For a while now we have had a flir tau 2 mounted on our s1000, which was used in a number of industrial inspection jobs. The problem was, it was hard mounted and as you can imagine having to land the rig just to tilt the camera became tedious. we decided adding the camera to our unused dji phantom 2 seemed like the perfect idea. It is light, nimble and easy to setup and deploy. the problems that arose were that there is no plug and play solution for the flir tau lineup, and we were required to test and tune until we were able to achieve steady and clear video. Here is our detailed build list with some of the items you will need if you want to do it yourself, or see how we were able to put it together.
Phantom 2 Flir Tau2 Thermal UAV
DJI Phantom 2 ( * )
DJI 2.4ghz Datalink (Waypoints)
DJI AVL58 Video Downlink ( * )
DJI Mini IOSD ( * )
DJI FPV HUB ( * )
Flir Tau2 Thermal Camera 336 (13mm Lens) ( * )
Flir Tau2 VPC Module ( * )
Beholder Lite 2 Axis Brushless Gimbal ( * )
Right Angle MCX Cable ( * )
Right Angle MINI USB to USB Male ( * )
12-26 Volt to 5 Volt Regulator with USB FEmale ( * )
m1.6x8 metric button head screw ( * )
3m 411 EXtreme heavy duty double sided tape ( * )
You dont need everything we listed above, but if you are using it for agricultural inspection, you would want waypoints to be able to automatically track and fly a commanded path. Must have Items are listed with a ( * ) next to it.
Installing the gimbal, IOSD, AVL58, and FPV HUB to the phantom are relatively easy following the included manuals. The flir tau requires 5 volt input, but the phantom runs on 3s lipo (12 volts +/-). There is numerous regulators which output 5 volts, but the easiest we found was disassembling a car cell phone usb charge adapter. Most are small in size, have input range of 12-26 volts, output 5 volts and have the required USB female output. The vpc module uses a usb mini 5 pin connector, and the way the camera is mounted, it is best to use a right angle mini usb male connector to clear the arm of the gimbal. when using a usb cable connected to the camera, you need atleast 1.5amps running to the camera. What we found was when you only use the negative and positive leads, instead of the full size usb male connector, it limits power to .5 amps. after contacting a usb cable supplier, we found out that usb connectors are metal, because the actual casing of the usb connector is a ground, which lets you use whatever amperage your inputting, instead of the .5 amps through the pins. we simply soldered the 5 volt regulator with wires to the main board, and plugged our usb cable into the female port of the adapter. using double sided tape, we stuck the regulator to the small space right next to the naza flight controller. running the cable through the legs of the phantom and down the back of the gimble, we are able to connect it to the vpc module of the flir tau and input 5 volts.
video from the flir tau is in analog format, and the vpc module uses a very small mcx connector. the mcx cable is a standard coaxial cable, with the ground being the braided wire outer layer, and the positive (video +) signal is the thin gauge wire in the core. we simply cut the cable with the negative and positive seperated by 2cm so we didnt run into shorting issues. when you solder your new leads to the positive and negative, they can be easily connected to the dji avl58 video positive and negative inputs. we recommend using a right angle mcx connector, because like the usb connector, you need the clearance from the gimbal arm. running both the cables up along side the gimble arms, we were able to have enough flexibility in the wires that it did not interfere with the gimbal operation.
mounting the flir tau camera was relatively straight forward, even though it doesnt seem like it would be a good fit with the gimbal. turning the camera upside down, and using double side tape along with a small screw, we were able to firmly fit the camera to the gimbal, You will need to drill a small hole to run the screw through to the camera and will require a m1.6x8 screw.
Lastly, we needed to go into the flir tau gui to choose our video options, along with flipping the video output upside down (camera is installed upside down). there is multiple camera settings, and over time we will play the settings to hopefully get the cleanest video output, no matter what the conditions.
tuning the gimbal is relatively straight forward, since the beholder lite is orginially setup for a gopro. the gopro and flir tau 2 are within 5 grams of each other, and the stock settings of the beholder gimble bgc module were almost close to perfect. the range of the gimbal is about 35' positive tilt and 90' negative tilt (if straight ahead is 0').
we did forget one thing after everything was setup and working, which was how to record what we were seeing in our monitor. after looking through 100 devices with amazing features and specs, the easiest device to use is the rmrc FPV DVR. it records to a SD card, is powered by an internal battery and has all the appropriate inputs. Some of the nicer hd pvr's required a power supply, which limited their use in the field. there is some very nice lawmate pvr's as well, but since we are only shooting analog video, we really have no need for a hd pvr.
we have posted some close up shots of our phantom 2 flir tau uav, and if anyone has any questions about setup or how it works, feel free to contact us. the possibilities are endless when using the flir tau on such a nimble and quick aircraft, allowing us to deploy it safely and within a matter of minutes. we would like to show you all the capabilities that aerial thermography can offer your company and are available for test flights and demos.
Short Video of Phantom 2 Flir UAV in flight and gimbal performance-VIDEO LINK HERE