Drones: FLIR eyes emergency services market with DroneSense investment

Drones: FLIR eyes emergency services market with DroneSense investment

Thermal imaging specialist FLIR has announced a strategic investment in DroneSense, a Texas-based software platform that aims to help emergency services manage drone operations.

The move makes a lot of sense for FLIR: the company’s thermal imaging technology is increasingly being used to supplement the mobility of drones, providing emergency services and first responders with a roving thermal camera in the sky.

Sharing customers and expertise with DroneSense

According to a statement from FLIR, the minority-stake investment is the start of a long-term partnership that will see DroneSense share its expertise and introduce the thermal imaging specialist to new customers.

There are numerous drone software companies dedicated to fleet management, planning and analysing operations, but DroneSense is unique in focusing on the public safety market.

Given the tools at FLIR’s disposal and their obvious potential for life-saving aerial applications, the investment – along with the pair’s promise to “develop and bring to market advanced UAS operating, management, and reporting systems,” – is good news for first responders.

FLIR’s thermal imaging drone payloads give emergency crews extra situational awareness by providing visuals that are based on heat. The technology can be used to spot people through smoke or in total darkness.

“This alliance with DroneSense will help bring to market a truly mission-critical solution needed by first responders to effectively deploy a complete unmanned aerial systems [UAS] programme across their organisations,” said James Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR.

Cannon also hinted that the relationship with DroneSense could eventually move beyond aerial technology. “We believe this platform is scalable geographically, across multiple markets, and across multiple FLIR business units,” he said. “While focused today on unmanned aerial systems, we see longer-term opportunities for the solution to be extendable to other forms of sensing devices.”

Plus: DJI & FLIR demo tech with fire brigade

In related news, earlier this week Chinese drone giant DJI demonstrated its latest thermal imaging camera with the help of a local fire brigade. The test took place in Twente, Netherlands.

As Internet of Business reported last month, the Zenmuse XT2 is a two-headed camera that combines DJI’s optical vision with FLIR’s thermal imaging technology to support emergency services.

Internet of Business says

FLIR’s long-running partnership with leading drone manufacturer DJI has been mutually beneficial. Both companies have relied on each other’s expertise, and have undoubtedly gained more exposure and adoption from public safety organisations as a result.

With DJI, FLIR has been able to ride the wave of drone adoption and offer products to support the next generation of public safety tools. At the same time, with FLIR’s expertise, DJI has been able to harness thermal imaging technology and grow the credibility of its enterprise products.

The deal with DroneSense, though, represents a future in which FLIR stands on its own in the drone industry. By investing in a drone operations software platform, it would appear as though FLIR is gunning for the public safety market – with or without DJI.

• We will be updating this story with further comment from the vendors.