DJI Mavic Drones
The new $799 Mavic Air shares a lot of similarities with both the DJI Spark and the Mavic Pro and Pro Platinum. Like those models, it’s a compact drone with a 12-megapixel camera and a handful of different flying and shooting modes. It’s not targeted toward professionals, but rather hobbyists or enthusiasts who might be buying their first drone for aerial photography. And videography and aren’t satisfied with the Spark’s limited creative options. The Air also has a couple of new tricks, like new obstacle avoidance technology.
Though it’s not necessarily being sold as a pro camera drone. I wanted to see if the Mavic Air could be suitable for more serious photo and video work. Sadly, it’s not quite up to snuff for demanding droneographers, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great drone.
CES 2018 was conspicuously devoid of new flying machines from drone-making behemoth DJI. Just a few weeks later, however.The company announced one of its most interesting crafts to date. The Mavic Air is the middle child in the DJI lineup. but its water-bottle-sized body and a bevy of high-end features make it one of the company’s most compelling offerings
DJI Mavic Air Feature
The Mavic Air’s big new tech feature is a flying assist mode called APAS, short for Advanced Pilot Assistance System. All of the previous DJI drones have relied on basic obstacle avoidance. Which tries to prevent them from crashing into trees, walls, and other objects. The difference is that APAS actually lets it fly over or around objects, instead of just coming to a stop. In my testing. This has worked very well. I tried flying it into a tree and toward myself multiple times, and each time the drone would steer away and bypass objects. It fails elegantly, as well: if it is reading of the area is bad, the drone will just hover in place.
Perhaps the most important thing for a droneographer is the footage they can capture, and for the most part, the Air’s looks fine. It’s a minor step up from the Pro Platinum, so upgrading from that model likely isn’t worth it. The difference in bitrate is not something you’ll notice without reviewing the footage on larger screens. Still, the bump in bitrate does provide more data to work with in post-production. The biggest issue with smaller sensors is their limited dynamic range, and the Air’s increased bitrate doesn’t solve this problem.
When you’re shooting during the daylight, everything looks sharp and rich. But once you introduce a scene with high contrast, like a sunrise, the image starts to fall apart. In lower light, shadow areas have a lot of noise and lose all their detail. This happens even when shooting in the Cinelike color profile.Which provides more flexibility to manipulate exposure while editing.
What is it?
By now, the form factor of a drone like this should be pretty familiar—four blades, a couple antennas. A whole pile of sensors, and a controller that links up with your phone to command the whole thing.
The Air uses a collapsible form factor like the 1.6-pound Mavic Pro. But weighs just 15-ounces and is about the size of three or four iPhone 8 Plus devices stacked on top of one another. It’s seriously portable, especially if you’re already planning on carrying a camera bag with you.
Unlike the Mavic Pro, however, the Air takes its commands via Wi-Fi instead of radio frequency. This may be something many consumers wouldn’t even notice without looking at the spec sheet. But it does have an effect on the flight. Syncing it up, for instance, can be a little finicky if you’re in the vicinity of other familiar Wi-Fi networks. I found that the connection was rock solid. If I waited for the drone and app to ready themselves completely before syncing. but when I got impatient. I’d lose connection from time to time.
The drone creates its own Wi-Fi connection. which is broadcasts from two fold-out antennas that double as its landing gear. Because it uses WiFi instead of radio, it can’t touch the four-mile range of the Pro—the Air maxes out around 2.5 miles. While that may matter for some more advanced users, it’s entirely possible that more casual pilots won’t get that far away anyway. Especially when you consider the fact that the drone has to stay in your line of sight when you’re flying it.