The deep dive review on EVO II Pro and EVO II Dual 640 T.
Enterprise Drones the (W)Right Way
by Paul Rossi, DRONELIFE Contributor and Chief Operations Officer and Chief Pilot at Nine Ten Drones.
In September, Autel Robotics shipped the first EVO II Pro and EVO II Dual 640T Enterprise Bundles to distributors and resellers across the United States of America. In 2021 Enterprise drones certainly saw much attention from manufacturers but none stepped up and delivered as well as Autel Robotics. I’ve had the opportunity to fly the EVO II Dual 640T Enterprise numerous times with Nine Ten Drones and I’m most impressed with the Smart Controller V2 and the quality of the 640*512 InfiRay thermal sensor which has become the standard for integration into Thermal Enterprise UAS.
EVO II Enterprise Pro (6K) – Video Production, Photography, Mapping, 3D Modeling and Inspections
EVO II Dual 640T Enterprise – Asset/Infrastructure Inspections, Public Safety and Wildlife Management
Both models of the EVO II Enterprise line leverage the same aircraft body with only the camera payloads varying between them. The “Pro” version carries a high resolution 1” sensor great for photography and videography purposes, the “Dual 640T” sports the side-by-side high resolution 640 thermal sensor next to the 1/2“ visual sensor making it a go-to for industrial/public safety applications. The EVO II Enterprise is still lightweight, compact and bright orange. (Over the past couple months customers have asked for a darker or lighter version that doesn’t scream “AUTEL’S BRAND COLOR IS ORANGE!!!!”)
The aircraft body is roughly the size of your average adult shoe when folded for transport. The arms and props have both seen an increase in overall length however the drone itself still covers a very small footprint. The newly engineered arms are longer, made of carbon fiber and shaped like an airfoil or “teardrop”. Gone is the rigid, “rectangular” shape that most likely created unnecessary induced drag during flight. Longer propellers have been integrated with the new arms as well which may have an additional positive impact leading to the extended flight times.
Weighing right at 2.5 pounds with the intelligent flight battery installed, this drone checks all the boxes for portability. The EVO II comes equipped with omnidirectional obstacle detection which includes 12 visual sensors as well as 2 ultrasonic sensors on the bottom of the drone. Because of the drones small size you can easily launch and recover it without needing very much space, if any at all when hand launching and recovering. The aircraft includes 8GB of internal storage space for those flights when you fill your SD card but still need to capture more content before landing.
Included with the EVO II Enterprise Bundles are the Searchlight, Speaker and Strobe Light attachments which support an array of enterprise flight operations to include night ops, search and rescue missions, over watch and more.
Autel is continuing to demonstrate their desire to keep pilots in the air longer by providing a drone that packs more flight time per battery than any other COTS system, advertising up to 42 minutes of flight with a single EVO II battery in no wind conditions without accessories attached. After multiple test flights at the Nine Ten Drones training facility in Fayetteville, NC we have averaged a max flight time of 36 minutes and 48 seconds almost always in conditions with winds between 5-20 miles per hour. In each of our test flights we flew the EVO II battery down to the point at which the EVO II Dual 640T was forcing a landing. This occurred regularly with 2:00 minutes of flight time left (down to roughly 5-6% battery).
36 to 37 minutes of flight is roughly a 3 minutes increase when compared to the EVO II non enterprise edition drones and this increase is due in large part to the design changes made to the aircraft arms and propellers. With this extended flight time you can inspect additional utilities or search longer for a missing or wanted person. After flying the EVO II battery down to 5% it took over 110 minutes to fully recharge the battery to 100%.
The Enterprise Bundle includes three(3) batteries and a battery charging hub that will allow operators to charge up to four(4) batteries at once using a “trickle” charge method that is perfect for overnight but not ideal for rapid charging in the field. Additional batteries will cost $219 with the Enterprise Bundle affording pilots the ability to fly well over 90 minutes without the need for charging.
I fell in love with this remote from the moment I first saw it in Atlanta, GA at AUVSI Xponential, right outside the hotel the Autel team was staying at. When the new enterprise case was wheeled up and flipped open it was impossible to not see the massively perfect V2 Smart Controller staring me in the face. Actually it was me staring me in the face as I was looking at my own reflection on the giant screen. Based on the size of the remote I was expecting it to be heavy, cumbersome and uncomfortable to operate based on previous experience with other similarly designed products. Upon grasping the remote I found the size to weight to comfort ratio was perfect. The included harness makes extended flight operations easy on the pilots’ arms, shoulders, neck and back by reducing the stress and strain that can create long term physical health concerns.
