Being a public safety trainer can be exciting, especially when you get early access to the latest tech goodies. Simply put, if you’re a drone enthusiast it’s a great time to be alive.
When I saw the Mavic 2 Enterprise (zoom edition) I made arrangements to get one right away. I’ve been training cops and firefighters how to fly drones for the last 3 years and they have identified some key features they would like to see. With the release of the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise it seems like someone was listening!
Early adopters of drone technology gravitated toward some of the more popular consumer grade products like the DJI Phantom or the Inspire 1. These models were designed for videography and while useful, they lacked certain features which would aid first responders. Lighting and thermal cameras were at the top of the list. Innovators attempted to modify commercial drones by outfitting them with spotlights, thermal cameras and other doodads to make them more functional.
The release of the Mavic 2 Enterprise is exciting because it was developed in response to requests from the public safety community. It’s the first portable drone to come equipped with swappable accessories which are actually integrated into the design, not just duct taped to the airframe. These accessories include a searchlight, loudspeaker and strobe beacon.
I already own a Mavic 2 Pro and I am quite fond of it. The Mavic 2 is portable, stable and equipped with DJI’s new Lightbridge 2 radio link, the most reliable yet. Earlier versions suffered connectivity problems such as latency and occasional brownouts. The new radio system seems to have solved these problems thereby increasing the range, video transmission quality and reliability.
The M2E is equipped with a 12 megapixel 2X zoom camera, a desirable feature when searching for lost people or inspecting towers. (Coming soon, the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual, equipped with a thermal camera. More on this later.)
Both the M2E and the M2 Pro are built on the same airframe so they have identical flight characteristics. Because the M2E is designed for industrial applications and public safety, it has been stripped of some of the advanced flight modes and features primarily utilized by commercial photographers and videographers. Instead, the M2E focusses on features that are likely to aid in more specialized missions such as situational awareness, inspections, and search and rescue.
The M2E comes with a self-heating battery, a feature which can help your cold weather operations. Simply put, cold batteries don’t function well and this feature may get you in the air when standard batteries refuse to initialize. The good news is that standard Mavic 2 batteries will work in the M2E as long as you are operating under normal conditions.
The chargers for the Mavic 2 Pro and the Mavic 2 enterprise are exactly the same and may be interchanged. If you already own a Mavic 2 or any accessories, they are compatible with tour Mavic 2 Enterprise. In fact the only difference between the Mavic 2 and the Enterprise Fly More kits are the batteries. The Enterprise kits bundle the self heating batteries.
The remote controller is also identical to that of the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom. I verified that the remote controllers have the same model number but may be flashed to different firmware. Upon updating my M2E using the assistant software for the Enterprise version, a warning notice appeared stating that the remotes are still interchangeable but future firmware updates for the Enterprise version would no longer be pushed out automatically . They must be manually installed. I can only assume that DJI is trying to eliminate the nag screens and the potential downtime caused by mandatory updates in the field.
The M2E requires the DJI Pilot App. I first tested this app on my iPad Pro which runs all my other DJI hardware with ease. The new Pilot app is designed for a smartphone, not a tablet. While it is possible to run it on a tablet, the app will run minimized, occupying a phone sized part of your screen. You can enlarge the app to fit your screen but its not the same as having an app written for your device. Hopefully DJI will publish an iPad compatible version of the app. I have not tested the Android version.
The DJI Go 4 app, will not work with the M2E. If you try to connect to the Mavic Enterprise a warning message appears stating this device is not supported. Maybe this will change but for now you must use the DJI Pilot app.
Advanced Flight Modes
The opening screen of the Pilot App interface offers 2 options, “Manual Flight” and “Mission Flight”. Planned flight allows for the creation of a flight plan with waypoints. It appears the Mission Flight option has not yet been enabled in the iOS version. This could change with a future update.
If you are already familiar with other DJI aircraft you’ll notice some things missing in the Pilot app, mainly advanced flight modes. Look, I get it. If we are out there inspecting a crane or searching for a lost child, there’s no need to get artful shots and hyperlapse videos. That being said, flight modes such as point of interest and object tracking would certainly be useful in public safety applications. Heck, course lock might even come in handy, especially if you are inspecting a pipeline or power-line. I am sure DJI will open up some of these features in future releases but for now, plan on flying your basic missions manually.
