DJI Mavic Air - A Clear Preview Of The Second Generation DJI Mavic Pro

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The DJI Mavic Air is a marvel in engineering, and it is clearly giving us a preview in whats to come in the second generation DJI Mavic Pro. This compact drone is as consumer friendly and easy to fly as the DJI Spark, And its almost as capable as its older brother the Mavic Pro. The Mavic air is essentially what happens when the Spark and the Mavic pro have a baby. 

And the price of the Mavic Air is sandwiched right between the spark and the Mavic pro. The Base Mavic Air is currently retailing for $799 and for that price you get the drone, the controller, one battery, one set of propeller guards, a carrying case, a whole bunch miscellaneous cables and accessories, and 2 extra sets of propellers. Unfortunately you have to bring your own micro SD card. Theres also a fly more combo pack that retails for $999 and essentially you get a total of 3 batteries, a charging hub to charge them all in, a larger travel bag and 2 more extra sets of propellers. Given that each battery for the mavic air costs $79 alone and the charging hub by it self costs $49, plus the extra propellers and the travel bag, and DJI claims you’re saving $113 I feel its a fair deal, not a great deal, but a fair deal. If you want to pick the DJI Mavic Air up I’ll have links in the description below and if you use the link it really helps out the channel. Check them out cause DJI drones sometimes go on sale so you might get lucky. 

The DJI Mavic Air is slightly bigger than the Spark but still slightly smaller than the Mavic Pro. Just like the mavic pro, the mavic air folds up. The back legs rotate backwards and out and the front arms extend outwards. Even though the Mavic air is slightly bigger than the Spark, in its folded state the Mavic Air is easier to store in a jacket pocket than the Spark. But it is important to take note that the propellers on the mavic air are a different size than the ones found on the spark or Mavic pro, and unfortunately they don’t fold up. Personally, I feel that DJI should standardize the propellers between the mavic air and second generation mavic pro. This way it’ll be easier to get replacements if you go to a store. I also think that DJI should have used foldable props on the Mavic Air because I feel that in the event of a crash foldable props have a better chance of survival. 

The DJI Mavic Air has an array of sensors built in that help it avoid crashing and help it fly more precisely when indoors. There are a pair of sensors on the front, a pair of sensors on the back, and sensors on its belly so the mavic air can know when there are obstacles in front of it, behind it, and underneath it. The sensors can also detect if there is water underneath it so it wont  accidentally land in water, which obviously would be a mood killer if you did. And on that note, the mavic air is not water proof so you shouldn’t be flying it in the rain or snow. Thanks to flight autonomy 2.0 the mavic air creates a realtime 3D map of its environment and its able to better position it self and even automatically avoid obstacles with out user input, but the mavic air is still prone to crashing if you’re fly from side to side. Something I usually do to get panning shots. Personally, I think that the second generation Mavic Pro will come included with all of the new sensors found on the mavic air and with additional sensors to the sides and on the top of the aircraft. Rendering it virtually crash proof like the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. At least, I hope. 

On the back of the air theres a USB C port and a micro SD slot that can take cards up to 128 gigs. But the Mavic Air also has 8 gigs of internal storage, if you’re shooting in 1080P thats a good amount of storage, but if you’re shooting in 4K that aint a lot. Underneath the SD Card slot you will find a light that also functions as a Function button, (something that took me a while to figure out because you will have to use this button when paring the controller to the drone.) And on the sides of the drone there are latches that keep the battery secured. DJI claims a maximum flight time of 21 minutes for the air, but thats under ideal conditions. In my testing in the NYC area with high winds and with the temperature between 28 degrees and 40 degrees I averaged a flight time of 18 minutes. I have yet to hit that magical 21 minute mark. But below average performance in cold environments is normal for batteries. Now when it comes to charging the Air’s battery you first have to remove it and then use its propriety cable, and in order to fully charge it, it takes about 50 minutes. 

Now lets talk about the camera on the DJi Mavic Air, the mavic air has a 12 megapixel camera thats housed in a 3 axis gimbal. The camera on the Mavic air also has the largest field of view at 85 degrees, where as the spark has a field of view of 81.9 degrees and the Pro has the narrowest field of view at 78.8 degrees. Essentially you’ll be able to capture more a scene with the Mavic Air as Opposed to the Pro when they’re looking at the same thing away at the same distance.  On a side note, I like how the body of the Air essentially wraps around the camera. So even in the event of a crash the gimbal system is still somewhat protected. The 12 megapixel camera on the air can shoot up to 4k 30 frames per second and can capture stunning slow motion video at 1080 120 frames per second. For comparison, the pro also maxes out at 4k 30 frames per second but the best it can do when it comes to slow-motion video is 1080 96 frames per second or 720 120 frames per second. But the Pro can also capture cinema 4k at 24 frames per second while the air cant. And just putting it out there, the Spark maxes out at 1080 30 Frames per second. And shooting in 4k means you’ll be able to capture more detail and you’ll be able to zoom in more without losing too much video quality. (but personally I like shooting in 1080P 60 frames per second the most because it means much smoother video quality, but its not as crispy) And the camera on the Mavic Air also does an OK jog in low light environments given that it has a 2.8 aperture. But one major thing the Air has over the Pro is that out can shoot HDR photos. Which means better looking stills. The mavic air can also capture a few different type of panoramas. If you’re shooting a tall subject you can use the vertical panorama mode and for wider subjects you can use the Horizontal panoramas. Although these panorama modes are found on the Spark, the Mavic air is able to shoot the necessary photos and stitch them together much faster. And then theres my personal favorite… Spherical panoramas although these do take a bit longer to take, the end result is truly stunning. You can go into the DJI app and manipulate the photo any way you want. And even in high winds the end result is still very clean. And the air can also take these Spherical panoramas in a fraction of the time the Spark does. 

