professional to help us understand why the M30T is such a great drone to use for search and rescue.
Billy: So I've got my friend Kyle Nordfors here with me from Weber County Search and Rescue. Kyle, how you doing?
Kyle: I'm doing well, thanks. How are you?
Billy: Good. So tell us a little bit about yourself and how you've helped Weber County adopt drones in general.
Kyle: Well, like I said, my name is Kyle Nordfors Force. I am the drone team coordinator for Weber County Search and Rescue.
We are a moderately sized county in northern Utah. We have tons of mountains, lakes, streams, and all sorts of wild terrain, and when you're trying to search for people and that type of environment where you have 4,000-foot cliffs, it's imperative to be able to reach them quickly. And drones just fit that bill in a very quick, economical, and efficient manner.
Billy: Yeah. So now you actually had a unique opportunity to get your hands on the M30T a little bit early, and we were discussing one of the scenarios that you actually used the drone in. So why don't you give us a play-by-play of that very first save that you had with the drone.
Kyle: Yeah. We felt very fortunate to be able to get our hands on that M 30 T before it was officially released.
And I'll tell you what, it was absolutely instrumental in saving the life of one of our residents in weber County. This particular gentleman was out splitboarding one evening and ended up getting lost. He was following somebody else's tracks, and his skin started icing up. So he decided to hunker down and call 911. With that, we had a decent idea of where he was on the mountain. He gave us the trailhead that he started on, but then he thought he had moved to another trailhead. And so when we showed up on the scene, the M30T, with its quick deploy ability, it was obviously our very first choice.
Even though we didn't have a lot of time or a lot of experience with it, we unfolded it. Launched it, put it up on the scene, and within 10 minutes, with the use of the thermal camera and also the zoom camera, and also with a little bit of the night scene, we were able to find his tracks really quickly and get eyes on him within 10 minutes.
With that, we were able to lower the drone a little bit closer to him so that he was able to see that, Hey, we can see you, we know where you are. And I have a fantastic video of him just waving at the drone, trying to make himself as visible as possible. And when you have very deep snow like that and compacted snow like in their trails, the emissivity of the different packed levels of snow, you actually see trails very easily when you're using a palette like white hot or black hot. It just pops. And so with that, we were able to find them very quickly.
Billy: Yeah. And now I have to give a quick plug to Kyle here and his video production skills, because you put together a great video of that entire scenario.
So I'm going to leave a link down below if you want to check that out because it shares everything from the nine one one call to you actually finding him to you actually going up and rescuing him, you, and your team. So I do want to give a quick plug to that. I'll leave that link below because it really is a great video.
It's a great story about how drones can be used to save lives. Now speaking of saving lives, like give me a rough estimate of how many lives you've saved or how many lives have been saved by drones?
Kyle: The way that we deploy drones in Weber County, we usually have a different role that we play during every single mission.
Sometimes, when the drones show up on the scene, we are a hasty search mechanism. We are a tool to get out there and try to find our patients as quickly as possible and also to get good coordinates with our latitude and longitude.
Other times we use the drone as a support tool to provide ambient light, whether we're using the M300 with the big Spotlight so that our ground teams can harness up the patients and get them repelled off their cliff face. But when it comes to where we use the drone specifically as a hasty search and get eyes on our patients quickly, we're well within the mid-twenties, probably approaching 30 or so people that we have been instrumental in saving their lives.
Billy: That's incredible. Now you have a fairly large arsenal of drones, right? I got the whole rundown at Airworks, DJI Airworks. All of the different drones that you have. All of the different systems that you have in place. So with all these different options that you have, what makes you want to choose something like, say, the M30T over the other drones in arsenal, like a larger M300 or maybe even a smaller Mavic 3 Enterprise or Mavic 2 Enterprise?
Every drone has a purpose. Every tool that you want to use for a specific reason. The main difference between the M30T and the other drones is that it seems to be the tool that fits most purposes overall. When it comes, you show up, at your location at the incident command, and you need to get up, and you need to get the drone up and launched quickly.
There is really nothing faster than the M30T. You could make an argument that the Mavic Enterprise line is quick, but it's still not as quick as the M30T. Plus, you have the laser range finder, you have the thermal camera, and the zoom camera. You have so many different capabilities with that. And I can't emphasize enough how critical a laser range finder is in this because as soon as you find your patients, you need to be able to get those coordinates and radio those coordinates to your ground teams so that it completely eliminates the guesswork as to where the people are.
The M30T just fills a role. Let me rephrase that. The M30T fills so many roles that the other drones just don't do. That it is almost always our go-to first on the scene. We're pulling that M30T.
Billy: That's great. When I think about the drone in a lot of different aspects, I think it blends the best of both worlds with an M300 and a smaller Mavic because it's got that small portable form factor with all of the amazing powerful features that, say, the M300 has, as well as all the safety features, right?
There's so much redundancy built into that drone that it really does make it such a good option. So Kyle, thank you so much for coming on here. Do you have any final remarks?
Kyle: I always appreciate all the work that you put out and the way in which you have given so much information to the Drone Industry at large.
I think that one thing that all drone pilots need to remember now, you are pilots, and as pilots, you are part of the aviation community. Please make sure that you interact with not just the drone industry, but also integrate yourself with manned aviation, because we are all one big happy family. We are all aviators. We're in this together.
Billy: That is awesome. Hey Kyle, thank you so much and to you out there watching, thank you so much for tuning into this video. If you've got any questions about the M30T, feel free to let me know down the comment section below, and maybe Kyle himself will come and answer a couple of your questions.
And as always, I'll talk to you later. Peace.
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