The release of the DJI Dock, DJI's first drone-in-a-box solution, is indeed a significant breakthrough for the drone industry. It moves us not just one step closer to complete autonomy in drone operations, but also opens up new opportunities for various applications that were not feasible up until now.
Over 2300 DJI Docks have been shipped in less than six months. Doesn't this kind of demand easily demonstrate the expanding opportunities in drone autonomy?
Before we get started, a quick heads up.
We’ve designed this blog to serve as a useful resource for enterprises and drone teams looking to start or enhance their current drone programs. We will delve into the features, applications, and best practices of using the DJI Dock.
Also, we look at factors you should consider before buying the DJI Dock so that you can maximize your operations.
Let’s start with the basics - Key features of the DJI Dock
Drone docking stations have this superpower - they can function unsupervised outdoors for extended periods of time while refueling the drone’s batteries autonomously with minimal downtime - just like how an oasis works! :D
Let’s have a look at what a drone dock, particularly the DJI Dock can bring in:
- Autonomous drone operations: DJI Dock enables drone operations autonomously, significantly reducing human intervention and allowing for more efficient use of resources. Flight missions and routes can be scheduled in advance ensuring that drones are deployed at the right time and place for maximum efficiency.
- Smart charging and quick turnaround: DJI Dock features fast charging capabilities and battery cooling system, ensuring that drones are charged quickly and ready for their next mission. It can charge from 10% to 90% in approximately 25 minutes.
- Automatic maintenance checks: The DJI Dock, which weighs a reasonable 90kg, is extremely simple to set up, requiring basic components such as a power source and an internet connection and a few minutes to configure. The system also performs automatic inspections to detect potential faults and ensure that drones are in optimal flight circumstances.
- Wide coverage with real-time monitoring: The M30 Dock version drone has an operational radius of 7 kilometers and a flight time of 40 minutes per mission while allowing the docking station to monitor drone operations in real time.
Now let’s look at site requirements - What to consider before deploying the DJI Dock
To make the most of the DJI Dock, it is important to consider certain site requirements and follow best practices. We've highlighted some preparations that one should make prior to deployment to ensure the dock’s optimal performance:
- Power Availability - One of the most important factors to keep in mind is the availability of uninterrupted power supply. A suitable location for consistent power supply with few outages. Power grounding, surge protection, and cable considerations are all beneficial if done ahead of time. The ideal power supply range is a single-phase AC with a power greater than 1.5kW and a voltage between 90 V and 264 V AC.
- Geographical Features -The site's terrain and topography also play a crucial role in the deployment of the dock. It is done to ensure that the dock is protected against any harm including those like floods. A flat, wide region with a clear line of sight to the sky and an elevation of 4000 meters or less is ideal to minimize all types of impediments. Another consideration is that the location is not prone to water buildup or illumination. To increase safety, a clear backup landing spot 5 to 500 meters away at the same height as the DJI dock is recommended.
- Zero Signal Interference - At all costs, any single source of signal occlusion or interference on the site must be avoided. There must be no visible signal shield within a 25-degree ground altitude angle. If any environmental measures or satellite data collecting is required, the M30 series can be utilized.
- Security and Civil Work - Last but not least, some civil work will be required to correctly mount or position the DJI dock at the site. These may involve, for example, placing the dock on a steel base to prevent damage due to flooding. Grounding is necessary to secure the system as well as the user. Physical and digital security measures, such as firewalls, should be included in terms of security.
Let’s also explore industrial inspection applications & case studies
The repeat inspection capabilities provided by drone-in-a-box systems have undoubtedly brought significant improvements to the efficiency, safety, and scalability of operations and maintenance processes for assets.
Case Study: Occidental Petroleum
Occidental Petroleum, known as Oxy, one of the largest oil and gas producers in the United States, was quick to recognize the potential of autonomous drone operations and the use of AI for monitoring assets.
In an article by BIC magazine titled "Fully autonomous drones: The next step for oil and gas," published back in 2020, it highlights the substantial impact drones have made on the industry. Waller and his team at Oxy explain how the adoption of drones has significantly reduced task completion time.
What used to take them two to two-and-a-half hours can now be accomplished in just 30-45 minutes. This improvement not only enhanced efficiency but also contributed to environmental benefits by minimizing emissions released during the process.
Oxy intended to focus on integrating drone autonomy with processes that detect anomalies and automate tasks to further optimize return on investment (ROI). And they've been doing just that with DJI Dock.
The use of DJI Dock has not only increased inspection efficiency, but has also allowed Oxy to address potential issues ahead of time, preventing them from escalating into major issues. Furthermore, the dock allows for on-demand inspections in critical situations, allowing for quick access to critical information.
Case Study: BNSF Railways
BNSF, one of North America's largest freight railroad networks, has been utilizing drone technology since 2015 to address disruptions to rail traffic. Initially deployed during heavy rains near Valley View, Texas, drones proved invaluable in assessing track conditions.
Over time, BNSF has continued to enhance their drone capabilities. Recently they have been leveraging the latest drone-in-a-box technology particularly, the DJI Dock to enable rapid response and repeated visual data collection missions.
By utilizing the dock, BNSF can swiftly respond to incidents such as train derailments or spills, allowing for quick assessment and appropriate action. For instance, in scenarios like a rock slide, the dock enables faster information gathering, helping BNSF clear tracks or allocate resources more efficiently, ultimately saving critical time.