One of the things that I really like about the mavic air is just how may options you have when it comes to actually flying it. If you want to take a quick selfie you can just use gesture controls. Since the Mavic Air is slightly bigger than the Spark you cant palm launch which honestly isn’t a problem with me. The gesture controls on the Mavic Air are much more accurate and they are much more robust than the ones found on the spark. Its able to track your palm more precisely and you can also make it move forwards and back by opening or closing your arms. In order to take a picture you just have to throw up a peace sign and to start recording you just make a rectangle with your fingers. The only problem I’ve really only had with gesture controls is telling the Mavic air to land. If you want to you can fly the Mavic Air with just your smart phone and the DJI Go 4 app. The touch screen controls are accurate but the control input is numbed down a bit so you wont be able to fly the mavic air as fast or as precisely. But when strictly using your phone to control the Mavic Air you’ll get a range of up to 80 meters or 260 feet with direct line of sight and with minimal signal interference. But I do want to point out that this 80 meter range is slightly shorter than the 100 meter range the Spark  has when flying it with your smart phone as well. When using the included controller the DJI Mavic Air has a range of up to 4000 Meters or 2.5 miles. Which is a little more than half of the range on the DJI Mavic Pro: 7000 meters or 4.3 miles. But again, these numbers are while in ideal conditions. When flying in  a highly populated with lots of tall structures I routinely got signal interference. I could usually only go a distance of about 1000 meters before my video stream completely cut out of got to static to know exactly what I was doing.  

But when it comes to linear speed the Mavic Air is slightly faster than the Mavic Pro with a top speed of 68.4 kilometers per hours or 42 miles per hours while in sport mode versus the pro’s top speed of 65 kilometers per hour or 40 miles per hours. But it is important to keep in mind that while in sport mode the sensors on the mavic air are turned off so you’re flying blind. But more importantly when used with the controller the Mavic Air has a max Ascent speed of 4 meters per second versus the pro’s 5 meter per second Ascent speed and the Air and pro both have a decent speed of 3 meters per second. And to me this is just as important to note because its how fast the drone can gain or lose altitude. Cause personally I never really go “ah geez rick I really wish my drone would fly faster” I’m usually going “Ah Geez rick I wish my drone would get up faster or come down already”

But the Mavic Air is very precise and nimble, control inputs are very accurate and the Air it self is very agile. Its able to accelerate very quickly and stop on dime. But don’t let its small size fool, even in the roughest of winds the Mavic Air stays stable and allows you to place it where ever you want without losing control of it.   

Now when it comes to the controller itself lets first talk about its battery life. In order to fully charge it its going to take about 2 and a half hours. And after 8 full flights with the mavic air the battery on controller is still at about 50%. But in order to charge it you have to use the included adaptor, and personally I think the controller should have used a USB C port instead. Cause I feel losing this adaptor is pretty easy. Unlike the Pro’s controller which has a screen that shows you information about your drone at a glance, the controller on the Air has none of that. But the joy sticks do screw off, and don’t worry… if you lose them DJI included a second pair. You have shoulder buttons to quickly capture a picture or video, a secondary shoulder button for quick access for your camera settings, a rotating knob to adjust the tilt of the camera and the all important return to home button so you can call your drone back after you have no idea where it is. The controller design itself is fine but I I just find that it is so hard to actually place my phone inside even with out a case or even a skin. I just wish the cradle was a little bigger. 

But now lets about the things I hate about the Mavic Air. First off, I absolutely hate how every time I want to charge the battery I have to completely unfold the Mavic to get the battery out. I also hate that you have to remember to fold and unfold the Air in a specific order. First the back legs then the front arms to open the drone and first the front arms and then the back legs to collapse the drone. Another thing that I hate about the mavic air is just how hard it is to get the SD card out. I’ve been using tweezers to get the card out cause my dainty little fingers are still too big. And this matters cause if you’re going to be shooting a lot you’re probably going to want to quickly swap out the SD card. And like I mentioned earlier, I think its super weird the controller uses an adaptor to charge, I wish it just had a USB C port like the Air so I just need to worry about one cable. 

But this is just me nitpicking, the DJI Mavic Air is a great little drone for any intermediate pilot. It can capture some stunning video and pictures but its also a lot of fun to just play around with with smart capture and photo modes. It has a good amount of range for any hobbyist and you can fly it in doors or even in harsh winds. Personally I think that if you’re in market trying to decided between the Mavic Air and the current Mavic Pro I would go with the Air. I feel Picture quality is just as good and unless you’re trying to capture some epic landscape shots the few extra minutes of flight time and extra range aren’t that big of a deal. But like I said as the beginning of this video, the Mavic Air is giving us a preview of the second generation Mavic Pro which I feel will be released in the next 6 to 8 months. I bet it will be slightly smaller, have extra sensors off to the sides, a larger camera sensor that can also probably capture 4K video at 60 FPS and Slo Mo at 1080P at 240 frames pre second. And if the Second Gen Mavic Pro can also have a 30 minute flight time that would be great.