Jack of all trades: what makes the DJI M100 a great public safety UAV

It’s not quite as shiny as it’s off-the-shelf cousin, the Inspire 1, but the DJI Matrice 100 is as much—if not more—of a workhorse for public safety agencies. 

The M100 was designed as a DIY kit for drone development enthusiasts, but in the gray space between the Inspire 1 and the soon-to-be-released Matrice 210, the 100 picked up the gauntlet and ran with it.

Using the same propulsion system of the Inspire 1, the M100 is a very versatile aircraft. It can fly in 35 MPH winds, carry the X3, X5, X5R and XT thermal camera, and is now able to carry the Z30 (30x optical, 6x digital) zoom camera as well.

Unlike the Inspire, though, the M100 features a flat deck, making it ideal for mounting different types of sensors, as well as the ability to add a second battery bay. And dual batteries means this baby flies for close to 40 minutes—twice that of the Inspire 1. It also allows for the addition of DJI Guidance, an obstacle-avoidance sensor array that makes it good for flying in tight spaces. One of the coolest uses I’ve seen for an M100 is BlueWave Automation’s custom build radiation detection drone using the M100 as an airframe.

There are a few downsides to the M100. Most notable is that it arrives in pieces, but a reputable drone company can pre-assemble and test the aircraft before it gets into your hands. It also does not have retractable landing gear like the Inspire 1, so dropping things is a bit more of an engineering challenge. Again, in the right hands, this aircraft can be modified to drop payloads as well.

The drone itself runs about $3300, and does not come with a camera. The Guidance system adds $999, and the X3 camera adds about $500. Dual battery bays mean twice the number of batteries, each of which runs about $199, and drone companies may charge a fee for building and testing the M100 as well.

It’s also worth noting that aesthetically, it’s not as pleasing to the eyes at the Inspire 1, but since it was designed as a customizing platform, there are hard plastic, piano-polished shells that can be added if you so desire.

All in all, if you don’t want to shell out big bucks for the Matrice 200/210, but you’re looking for more battery life, obstacle avoidance and a very capable bird, the Matrice 100 may be a good option for you.