[Review] Parrot Bebop Pro Thermal – thermal imaging drone with FLIR One Pro camera

Parrot is a French drone manufacturer which has been making drones since 2010. In the last 7 years they released several high quality, high end models of drones, including Bebop, Bebop 2 and Disco FPV, which made them direct competition to DJI.

Recently, and by recently I mean just a few weeks ago, they unveiled two drone models which target the professional segment of the market, Parrot Bluegrass and Parrot Bebop-Pro Thermal. Let’s refresh our memory that earlier this year they also released a drone for 3D modeling drone, Bebop-Pro 3D Modeling.

I already talked about Bluegrass, which is envisioned as an agriculture drone. Today we’re going to be doing a review of the Bebop-Pro Thermal, the other professional grade drone that they released.

Like the name of this drone suggests, Bebop-Pro Thermal is a thermal imaging drone capable of performing thermal inspection of its surroundings. It’s basically a repurposed Bebop 2, one of their mainstream drones. Bebop 2 is one heck of a drone, so it didn’t make much sense for Parrot to R&D a whole new drone just for this use.

Instead of creating a drone from scratch, Parrot only engineered a harness that screws into Bebops body and holds an additional thermal camera on the back. That way the users get the best of both worlds, a regular camera at the front of the drone, and a thermal one at the back.

The only thing that needs to be done is turn the drone around depending on which camera is needed in a particular situation. Intended market for Bebop-Pro Thermal are construction inspectors who can check the insulation of buildings, and also fire rescue crews, who can look for hot spots during fires, or heath signatures of people lost in the woods, for example.

Parrot Bebop Pro Thermal review

design, specs and features

Bebop-Pro Thermal is a slightly reworked and modified version of Bebop 2. It is a very light drone, measuring only about 600g.

Its weight is even more impressive when you take into account that we’re not talking about a mini drone. With width/length of 33cm and about 9cm in height, Bebop-Pro Thermal is a very light drone for its size.

From the front Bebop-Pro Thermal looks just like Bebop 2. It has the same rounded rectangular design of the main body. Landing struts are placed underneath the blade arms. Main camera is embedded in a casing at the front of the drone. Camera tilt is adjustable using the accompanying Skycontroller 2 transmitter that comes in the box.

Build quality is obviously very good, it’s Parrot after all that we’re talking about. Even if the drone does get damaged, there are spare parts, including motors, which can be purchased from Parrot to get the drone up in the air again. Let’s have a look at the specs and then a closer look at the thermal camera that Bebop-Pro Thermal sports at the back.

Specifications

  • Dimensions – 33x33x9cm, blades are removable which saves extra space during storage and transport
  • Weight – fully equipped with the harness and the additional camera, drone weighs in at about 600 grams
  • Main camera – tilt adjustable front camera features a 14MP sensor for nice looking photos and full HD video
  • FPV mode – drone can be hooked up to the Freeflight Pro app from Parrot for a full FPV experience
  • Video storage – 32GB of internal storage, plus there’s a microSD slot for expanding storage
  • Batteries – total of three 2700 mAh batteries are included, each offer 25 minutes of flight time
  • Chargers – package includes a two chargers, it takes around 55 minutes to charge the battery
  • Transmitter – Parrot Skycontroller 2 offers a range of up to 2km and battery life of up to 240 minutes
  • Wifi technology – Parrot Bebop-Pro uses a combination of 2.4 and 5Ghz with powerful antennas
  • Sensors & features – Bebop-Pro offers GPS, gyro stabilization, altimeter, video stabilizer, one button return home, etc.

Special features

  • FLIR One Pro – thermal imaging lens with a thermal resolution of 160×120 and a visual resolution of 1440×1080
  • Freeflight Pro Thermal app – special app for viewing the thermal video feed from the FLIR One Pro camera

Parrot Bebop Pro Thermal review

closer look at the features

Camera

First let’s talk about the main camera, the one on the front of the drone. It features a 14 mega-pixel fish-eye lens. It can record 1080p video at 30fps or take 4096 x 3072 pixel still photos in either JPEG, RAW or DNG photo formats. Camera features Parrots custom video stabilization technology which produces crispy clear, sharp and stable video, without wobble or anything like that.

Camera tilt can be adjusted using remotely the Skycontroller 2, which is a nice touch. All in all, top of the grade camera, and that’s just the first one that we have to talk about.

 

Battery

Bebop-Pro Thermal comes with 3 batteries total. Each of them offers a rather generous 2700 mAh capacity, which gives the drone 25 minutes of flight time, per battery. That means that with all three batteries fully charged you can expect around 75 minutes of air time before having to recharge the batteries.

