FLIR has long made thermal camera that mount on drones made by other companies, such as DJI. But this week, Teledyne FLIR has released its own drone. The new Teledyne FLIR drone is called the SIRAS, and it has a price point under $10,000 — making it pretty affordable relative to even DJI.
Teledyne FLIR’s SIRAS drone made its public debut today as part of the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The big distinguisher of this drone is its dual camera. You’ll get your standard visual camera, as well as a thermal camera. We’ve seen dual cameras for a few years now, perhaps most famously via the DJI XT2 which included a dual sensor for both a infrared camera and a traditional 4K video feed in real-time. Then, the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual took those side-by-side visual and thermal cameras and put them into the more portable package of the Mavic drone.
But the most impressive differentiator with the new SIRAS drone? For now, it’s the only enterprise drone to currently incorporate patented MSX technology, which overlays the edge detail from the visible camera on the thermal image to provide critical information in real time.
SIRAS was created by U.S. thermal imaging camera and sensor company Teledyne FLIR. That name might sound pretty familiar in the drone space given the company’s sensors seen in other drones such as DJI’s Zenmuse XT2 thermal imaging camera created in partnership with thermal camera maker FLIR Systems. FLIR was acquired for $8 billion by Teledyne Technologies in a deal that was completed in May 2021.
And it seems Teledyne wasted no time in capitalizing on FLIR’s strong ties to the drone industry. As just about a year-and-a-half in, the newly-merged company gave the drone industry what could be a strong, American-made competitor in the commercial drone space.
What to know about the new SIRAS drone from Teledyne FLIR
The SIRAS drone is all about the thermal imaging. It comes with a quick-connect, dual radiometric thermal and visible camera payload called Vue TV128. It all is mounted via a quick-connect gimbal, meaning minimal work on your end to get everything connected.
Radiometric thermal cameras are used to measure the temperature of a given surface by interpreting the intensity of the infrared signal reaching its camera. Given its strong ability to detect objects or people, this technology is commonly used for security and protection applications, such as guarding physical and virtual perimeters around power plants, petrochemical facilities, and substations.
And those images you collect will be compatible with both FLIR Thermal Studio, as well as most other major third-party photogrammetry applications.
Among the top features of the Teledyne FLIR SIRAS drone:
- 16MP visible camera with 32x zoom
- 640×512 pixel, radiometric Boson with thermal imagery, 5x digital zoom, and temperature-measurement of every pixel in the scene
- Dual-band radio (2.4/5.8 GHz) connection
- 31 minutes of flight time
- Hot, swappable batteries
- Radar-based front collision avoidance
- Backpack portability
Another interesting note about the SIRAS drone is that it’s geofence-free. In a move intended to improve data security, all data is stored on an onboard SD card, and there’s no cloud connection capability. There’s also no requirement that pilots create an online profile to use it.
The SIRAS drone is designed for applications including industrial and utility inspection, public safety, firefighting, and search and rescue missions. And between the decisions that Teledyne FLIR has made around connections, storage and geofencing, it seems the company is targeting users who have serious enterprise applications where security of their own data is paramount.
The company says the decisions were made for “increasing ease of use and reducing potential unintended online data access.”
It sells for $9,695, and will begin shipping throughout the U.S. in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Another drone made in America (of sorts)
Another important feature of SIRAS — by some measures, this drone was made in the USA. Teledyne FLIR is based in Oregon, with additional offices in Arlington, Virginia.
Though, the drone itself was designed in collaboration with (and manufactured by) Coretronic Intelligent Robotics Corporation (CIRC) in Taiwan, a subsidiary of Coretronic Group. “Made in America” is a bit of a different metric depending on who is defining it, but since — final payload integration and quality control was completed in the USA — most would consider SIRAS to be an American-made drone.
Purchasing U.S.-made drones has been a priority for many, especially in recent years. Sure, there’s benefits like supporting your local economy, potentially better customer service (ie. you can talk to someone in your own time zone and get it shipped faster) and adhering to a general ‘buy American‘ sentiment. But perhaps more crucially is that many organizations — both public and private — have banned drones made in China (and sometimes drones made anywhere else besides the U.S.). Many of those concerns kicked off in 2017 when the U.S. Army temporarily banned its teams from using DJI drones because of cyber-security concerns.
“Today, China-based companies dominate the global commercial drone market but are increasingly under pressure as untrustworthy concerning privacy and data security issues,” according to a statement from Teledyne FLIR. “Domestic drone manufacturers struggle with volume production and significantly higher pricing than Chinese competitors. SIRAS provides the data security and features customers in North America and Europe require but at a price point more aligned with China-based drone makers.”
A 2019 survey of first responders found that 88% of those who use drones would prioritize a drone that was made in the U.S.
This is far from FLIR’s first time working with other drone companies. FLIR acquired Prox Dynamics, the makers of a military nano drone called the Black Hornet Nano, in December 2016 for $134 million. And about three years later, FLIR acquired the patents for tethered drones from Aria Insights (which in itself is the company formerly known as Massachusetts-based CyPhy Works).
And the company is pretty convinced that this new SIRAS drone in particular will take off.
“SIRAS offers comparable flight performance and superior imagery to the leading drone brands but at a price point significantly lower than the domestic competition, yet it offers payload flexibility and data security peace-of-mind that buyers require,” according to a statement from Teledyne FLIR. “Furthermore, customers enjoy data security and USA-based customer service and support, all from a trusted USA-based organization.”