The drone market is growing at such a fast pace it is hard to keep up with the latest innovations coming out of DJI, the world’s largest consumer drone manufacturer. When DJI releases a new drone to the market the buzz is almost deafening. Such was the roar to accompany the new DJI Mavic Air. This is a drone that excels at being both lightweight and portable but is also thoroughly equipped to take awesome photos and shoot unreal video.
Photographers on shoot know how difficult it can be to have enough luggage to port around all of your gear. Designers behind the DJI Mavic Air are well aware of this common problem. After all, who wants to cart around a bunch of gear for a 10-20 minute in-flight photoshoot? Thankfully, DJI has heard these complaints and its engineers and designers have addressed them in the Mavic Air.
Usually in the course of deciding what gear to take and which pieces to leave behind, size and heft come into play almost as much as the intended use of the gear. Now photographers and videographers no longer need to sacrifice the potential for awesome aerial shots by leaving their big, bulky drone at home. The DJI Mavic Air is lightweight enough and portable enough for almost all occasions. And you know what that means – awesome aerial pics!
At a price point of $799, the DJI Mavic Air shares many similarities with its corporate brethren the DJI Spark and DJI Mavic Pro. In the same vein as those siblings the DJI Mavic Air has a 12-megapixel camera and a selection of different flight and capture modes. The DJI Mavic Air is geared towards casual hobbyists that need a little more power than the Spark can provide. It is not professional-grade equipment but that does not mean it isn’t capable of some professional-grade shots.
However those users looking to get pro-level shots might be a little disappointed with the DJI Mavic Air. The Verge’s Vjeran Pavic found in his field testing that the DJI Mavic Air just did not fit the bill for “serious” drone enthusiasts but is an all-around great choice for beginners and hobbyists. One thing Pavic and many other reviewers are raving about with regard to the DJI Mavic Air is its awesome design and small form factor. It is easily one of the most portable drones in DJI’s lineup. The Mavic Air looks sleek and high-tech, sporting a modular configuration that makes transport a breeze. Those consumers in the market for something that is ultra portable and very capable can do little better than the Mavic Air. Overall the design really is better at travel, with a folding gimbal and removable sticks from the remote.
The camera on the drone is the one area where it really is lacking, and it is quite a shame. The Mavic Air shares the same sensor as the DJI Spark, Mavic Pro, and Mavic Pro Platinum. For photographers, this means the range of light to dark that the camera is able to capture within one scene is quite limited. The Air does, however, shoot 4K video at a 3 frames-per-second. For serious photographers, however, this will fall short and they should probably consider the Phantom 4 Pro.
Equipped with 3 different methods of control, the Mavic Air operates in what DJI calls wired mode. It has a mode that uses remotes and a smartphone, a mode that exclusively uses a smartphone, and a gesture based control system. While similar to the Pro, the controller for the device lacks a display and is noticeably lower end than the Pro’s controller.
Pairing the DJI with a smartphone has proven to be a hassle for some reviewers. DJI recommends you wait for the green lights to appear on both the remote and the drone prior to launching the app on the smartphone. While not guaranteed to work in every case, it should help alleviate what many users are experiencing. In addition, each time the user wants to use the drone with a smartphone it needs to be re-paired – not automatic connections with the Mavic Air.
Another big difference between the Mavic Pro and the new Mavic Air is the Mavic Pro allowed for connection via radio frequency while the Mavic Air uss wi-fi. This hasn’t proven to be detrimental to performance for most reviews, but it is a pretty big change nonetheless. Users in areas with low signal on their smartphones may not encounter difficulties controlling their drone via smartphone input.
One disadvantage of the use of wi-fi over RF is that the drone’s range is much more limited with wi-fi. Following the best practice that a drone should not leave its operator’s line of sight, the elimination of the RF connection might make the Mavic Air less prone to cause problems for others but might annoy those used to the Mavic Pro’s larger range. A major issue with wi-fi connections, or connections of any type, is the drone operators ability to see through the video uplink. Some reviewers have experienced temporary loss of video due to connection issues but none have reported anything major.
An Advanced Pilot Assistance System is one of the big selling points for the Mavic Air. It goes beyond simple object avoidance and actually gives the drone the ability to fly up and over obstacles. This is in contrast to previous drones from DJI that relied upon a basic obstacle avoidance system to prevent collisions. When the APAS fails, the drone simply hovers in place – it does not smash into the obstacle, a major innovation in self-piloting consumer drones.
Capturing photo and video is competent but nothing worth upgrading over a Mavic Pro for in the opinions of many publications. The limited camera sensor does not qualitatively impact the video and photos taken, but it does limit the amount of action the videographer can get in one shot. The camera was found to be most effective in environments with high amounts of light but totally failed when it came to low-light situations.
While experts typically love to use manual controls when flying their drone, the DJI Mavic Air offers consumers a wide-variety of shooting options when it comes to various tricks that their drone can do. One mode, called asteroid mode, zooms away from the operator and captures a 360 degree panorama from the sky. Some features like the spherical photos are cool but the fact that it can only be displayed on the DJI app limits its use and purpose.
One drawback people may encounter is that the drone’s small size may make it prone to gusts of wind. This problem can be avoided through conscientious flying and paying attention to onboard systems that alert the pilot of such conditions when they arise.
A limited battery life is the one major thread that ties most complaints about the DJI Mavic Air together. DJI claims that the drone has a flight time of 21 minutes. This is considerably less when you factor in photography and videography applications. Some reviewers estimate the true total time at 15 minutes factoring in take off and landing. DJI is offering an upgrade that puts two batteries into the drone (along with other options) for $999. This is quite a price to pay for a little more hang time in the air.
Situated between the Mavic Pro and the Spark, the Mavic Air is truly the drone for the rest of us. While not as competent as the Pro, it is also not as entry level as the Spark. Review our article comparing the Spark and Air to find out more of their differences. Many of the Mavic Air features are just right for hobbyists and enthusiasts. There’s also enough there for professionals looking for a more casual and compact drone option. The camera, while not the best, is certainly up to the task and performs extremely well in well-lighted environments. The biggest complaint many have is the drone’s battery life, which is not seen as sufficient for many complicated applications but is probably just right for most consumer uses.
Overall the DJI Mavic Air is an excellent option for people looking to get into drones. Those who don’t want to spend the money that a Pro costs but don’t want the limitations that come with the Spark. Designed for those consumers in between professionals and pure hobbyists. The DJI Mavic Air combines elements of both while excelling at a small form factor and portability.
Once again DJI proves why it is the king of the drone roost with the DJI Mavic Air. A masterful execution of a consumer-grade drone that is likely to thrill enthusiasts. The DJI Mavic Air is perfect for beginners and represents a great value over other options currently on the market.