Case Study - Jilin National Grid
Power grid inspections are critical for maintaining the reliable delivery of electricity to consumers. It is even more crucial in regions subjected to extreme temperatures, where the grid's functionality can be challenged by extreme harsh weather. Conventionally, these inspections involve technicians manually surveying the grid, a process that is fraught with risk and physical danger in such severe environments.
An illustrative case of this is observed during winter in northeastern China at the Jilin National Grid. This region experiences extraordinarily harsh winters, with temperatures plummeting to as low as -20 degrees Celsius.
The crew responsible for inspections under these extreme conditions was continually at risk. Frostbite and snow blindness were real and serious threats, significantly jeopardizing not only their safety but also their capacity to carry out inspections effectively.
Faced with these challenges, the company decided to leverage technology to conduct inspections in conditions that were too perilous for human involvement. They chose the DJI Dock, a solution well-suited for remote operations in challenging environments.
Post-deployment, the DJI Dock proved instrumental in performing operations and maintenance checks of substations and connecting lines, all controlled from a center situated 60 kilometers away from the inspection site. This meant that the personnel could conduct detailed and rigorous inspections from the safety and warmth of the control center, negating the need to brave the harsh conditions.
Unlocking the full potential of DJI Dock - powering these applications with FlytBase
FlytBase is an enterprise BVLOS ready, scalable software solution for remote drone operations and works with a range of hardware options, including the DJI M30 Series and the DJI Dock. The solution is designed to be modular supporting integrations that make it suitable for use in a wide range of industries, including inspection, surveillance, operations & maintenance.
- Built for enterprise users: As a scalable enterprise-grade software solution, FlytBase enables users to manage a fleet of drones and docking stations. Its cloud platform is highly reliable with redundant nodes for each operation. The system monitors drones and dock through independent, parallel systems.
FlytBase has been built with a number of safety and fail-safe features to ensure the highest levels of operational safety at all times.In the event of a low battery, RC link loss, LTE link loss, weather changes among others.
FlytBase also offers flexible deployment options to suit the varying needs of enterprises be it private cloud or on-premise.
- Designed for BVLOS operations: FlytBase let users fly drones beyond-visual-line-of-sight with complete peace of mind. With an array of safety features, several software & hardware integrations, FlytBase is designed to operate with minimal human involvement.
Regulatory bodies such as the FAA, BCAA, JCAB, CAAM, ANAC, and GCAA have granted our customers & partners waivers and approvals to conduct BVLOS drone operations with FlytBase.
With advanced safety features such as No-Fly-Zones (NFZ) with dynamic path planner, geofence enforcements and corridor fly zones built-in the app, FlytBase ensures remote safe operations.
- Supercharged by Apps & Integrations: FlytBase provides easy API access and integrations for businesses to build custom applications on top of the platform. Users can extend functionality for dock deployment use-cases to provide customers with valuable data analytics and business insights.
It also offers comprehensive software and hardware integrations to facilitate large scale BVLOS operations such as parachutes, detect and avoid systems, ADS-B, UTMs among others.
- Architected to be Hardware Agnostic: FlytBase supports a wide range of hardware, including 16 docking stations from DJI, IDIPLOYER Nexus, Heisha and Hextronics, to name a few.
To minimize downtime, users can select the appropriate docking station - be it battery charging or swapping, ranging from compact options for smaller drones to larger stations for long-range operations. Operators also have the flexibility to extend their drone's capabilities by attaching payloads such as thermal cameras, specialized mapping cameras, loudspeakers, beacons, or even parachutes for compliance.
What lies ahead?
Looking at the features of the DJI Dock and the numerous benefits that it provides, the applications for which it can be used are limitless.
Furthermore, DJI's integration with FlytBase truly makes it a robust solution, one in which security and efficiency are guaranteed. Along with that, the system is developed to meet the needs of the customer and create a full-stack solution that is appropriate for the enterprise's needs.
Q1: Are there any alternatives to the DJI Dock?
Yes, you can have look over to this guide below about the 10-best DJI-compatible drone docking stations.
Q2: Where can I buy the DJI Dock?
You can purchase the DJI Dock through authorized DJI dealers and resellers. Need help? Reach out here.
Q3: What are the differences between the various models of DJI Dock?
DJI has only released one DJI Dock model so far, which supports the DJI M30 and DJI M30T (Thermal camera) drone models. Please keep in mind that the M30 series comes in two flavors: regular and dock. The M30 dock version is compatible with the DJI Dock because it includes a charging interface and charging management module at the landing gear.
Q4: What Drones are compatible with DJI Dock?
The M30 dock version drone is compatible with the DJI Dock.
Q5: Can DJI Dock charge multiple batteries at once?
The M30 drone has dual batteries which the dock charges upon landing. No additional batteries can be charged in the DJI Dock.
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As a Marcom Manager at FlytBase, Baisali oversees the content strategy, creation, and management! With over 7 years of experience in the drone industry and 3 years of it at FlytBase, she’s a self-proclaimed drone fanatic and is obsessed with all things geographical. In 2022, she has been recognized as the “Women to Watch in UAS” for AI/Autonomy category by Women and Drones.
When she’s not busy hosting FlytBase’s webinar series or organizing NestGen - a global drone autonomy focused event, you can find her exploring the Patagonian Desert, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, or the Yellowstone Caldera on Google Earth.