All About DJI Mavic Air Drone

DJI Mavic Drones

 All About DJI Mavic Air Drone

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

All About DJI Mavic Air Drone

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.


The included controller doesn’t have a screen, but it has a direct, wired connection to your smartphone, as well as clamps to hold it in place.

Flying it

You can control the drone with your phone. But it comes with a dedicated controller, which provides a much better experience and enhanced features, like a faster top speed. The controller for the Air is very similar to the one that comes with.The Mavic Pro, sporting a pair of sticks, a dial to change the angle of the camera, and buttons to trigger the camera.

It doesn’t have a built-in display, however, to give you details about the craft. It’s not a deal-breaker. But having all that info at a glance and not on the camera preview screen is nice. One thing I actually prefer about the Air controller is that the joysticks unscrew.And store inside the controller when they’re not in use. So you don’t have to worry as much about snapping them during transit. They’re small, so losing them isn’t out of the question, but DJI provides an extra set as a backup.

Like the Mavic Pro, the Air can record a detailed log of its take-off point. If you leave this option on, the drone immediately goes up to 20 feet and .Takes images of the spot from which it took off. This helps it find its way to its exact home later on.

You have a couple options when you actually get the drone up into the sky. Beginner mode limits the speed and the range of the craft, but that’s really only useful if you’re a total beginner or you want to let someone else—like maybe a child—fly it without risking catastrophe.

Normal mode lets you push the drone out to its full range, while sport  mode. Which requires the controller, pushes the top speed all the way up to 42.5 miles per hour. Sport mode feels very fast. Especially with such a little craft. Interestingly, you also get the opposite of sport mode called cinematic mode.Which slows down the drone and tapers the speed with which it starts and stops. This is to make the video footage look smoother, even if your thumb work isn’t on par with a bigtime cinematographer.

The camera

You can capture 4K footage at 24 or 30 fps using the Air’s built-in camera. It would have been nice to have 60 fps at 4K.But I definitely wouldn’t expect it at a craft with this price tag. The footage looks rather excellent in bright conditions but starts to suffer some digital noise. When things get a little darker. If you’re looking at the footage on a phone, it’s typically fine. But if you blow it up to a big screen, you can start to see it. Still. The quality is excellent for a tiny camera like this.

The camera is clearly doing some image processing on the back end to try to optimize the picture. (pretty much all smartphone cameras do this). And it can get bit carried away. Sometimes it adds a little too much sharpening. And saturation to make things look a little unrealistic and jagged around the edges.

The gimbal, which is the system that helps keep the camera steady even as the drone moves around. One of the most impressive parts of the whole package. DJI has a track record for making excellent stabilizers and this is no exception. When you take off and hover, you might have to wiggle.The controller sticks around a little to tell if you’re looking at a static image or actual video feet. Impressive.


The Mavic Air is roughly the size of a high-end DSLR lens, which makes it easy to fit in a camera bag.

Should you buy it?

Now comes the tricky part. There’s a lot to like about the DJI Mavic Air, but it fits a specific type of flyer. The basic functions of the non-folding Spark can probably satisfy most needs of a truly casual pilot for half the price of the Air.

On the other hand, more advanced pros will probably appreciate the extended flight time and longer range of the Mavic Pro.

That leaves the Mavic Air between the two. At the announcement event, DJI used photographer Chris Burkhard as an example of a target demographic and that seems very apt. If your primary goal is drone footage, the Pro is better, but this is great as an extra tool to have in the bag. It folds down in such a way that it’s actually easier to tote around than the non-folding Spark and you can sneak it into a camera bag a lot easier than you can a Pro.

If you do decide to buy this drone, you should seriously consider getting the “Fly More” package, which costs $1,000 but comes with two extra batteries, a bag, extra blades, and a fold-out charger that can juice up to four batteries at a time.

Ultimately, this drone further solidifies DJI’s title as king of the consumer drones. With GoPro totally dropping out of the drone game earlier this year, and Yuneec skimping on any new products at this level, it’s clear that DJI isn’t giving up the quadcopter crow anytime soon.

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1 thought on “All About DJI Mavic Air Drone


    (February 17, 2018 - 2:27 pm)

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