The EVO II Enterprise Smart Controller V2 is the most ergonomically designed drone remote controller I have ever flown with. It comes with a built-in 7.9” screen that will help any operator inspect finer details, locate subjects more easily and keep the action in frame. The built in screen is great for those times when you are trying to get your drone up fast to respond to an emergency situation or your phone is not an available option. Overall compared to other drones available the remote has the most commercial/enterprise feel of any other on the market and it takes the EVO II Dual 640T Enterprise Bundle to the next level. For 99% of drone operators the Smart Controller V2 will work very well. Autel is answering the requests of so many pilots by providing the highest quality remote as a standard in the Enterprise lineup.
This industry leading smart controller houses a 2000nit screen that is twice as bright as the closest competitor’s remote controller. Drone operators must maintain Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) at all times during flight operations under Part 107 regulations while acting as the Remote Pilot in Command (RPIC) and may not have the ability to stand in the shade, operating only on cloudy days or use a VO while flying. The super-bright screen allows any pilot to operate the EVO II Dual 640T Enterprise while standing in direct sunlight on the brightest of days.
The smart controller battery has an advertised battery life of 4.5 hours. From in field operations we have found the controller to run continuously for well over 4 hours on a single battery charge. Charging the smart controller is accomplished in just over 2 hours using the provided USB-C cable and power brick which are rated for “fast charging”. If using other USB-C cables you may find that charging times take well over 2 hours.
Autel is marketing video transmission as far as 8.08 miles, comparable to what competitors are currently offering. During testing, Nine Ten Drones found a max transmission distance of 0.7 miles while operating at 400’ above ground level (AGL) in a suburban neighborhood near a main road lined with commercial businesses. With that being said we had no issues with connectivity while conducting an array of commercial and recreational operations within visual line of sight. The operational range of the remote will vary depending upon the location you are operating in.
With HDMI, USB-A and USB-C output ports users have multiple options to live stream video to multiple sources outside of the pilot’s immediate area of operation. Another standard introduced by Autel with the Smart Controller is SMA connectors that allow for easy replacement or upgrade to third party solutions that allow increased range for command and control purposes.
128GB of internal memory will allow you to retain critical data for extended periods while never missing an opportunity to collect imagery or video that your organization needs. A preloaded screen recording application allows user to record hours of flight footage for retention and educational/training purposes.
Remote Pro Tip: 1/4” threading has been designed directly into the backside of the Smart Controller allowing for very easy tripod mounting using any standard 1/4″ quick release plate or other mounting system.
The Autel Robotics team has certainly stepped up and brought the EVO II remote to the next level, worthy of the “Enterprise” product line label. Going forward we can only hope that manufacturers will not follow the precedent of releasing new drones with the old drones remote. With that being said, during the writing of this review, we did see the Sith Overlords release their latest and greatest professional series drone with a recreational quality remote controller.
Live Deck V2 or Autel Skycommand Center
To date we have been informed by multiple sources at Autel Robotics that a Live Deck V2 is in the works for the EVO II Enterprise line, however a release date has not been set due to the “Chip Shortage of 2021”.
The Live Deck V2 by Autel will allow enterprise drone operators to display real time video footage from the EVO II enterprise drones on a Windows or Mac computer, smartphone, TV/monitor or over your local network. The Live Deck V2 will be a great addition for folks operating in the public safety, commercial and education sectors.
Currently none of the other UAS manufacturers are providing a live streaming solution to aid UAS teams during larger, more complex operations so the introduction of the Live Deck V2 or other live streaming solution is a must… “Autel Skycommand Center” has shown up on the Official Autel Robotics website and could very well be the future for livestreaming with Autel drones. The company is notorious for posting content on their website months in advance of any formal announcement… ***Cough, cough, Dragonfish, cough***
Flying the EVO II Dual 640T Enterprise
The EVO II Dual 640T Enterprise aircraft is easy to operate and you could even say fun thanks to the 7.9” remote screen. The Autel Explorer flight application is easy to navigate and overlays all the important information needed for safe flying, directly on top of the camera’s live feed. Autel has released this enterprise product with all of the “Smart” Flight Modes drone pilots have come to rely on. Nine Ten Drones flew the Dual 640T in all of the 10+ intelligent flight modes, below are links to a few screen recordings that showcase its capabilities:
The EVO II Dual 640T flew very well in winds up to 25mph in testing with no issues holding position or having the drone operate on its intended course. This aircraft is not the one you will be using to win your next FPV race or to capture footage for your next Hollywood film. What you will be able to do is capture the high quality visual and thermal data in the form of photos and videos that will help you or your organization accomplish more than ever before in the public safety, construction, utilities, roofing and other industries that rely on thermal data sets for success.
