Deciding which drone to buy can be fun or a challenge. Not only should you consider your budget, but you should also look at it from a practical point of view. More specifically, what will be the purpose of the drone?
Markéta Raym has been working with drones & pilots for over four years, making her a specialist in all things drones.
Following many questions from customers and pilots on which drone they should buy, Markéta compares the two most popular ones:
The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced (M2EA): the most awaited & powerful portable drone, released in 2021 and fully compatible with the Sitemark Fuse Platform. The price and quality of the results make it an ideal choice for all-size companies focused on the solar industry — a perfect ready-to-fly combo.
The DJI Matrice 300 RTK (M300 RTK): the dominating and most advanced commercial RTK drone, released in 2020 and fully compatible with the Sitemark Fuse Platform.
It is a powerful drone with the newest thermal DJI H20T camera.
So, let’s zoom in!
When choosing your drone, you should focus on the following criteria:
1. UAV Gimbal Payloads
The M2EA has a built-in camera (integrated thermal and visual), so the pilot can’t swap the cameras and use the drone for other purposes. The drone is all-in-one.
The M300 RTK can be combined with many payloads to support every mission’s needs.
It has an advanced payload capacity and gimbal configuration – up to three payloads simultaneously (two below and one at the top).
With a maximum payload capacity of 2.7kg, the M300 RTK is ideal for surveying tasks requiring multiple sensors for enhanced intelligence, such as DJI Zenmuse P1, Lidar scan, construction surveys, and high-level accuracy mapping purposes (RTK function).
2. Thermal Sensor
When comparing the H20T sensor on the M300 RTK to the built-in sensor in the M2EA, both thermal sensors are radiometric and have comparable resolution: 640 × 512 px @ 30 Hz.
In conclusion, the H20T camera and the built-in camera of the M2EA have comparable results, guaranteeing the same quality.
In both cases, the thermal and visual cameras simultaneously record the data needed for solar inspections. Thanks to the thermal data, we can detect the thermal anomalies present on your solar site. The visual data will help identify the causes.
3. Visual camera
The H20T camera with a zoom lens (20 megapixels) and wide lens (12 megapixels) supports visual capture, making the famous triple camera an excellent standard (including thermal) together with the 23x optical zoom. Nevertheless, we recommend using the zoom lens (zoom: 2.0X) because of its higher resolution.
The built-in camera of the M2EA has a built-in zoom lens with 48 megapixels and 32× digital zoom.
DJI increased the flight time of the M300 RTK to 55 minutes, but that is without a payload. The flight time is also very weather-dependent (wind), so you need to consider the safe margin of the battery for landing (safety procedures). Therefore, the average flight time will take 30-40 minutes with the H20T camera.
💡 DJI added the hot-swappable battery system next to the self-heated battery system. This system allows you to change the batteries without powering off, so you can get back in the air in no time!
Nevertheless, the batteries for the M300 RTK are heavy (1.35 kg/one) and costly (+/- 850€/battery). Keep in mind that you will need two of these for taking off.
The flight time of the M2EA is around 28 min (time has increased compared to Mavic precedents) with the function of self-heated batteries.
However, the swap of the M2EA batteries is frequent, thus increasing the flight duration when flying large areas.
The benefit of the M2EA is its compactness. Because it’s foldable, it gives easy access to remote areas. The M2EA is also very light, weighing only 909 gr.
In comparison, the M300 RTK weighs +/- 3.6 kg (without batteries) and (±) 6.3 kg (with two TB60 batteries). That amount of weight makes a rooftop inspection where the pilot must climb on the roof a challenging task when working solo.
Pilots can take the drone on the plane and execute the inspection where needed. Therefore, the M2EA is the winner when traveling and packing the drone for a mission. Its compactness allows pilots to be flexible and eliminates flight restriction constraints because of the batteries or size of the drone.
💡 LiPo batteries that exceed ±160 watt-hours are prohibited.
When it comes to being resistant to heavy weather conditions, the winner is the M300 RTK! Because yes, you can fly the M300 RTK in any weather condition, which is excellent news when facing a time-pressuring operation. Wind resistance is up to 15 m/s compared to 8 m/s for the M2EA. Since the weather plays a significant factor in completing a job successfully, the M300 RTK will provide the highest reliability and resistance.
The M300 RTK can maintain a safe distance from obstacles (Obstacle Avoidance feature) and powerlines safety (less interference).
Another excellent safety point of the M300 RTK is the 3-propeller landing feature. If one rotor stops working, the other three will compensate, allowing you to land the aircraft safely and decreasing the risk of crash landings. On top of that, it also has an onboard detection of wind speed.
The safety feature of the M2EA is that it is small and light-weighted.
8. Real-Time Kinematic (RTK)
The M2EA is the first Mavic with the option to buy an Add-On RTK module (RTK processing on a drone records GPS information and geotags images when captured during flight).
While the M2EA has an RTK receiver, it is only configured with an NTRIP (Networked Transport of RTCM via Internet Protocol) service provider.
The downside is that you will need an NTRIP subscription – some are free. But some require a paid subscription – and a stable internet connection to obtain the RTK corrections. It’s important to know that the M2EA is unsuitable for surveying when relying solely on the RTK.
Since the M2EA is not equipped with DJI’s TimeSync system, the RTK of the M2EA only corrects the navigational GPS coordinates and not the geographic location of the photographs captured.
If flights can only be carried out by relying on RTK, then the M300 RTK is the winner! If absolute accuracy is necessary from the flight, you should combine the M2EA RTK flights with Ground Control Points (GCPs). It is also worth noting that, unlike the M300 RTK, the M2EA is incompatible with DJI’s D2 RTK base station.
DJI created the perfect drone to perform missions as fast and safely as possible. The M300 RTK replaces the EOL (End of Life) Matrice 210. The M300 RTK is great for professional drone pilots/entities with large-scale projects and complex sites where surveying and mapping accuracy is crucial. This is a win-win situation for all stakeholders.
The M2EA is a very competitive drone for small/medium-sized sites. It fits professional drone pilots/entities needing a small, compact, and flexible drone to perform site inspections with visual and thermal sensors.
The data quality is identical; only the flight duration is different. Therefore, large-scale projects are much more efficient with M300 RTK than the M2EA.
The new M2EA is more budget-friendly and thus suitable for commercial solar rooftops and small-scale projects, while the M300 RTK is great for utility-scale and large sites.
Both drones can serve different scales in the industry, and it’s up to you to select the one that best suits your future business plan.
To learn more about acquiring high-quality data, rewatch our “Aerial Drone Data: Capturing Actionable Insights” webinar.