The best drone system for LiDAR is the DJI M600, PERIOD.
This is a bold statement, and with so many different opinions on the internet, why should mine be any different. Well, you don't have to trust me, let me share with you my top 5 reasons the M600 is hands down the best system for a drone LiDAR survey provider in 2019.
#1 Spare Parts
Things break... they always break... and drones break a lot.
No one likes to be on a job and have a simple screw sheer off on a propeller and ground your entire flight operation. Or be on a massive job in the middle of Mexico and your gas engine decides to crack a cylinder. Drones are a new technology and the local hobby shop won't always be there to save the day.
The DJI M600 is pervasive across the globe with a well oiled dealer network and supply chain. On a recent mission in Texas, USA we had a screw head sheer off while doing our pre-flight inspection. This, of course, grounded the rest of the missions. But thanks to the team at MultiCopter Warehouse, we had a new propeller arm assembly shipped overnight and we were back in the air in the morning!
In contrast, I have had fixed wing drone systems that a piece broke on the aileron and it took almost 2 weeks to get back into the air.
Enterprise drone systems can get EXPENSIVE!!!!!
The M600 is cheap. When looking for anything that has the payload capabilities and flight characteristics of this type, the M600 comes in at almost half the price to the nearest competitor. Lets compare the DJI M600 to the FREEFLY Alta 6 (..the cheaper Alta). While the Alta 6 is a great platform and boasts a lot of the same flight characteristics of the M600, it comes in at well over 2X the price of the DJI M600 at $11,995.00. The DJI M600 is only $4,999.00.
This is just the base price though, and is not everything you will need to get up and flying. For the DJI M600, you will still need an RC controller, more batteries, tablet, case, and spare parts. For a complete surveying rig, you are looking at closer to $25,000 for the setup.
#3 Ease of Use
Let's face it, DJI is everywhere.
This ubiquity means that most drone pilots, most likely, learned to fly using a system like the DJI Phantom, or the Mavic. These are amazing platforms, and like the M600, they use the same flight apps and RC controller feel. This means, you can easily train someone on a cheap platform, like the Mavic and then transition them to the M600 platform with relative ease. These big platforms are intimidating the first few times you pilot one, and having that comfort and familiarity with the DJI flight software and mission planning apps is key to avoiding user errors in the field.
This thing is solid.
I have had problems with every drone system, but the M600 is stable. With the A3 pro flight controller, you have triple redundant GPS, triple redundant IMU, and the best gyro stabilization. The specs of the IMU are second to none (unless you get into military systems). We have long admired the ability to pack such a strong specs into such a cheap package. Now, in the future we want to see more integrated features, like vision sensors for optical flow calculations to enhance the stability when close to the ground, and ultrasound for precise altitude measurement also when close to the ground. But, with the D-RTK package installed in the M600 pro system, you will experience rock solid hovering and landing, even in the strongest of winds!
This is probably the top reason and the rest of the list could just stop after number 1. The DJI Matrice M600 uses the TB47S Intelligent flight batteries. Whats so special with these? Well, nothing really,EXCEPT they are 99.9Wh. You may think that bigger batteries = longer flight times, and where you may be correct, this isn't the most important factor when trying to figure out how to make a successful land surveying business using drones. The most important factor is being able to transport your gear.
According to 49 CFR 175.10(a)(18) in the code of federal regulations, there is no limit for carry on of batteries under 100Wh.
(ii) For a lithium ion battery, the Watt-hour rating must not exceed 100 Wh. With the approval of the operator, portable electronic devices may contain lithium ion batteries exceeding 100 Wh, but not exceeding 160 Wh and no more than two individually protected lithium ion batteries each exceeding 100 Wh, but not exceeding 160 Wh, may be carried per person as spare batteries in carry-on baggage.
If you want proof, here I am getting searched by TSA with 48 DJI TB47S batteries in a single carry on. No problems. I have traveled across the globe with my gear and have made it to the most remote stretches of land for surveying. This is the power of the M600.