It all started with the release of the DJI Mavic 2 Dual back in 2018. Prior to the release of this drone, it was nearly impossible to find an integrated thermal imaging sensor on such a small platform. While it was great for the time, commercial users quickly released the limitations of a lower resolution thermal sensor and wanted more. This lead to the release of the popular Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced which featured a high resolution 640 x 512 radiometric thermal imaging sensor at an unbelievable price of $6,500. Prior to this drone, a thermal payload alone with those specs cost around $10,000. The M2EA had everything you could want in a compact, portable drone - at least that's what we thought. Last month DJI released the newest drones in their enterprise lineup, the Mavic 3 Enterprise series. The series includes the Mavic 3 Enterprise, and the Mavic 3 Thermal. Again, DJI has improved their already amazing drone to something even better. In this article we'll cover the key differences between the two models. If you want to see some side by side footage from the two drones, check out the video below.
For starters, the two drones are pretty much the same size, but have very different flight times. The Mavic 3 Thermal can for 42-45 minutes depending on the attachments being used, whereas the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced has a 24-31 minutes flight time, also depending on the attachments used.
Looking at the front of the drones you'll notice that the Mavic 3 Thermal has a larger gimbal guard that we feel is substantially easier to install and remove.
At the rear of the Mavic 3 Thermal there's now an anti-collision strobe light built into the aircraft that will keep you FAA compliant when flying at night. Remember, when flying a drone at night you must have a strobe light that is visible from 3 statute miles. This eliminates the need for a separate strobe light attachment. The attachments available for the aircraft now are an RTK module and a speaker sold separately (a spotlight is on its way). The Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced is sold with three attachments including: a beacon, spotlight, and speaker. You also have the option to purchase an RTK module separately.
The RTK module is one of the biggest differences between the two models. The RTK module for the M3T can now connect directly to the DJI D-RTK 2 Mobile Station, whereas the M2EA could only connect to the NTRIP network. The RTK module for the M3T can now be used for correcting GPS meta data as well as improving the positioning accuracy of the drone, whereas the RTK module for the M2EA can only be used for improving the positioning accuracy of the drone.
Next the accessory port on the M3T has a much better design compared to the M2EA. It features a USB-C connector rather than a micro USB, and has a rubber cover rather than a plastic one. The port cover on the M2EA was poorly designed to be honest and would often break.
Despite being sold separately, the RTK module and speaker have a designated space in the M3T case that is included with the drone. The M2EA case has a dedicated space for the speaker, spotlight, and beacon, but not the RTK module.
Looking at the back of the M3T again, you will see a micro SD card slot. Unlike the M2EA, there is no internal storage which means all images and videos will be recorded to the memory card. Above the memory card slot is a USB-C port that you can use to charge an aircraft battery while it is in the aircraft. This is simple an additional way to charge your battery. You can also use the charging hub.
Next, the Mavic 3 Thermal uses the new DJI RC Pro controller. The ports on the controller have been moved to the bottom, and the antennas can now move independently of each other, but the real differences are seen in the software. The RC Pro uses DJI's new Ocusync 3.0 which greatly improves the image transmission. It also uses the newer Pilot 2 app that the Matrice 300 RTK and Matrice 30 series use. In flight you'll notice a huge difference in the live thermal imaging view between the two aircraft. That's because the Pilot 2 app uses AI to enhance the live view of the thermal imaging sensor from the M3T, making it sharper. When comparing the images saved to the memory card however, the resolution will be the same because both drones use a 640 x 512 thermal sensor.
Lastly, the biggest difference between the two drones are the payloads. The M2EA has two sensors - a 48MP, 1/2 inch CMOS RGB sensor, and a 640 x 512 radiometric thermal imaging sensor. The M3T has three sensors - a 48MP, 1/2 inch CMOS RGB sensor, a 640 x 512 radiometric thermal imaging sensor, AND a 12MP, 1/2 inch CMOS RGB sensor with 56x hybrid zoom capabilities. If you see the comparison of the footage in the video above, you'll see a huge difference when comparing the zoom capabilities between the two aircraft. That's mainly because the M3T has some optical zoom, while the M2EA only has digital zoom.
After talking about all of the differences, it's worth noting a few similarities. Both models offer the same quick disconnect style propellers that we all love. They both have omni-directional obstacle avoidance, and they both include DJI's Enterprise Care plan with the purchase of the drone.
The Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced is still a fantastic aircraft. The key take away here is that despite the improved thermal imaging view on the controller, the thermal imaging deliverables will be the same. So if thermal imaging is your main concern, and you already have the M2EA, there is no need to rush to the M3T. If you do want the new features however, the Mavic 3 Thermal is a great upgrade.