The more you fly the more you will want to see. The 8x digital zoom(4x loseless) capability of the EVO II Dual 640 T will enable you and your organization to see and identify things you previously missed in real time. A huge benefit of the zoom feature is allowing pilots to maintain a safe standoff distance from obstacles while getting a closer look at the subject in frame.
The “Picture in Picture” capability that overlays the thermal image on the visual image is game changing when flying your drone during the day for the purpose of capturing thermal data. This advanced imaging capability has only been available on hardware exceeding twice the cost of the EVO II Dual 640T up until now.
When flying at night the large 7.9” display with adjustable brightness makes easy work of locating the smallest of subjects in the darkest locations. In this video clip we were able to spot a small rabbit at an altitude of 190’ AGL:
The photos you capture with the EVO II Enterprise drones can be turned into high resolution 2D maps and 3D models using photogrammetry software, SkyeBrowse or Pix4D are both working options in addition to the native Autel application. With the mission planning software included in the Autel Explorer application you can easily capture the overlapping imagery required to create both maps and models.
The Pro model will produce a very high resolution map or model even at up to 400ft above ground level thanks to the 1” CMOS sensor that will capture high resolution details with its 20 million effective pixels. While the 640T Dual model carries the lower resolution 12 megapixel sensor it will still perform very well when mapping and/or modeling at or below altitudes 250ft above ground level.
Here is a link to a 3D model created using photos captured with the Autel EVO II Dual 640T Enterprise and processed with DroneDeploy by Nine Ten Drones – https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/frippin-research-house-autel-evo-ii-enterprise-3701136e2e9c4074ba098d4d872f40d7
The EVO II Dual 640T Enterprise carries a payload with the InfriRay 640×512 Radiometric sensor capable of capturing high resolution thermal images with temperature data assigned to each pixel and stored for future analysis either on or off site.
Using the free to download Autel IR PC Tool (available only for Windows devices) you can conduct detailed post processing on all thermal images you capture. Upload and inspect the images an unlimited number of times and compile easy to export reports that will improve your workflow and improve communication between all parties involved with regards to repairs, maintenance and decision making.
The Autel IR PC Tool will allow you and your organization to perform better on-site with the ability to confirm, deny or further review almost instantaneously in the field while also increasing the capabilities of off-site personnel to support the organizations on-site efforts.
This video walkthrough the capabilities of the Autel IR PC Tool:
Download the Autel IR PC Tool here – https://auteldrones.com/pages/evo-ii-downloads
Autel has made the decision to only sell the EVO II Enterprise line in a “fly more combo” that includes a total of three (3) intelligent flight batteries, a battery charging hub capable of charging up to 4 batteries at once and a hard case. This transition to a more robust enterprise product is 100% in line with what we see our enterprise clients asking for, a drone with the accessories needed to be successful.
A successful drone program requires batteries in order to keep your drone in the air providing you and your team the data you need. Having a total of 3 batteries will keep you in the air longer and the enterprise hard case is ideal for protecting your company’s assets.
Pricing Breakdown (approximate, as of date of publication)
EVO II Enterprise Pro (6K) – $4,250
EVO II Dual 640T Enterprise – $9,200
Grading the EVO II Dual 640T Enterprise
Autel Robotics has released two great platforms that will help many folks take their drone operations to the next level and also help more individuals, businesses and organizations begin to leverage drones. The EVO II Enterprise Bundles are pushing the industry forward with increased flight time, high resolution visual/thermal sensors at an affordable price. If you are currently looking to pick up a drone for professional, commercial and/or enterprise purposes I highly recommend you consider the EVO II Pro or Dual 640T Enterprise platforms.
My overall grade for the Autel Robotics EVO II Dual 640T Enterprise is an A- based on overall flight performance, quality of products included, total cost and ease of use. There is little room for improvement and I believe we will see movement in a positive direction from Autel in 2022.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies. For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.