DJI Zenmuse L2 is part of the LiDAR revolution

DJI released the Zenmuse L2 at the Intergeo 2023 geospatial conference in Berlin this week — and it’s a key component in DJI’s step into the LiDAR revolution. It’s set to be a game changer for surveying and mapping projects, as well as for applications such as mining and quarrying.

Mount this sensor to your drone, and you’ll be able to capture real-time 3D data, all the way down to the details of complex structures. With that data, your drone will be able to produce highly-accurate, reconstructed models. 

The DJI Zenmuse L2 is a LiDAR system designed for precise and accurate 3D data collection, and it marks a significant upgrade from the previous Zenmuse L1, which was DJI’s first ever LiDAR payload.

In both single and multiple return modes, Zenmuse L2 can reach a max point cloud emission rate of 240,000 points per second, which means it can acquire huge amounts of point cloud data in a relatively short time frame.

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Photo courtesy of DJI

And while the Zenmuse L2 is all about high LiDAR performance, it also features a number of other enhancements, such as:

  • Support for up to 5 returns, which enhances its ability to collect bare earth data.
  • A 4/3 CMOS RGB mapping camera with a mechanical shutter and enlarged pixel size for improved image quality.
  • Enlarged pixel size to 3.3 μm (effective pixels now reach 20 MP).
  • A high-accuracy, self-developed IMU with no warm-up time, allowing users to start capturing data immediately after powering on.
  • Support for simultaneous LiDAR and photogrammetry data capture, with True Color LiDAR data.
  • 3-axis gimbal.

The Zenmuse L2 is compatible with a variety of DJI drone platforms, including the $10,600 Matrice 300 and $9,500 Matrice 350 RTK. It’s also supported by DJI Terra software, which provides a tools for processing and analyzing LiDAR data.

DJI Zenmuse L2 LiDAR revolutionDJI Zenmuse L2 LiDAR revolution
Photo courtesy of DJI

Ongoing emphasis on commercial drones

This latest product launch from DJI signals an ongoing shift in the drone industry where companies are increasingly focused on the commercial side of drones. That was most notably seen in August 2023, when American drone company Skydio announced that it would sunset its consumer drone division entirely. DJI is unlikely to close its consumer drone division; after all, it has an enormous market share on the civil side.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not leaning into enterprise drones, largely because that’s where both the money and the growthh is at. The median upfront cost of drone equipment for public safety agencies in 2020 was $12,000, according to a study from The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, indicating that companies like DJI can likely charge for products sold to enterprise customers than what it can reasonably charge consumers.

Experts also predict that the commercial side will see far more growth than the consumer side. According to the experts over at German-based drone analytics group Drone Industry Insights (DII), the commercial side of drones is projected to see a compound average growth rate (CAGR) of 7.7% through 2030. On the other hand, DII predicts the recreational side will “essentially remain stagnant,” though it could actually slow, given a CAGR of -0.3%.

The DJI Zenmuse L2 vs. L1

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A DJI drone carrying the Zenmuse L1

When the Zenmuse L2’s predecessor, the Zenmuse L1 launched, it was seen as an affordable entry level lidar system. It integrates a Livox Lidar module, a high-accuracy IMU, and a camera with a 1-inch CMOS on a 3-axis stabilized gimbal. Years later, the DJI Zenmuse L2 offers a number of improvements that make it a more powerful and versatile tool for professionals in various industries.

“Three years ago DJI was excited to introduce a reliable and cost-effective LiDAR system for aerial platforms used by land surveyors, electricity inspectors, and forestry professionals, to name just a few,” said Christina Zhang, Senior Director of Corporate Strategy at DJI. With our aim of promoting industry development in all enterprise verticals, we are continuing to tackle user pain points through technical innovation and reshaping industry productivity.”

One of the most significant improvements since the L1 is the increased detection range. The Zenmuse L2 can now detect objects from up to 250 meters at 10% reflectivity, and up to 450 meters at 50% reflectivity, making it more ideal for large-scale surveys and mapping projects.

Another improvement is the reduced laser spot size. The Zenmuse L2’s reduced spot size of 4×12 cm @100m is only a fifth of that of the Zenmuse L1. This means that the Zenmuse L2 can detect smaller and more detailed objects, even in dense vegetation — essential for applications such as forestry and construction.

The key differentiators in the Zenmuse L2 vs. L1 are:

  • An enhanced RGB camera
  • An upgraded LiDAR module
  • Improved accuracy

Who is the DJI Zenmuse L2 for?

The DJI Zenmuse L2 will likely be a must-have tool in the world of 3D data collection. It’s designed to be what DJI is calling a “turnkey” solution. So when used in tandem with DJI Terra, the system makes it pretty straightforward to use drones for not just 3D data collection, but also highly accurate post-processing.

Here are just a few of the many potential applications for the Zenmuse L2:

  • Surveying and mapping
  • Forestry
  • Construction
  • Mining and quarrying
  • Disaster response
  • Precision agriculture
  • Infrastructure inspection
  • Archaeological research

Professionals in fields such as land surveying, mapping, electricity inspection, forestry and infrastructure management, might use a drone like the Matrice 300 in tandem with the Zenmuse L2 to obtain large-scale, three-dimensional spatial information in a short time.

Prior to drones, workers in those fields might have used traditional manual measurement technology, which entails more work and demands more time.

But while it was announced this week, it’s not available quite yet. DJI simply says the DJI Zenmuse L2 will be available for purchase from its own store, as well as official DJI Enterprise dealers “in the near future.”

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