Provided chargers take around 55 minutes to charge the battery from 0 to 100%. FPV app has a battery percentage built-into its interface to help you stay on top of how much battery you have left.

Transmitter & FPV

Parrot Skycontroller 2 is Parrots go-to transmitter that they use on pretty much all the models of drones that they are currently selling. It’s not wonder because it is a very powerful transmitter with a range of up to 2km.

That huge chunk of plastic at the front of the transmitter is what makes such a long range possible. That’s the antenna setup there. Built-in replaceable Lipo battery offers a run-time of about 240 minutes. Joysticks and buttons are very responsive, and the transmitter is surprisingly light for its size, coming it at 500g.

Clip for holding tablets is available and can be attached just above the status LED. Clip is extendable and can accommodate very large tablets, including iPads. For the FPV to work you will need to install the Freeflight Pro app on your smartphone or tablet however.

It’s a available for free from both iTunes and Google Play. FPV app is a must if you ask me not just because you can view a live feed from the camera, but also because it offers useful info like battery life left, transmitter signal quality, GPS lock, and more.

Skycontroller 2 has a neat feature where it also poses as a battery bank for the smartphone or tablet that you are using for FPV. There’s a micro USB slot on the left side of the transmitter where you can plug in your FPV device and charge the battery if it gets drained.

Just make sure to purchase additional batteries for the Skycontroller, which can be purchased from Parrot. All in all, both the transmitter and the FPV are very good on this drone.

 

Additional features

Like every other Bebop drone, Bebop-Pro Thermal comes with a lots of additional sensors that allow for easier orientation in space and in order for it to have good quality video and photo capture. For starters it has a GPS sensor that not only taps into GPS satellites but also uses Russian GLONASS for more accurate positioning in space.

Next to GPS there is also altimeter which together with GPS assures stable altitude hold.

Video stabilization that’s included with Bebop-Pro is amazingly good, and it’s a good thing that it is. Having a clear and high quality video off of the camera is important for a professional grade drone like Bebop-Pro Thermal. Luckily Parrot did an excellent job with preventing wobble and jello effect that usually plagues most budget consumer drones.

To top it all off, entire setup of Bebop-Pro Thermal comes in a custom backpack from Parrot themselves, where everything fits nice and snug. Drone and all the accessories are much easier to carry around in a custom backpack from the manufacturer, than having to improvise a carrying pouch ourselves. A nice touch from Parrot.

 

Parrot Bebop Pro Thermal review

how does thermal imaging work?

FLIR One Pro thermal camera

Let’s talk about the real reason why we’re here, the thermal imaging functionality of Bebop-Pro Thermal. Bebop-Pro Thermal uses FLIR One Pro thermal imaging camera which is attached to the body of the drone using the aforementioned harness.

The FLIR One Pro is a small box, just like an action cam box. Notice that this little box actually has 2 sensors. One is the thermal sensor, which is used for detecting heath.

It also has another “regular” 14MP lens so that when doing reconnaissance with the drone it’s possible to easily switch between the thermal image and regular image. That way the pilot can see what exactly it is that the thermal sensor is viewing.

FLIR One Pro tucks away at the back of the drone. Clip where the camera is place can be adjusted 45° up/down. Thermal camera face back, away from the drone. This means that when doing thermal inspections drone pilots will have to fly the drone “butt first”, with the front camera looking at the pilot.

Freeflight Pro Thermal app

Parrot made a special FPV app for Bebop-Pro Thermal. It’s called Freeflight Pro Thermal. Everything looks pretty much the same how it looks in the regular Freeflight Pro app. Freeflight Pro Thermal however also includes support for thermal imaging.

App together with camera will display thermal imaging in three different work modes:

  • Standard – these are your basic thermal images which just show temperature extremes as either red or blue
  • Dynamic – colors in the image are adapted to ambient temperature, this mode is more precise
  • Hotspot – thermal image from the FLIR sensor is combined with RGB image. Only highest temperatures are recorded, for search and rescue

Thermal imaging with Bebop-Pro is very precise and will no doubt come in handy at construction sites. Architects and engineers can use this drone to find thermal losses on buildings, for example. Another use case for this drone would be by emergency services. Firemen, search and rescue crews can use Bebop-Pro Thermal in order to perform thermal reconnaissance in times of crisis.

It’s faster to get Bebop-Pro in the air than it is a helicopter. Anyway, you should also checkout this demo video of Bebop-Pro Thermal from Parrot themselves where you can see the drone in action.

Summary

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