This time of year tends to be all about the new consumer products, as people seek out gifts to put under the trees of their loved ones. Few people are asking for a big, enterprise drone for Christmas. But if you are, Santa DJI delivered with a new version of its Mavic drone designed with agriculture in mind. It’s called the Mavic 3M drone. And it packs a 4-band multispectral drone camera into the compact frame of DJI’s iconic Mavic 3 drone.
This drone isn’t for most people, but — for the subsection of drone pilots it is for — it is set to be a game changer. That’s the world of global precision agriculture.
The DJI Mavic 3M drone (the M is short for multispectral) was designed to help farmers to improve quality and efficiency of their production while reducing crop monitoring analysis costs. As DJI has been known to do with past products, the company takes the skeleton of its drones and adds or removes certain extra tech specs to match a certain use case. DJI recently did this with the DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise, which adds a 56× zoom camera and a RTK module for centimeter-level precision.
The DJI Mavic 3 is the first, original drone. But others include:
- DJI Mavic 3M (for agriculture)
- DJI Mavic 3E (for mapping and surveying)
- DJI Mavic 3T (for thermal imaging)
- DJI Mavic 3 Classic (a stripped down version for photographers and hobbyists)
In the case of the DJI Mavic 3M, DJI has added on a multispectral imaging system that quickly captures crop growth information to achieve more effective crop production.
And, it’s available now through DJI Enterprise dealers.
Some key specs of the new Mavic 3M drone:
- 4/3-inch CMOS and 20MP image sensor on RGB camera.
- Weight: 951 grams (just over two pounds)
- Foldable design fits into ordinary bags
- Battery life of up to 43 minutes
- Can complete the surveying and mapping operations of an area as vast as 2 square kilometers in a single flight.
The Mavic 3M camera
This drone uses a two-in-one camera system, where you’re given both an RGB and a multispectral imaging system. And, the Mavic 3M’s visual camera offers 3.3μm pixels.
The RGB camera: As for the first camera, the RGB camera, there’s a 4/3-inch CMOS and 20MP image sensor and mechanical shutter with a maximum speed of 1/2000. High-speed continuous filming is done as fast as 0.7 seconds intervals.
The multispectral camera: This is the camera most pilots will likely be in it for — offering four lenses for accurate directional information capable of capturing 5 million pixels. The use case? Understanding crop conditions with cameras that can sense details the human eye cannot. It can scan for the following wavelengths:
- Green (G): 560nm ± 16nm
- Red (R): 650 nm ± 20 nm
- Red edge (RE): 730 nm ± 20 nm
- Near-infrared (NIR) 860 nm ± 26 nm
Mavic 3M RTK
With the Mavic 3M, you’re looking at an RTK module with centimeter-level positioning — no ground control points needed. RTK stands for “real-time kinematic,” referencing a satellite navigation technique that can enhance the precision of position data derived from satellite-based positioning systems such as GPS. It’s used to achieve centimeter-level precision in the aerial images that your drone captures — essential for precision mapping.
RTK is generally seen as more accurate and efficient than traditional GPS based capture methods, using a ground-based Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) receiver.
Related read: DJI Phantom 4 RTK costs more than 4x the original Phantom 4. Is it worth it?
Other Mavic 3M specs
As is the case with most DJI products as of late, the Mavic 3M is equipped with O3 video transmission, which integrates two channels of transmitting signals and four channels of receiving signals, and supports an ultra-long transmission distance of 15 kilometers.
And like the DJI Mavic 3 Pro, it has omnidirectional obstacle sensing, which makes it pretty unlikely that the drone would crash, as it’ll simply hover in front of objects that it senses.
There’s also a pretty neat built-in Incident Light Sensor on the back of its airframe that works to mitigate how weather changes interfere with the clarity of your NDVI results. It works by taking solar irradiance readings that can be used to calibrate and normalize your multispectral data in post-processing by adjusting for sunlight levels.
The drone has a built-in DJI Cloud API, which is based on the MQTT protocol in Pilot 2, allowing you to directly connect Mavic 3M to third-party cloud platforms. You might use that to help with data gathering, live video, photo data, etc., all without the need to develop a separate app.
If you want to build your own apps, Mavic 3M also supports Mobile SDK 5 (MSDK5).
Using drones for precision agriculture
Drones have proven value in the field of precision agriculture in a myriad of ways, most notably conducting aerial surveys of the land. For example, using a drone for automatic field scouting can detect crop abnormalities and perform intelligent analyses. DJI claims that with a drone, a single person could easily manage 70 hectares of land which would be unheard of otherwise.
NDVI is a huge component of precision agriculture, making it possible to detect plants under stress, differentiate between crops, and determine at which stage they are in their growing cycle.
“The NDRE index provides insights on chlorophyll content in leaves, and the GNDVI is useful for estimating photosynthetic activity, as well as water and nitrogen content in the plant canopy,” according to DJI. Capture that imagery on a repeating basis from an aerial vantage point for smarter farming.
Related products like the DJI SmartFarm Platform generate NDVI vegetation index to provide the data for more efficient and localized crop treatment. SmartFarm is an app built by DJI with features including mission planning, a full fleet overview, field management and data assessment.
The Mavic 3M is also fully compatible with DJI Terra, which allows you to create maps and models of your targets, which is also sometimes relevant in agriculture.
Of course, agriculture is also a natural fit for drones, as it’s typically conducted in vast, open fields and away from people, meaning agricultural drones tend to be a relatively low-risk operation.
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