If you opened up the Pilot app on your Crystal Sky Monitor you’ll be presented with the option to create a “Mission Flight”. This part of the app resembles ground station and allows the user to create preplanned missions. With a little planning you can set up search patterns and autonomous missions. It’s a very powerful tool and Enterprise users would do well to become proficient at it.
The Mavic series of aircraft are compact and intentionally designed to use your smart phone as the control interface. DJI bundles a variety of cables to accommodate nearly every smart phone. Most people keep their phone in some kind of a case but if you want your phone to fit it into the remote controller as its designed you’ll have to remove it from the case. Most people find this inconvenient and if you’re like me, you might prefer a larger control interface like an iPad mini or even an iPad Pro. Android users have all sorts of options for compatible tablets. The good news is that I offer adapters to make this work and they are very easy to use.
The Crystal Sky monitor works well with the M2E and in my opinion is the preferred option for this unit. If you go this route you’ll need some mounting hardware to attach it to your remote controller. It’s much easier to see and navigate using the Crystal Sky. I have the perfect mounting solution, the Fly Pro tablet-CS adapter available in my square store.
Depending on which accessory you use, an icon will appear in the upper left corner to activate the accessory.
The Loudspeaker System
The speaker system for the Mavic 2E can have many uses. From warning swimmers to communicating with people during police standoffs. The volume of the audio broadcast from this small drone is stunning. I conducted a fun test on Christmas eve, recording some holiday sounds to play for the neighborhood. I was amazed when the message could be heard over 500 feet away! You can see a short demo here:
Using the loudspeaker accessory you can either broadcast an immediate message or play back a prerecorded message. You can access basic playback features from the main screen. To access the record feature of the loudspeaker you must open the submenu in order to record a message.
Currently there does not appear to be a way to import audio files. They must be manually recorded through the microphone of your mobile device.
The sound quality and volume were surprising considering the weight of the loudspeaker accessory.
The DJI spotlight accessory is superior to aftermarket solutions in many ways. Its main strengths are that it can be activated through the control interface and does not require a separate power source. Don’t be deceived by the light weight, the spotlight is high quality and the beam is focussed. I’ll post more definitive test results in future posts but for now its safe to say this is brighter than anything I have tested to date.
You can turn the searchlight on an off the light from the main screen but to adjust the brightness you must access the advanced functions in the submenu. Brightness will be limited to 50% until the aircraft is launched.
Other solutions like the Lume Cubes are usable but have their shortcomings. The Lume Cube can be activated by a separate bluetooth device through an app and therefore the ability to control them is limited to a hundred feet or so. Once the Lume Cube is out of range you lose the ability to turn it on or off or dim it. Once the Lume Cube exhausts its onboard battery, it cannot be used until it is recharged. They are heavy and require and aftermarket mounting system.
The third bundled accessory is the strobe beacon. This accessory os pretty straight forward. Install it and turn it on or off in the app. DJI says it’s compliant with the 3 mile visibility requirement in Part 107. I have no reason to doubt them, its crazy bright.
Broadcasting to a Mobile Command Post
The original Mavic Pro had an option to pair a second remote controller. This option is not currently available on the Mavic 2 series. I hope they open up this feature in the near future. It could allow a second operator to assist the pilot or create the option for a mobile command post to monitor the drone flight.
For now, if you want to rebroadcast video from the M2E to a mobile command post you’ll need to use a Crystal Sky monitor and run a cable from the HDMI port. Other applications which use the cellular network like CAPE are not yet compatible but may be in the near future,
GPS Time and Date Stamp
GPS location, time and date stamp can be displayed on the control interface. The data is also saved to photos and video. This can be invaluable while conducting search missions, documenting scenes or potential evidence.
AirsSense Airspace Warning
This system provides the operator situational awareness of approaching aircraft through the use of an integrated receiver which detects the ADS-B signals from nearby airplanes and helicopters. While conducting a test flight I received a visual warning on my screen about an approaching aircraft. The warning included distance from the aircraft. This system is a huge leap forward in situational awareness.
It’s important to choose the right drone for the job so give some thought to how you plan on using it. The Mavic 2 Enterprise is designed with public safety and industrial applications in mind. Its portability and accessories make it a good choice for quick deployments. Its not a replacement for the more burly M200 but it certainly fills a gap.
If you are planning commercial photography or videography you may want to opt for something else like a Mavic 2 Pro or a Phantom 4 Pro. You’ll be paying for features you may not need and you’ll miss features that could help you take more artistic photos and videos.
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