DJI Unveils Mavic Air Drone as the Perfect Filmmaking Tool

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Although DJI is all alone at the top of the drone mountain, they haven’t stopped innovating. In fact, the day after unveiling their iconic Mavic Pro drone eighteen months ago, they went back to the drawing board to downsize it. Making it it smaller, thinner, and more powerful. And they ended up with the Mavic Air.

The Mavic Air is so small, you can carry one in your jacket pocket along with your controller, mobile phone and wallet, and nobody would be able to notice. The Mavic Air is 1/2 the size of the DJI’s most popular drone, and 41% lighter.  It’s even smaller than the DJI Spark.

Putting it side by side with an iPhone, the Mavic Air is roughly the same dimensions. That’s pretty incredible considering it has 7 on board cameras for sensing and avoiding objects, a 4K three axis gimbal stabilized camera, and retractible rotor booms.

For range and battery life, the Mavic Air can fly as far as two and a half miles away thanks to a redesigned attend array that transmits enhanced, dual band WiFi. Flight time is the longest in a drone this size, coming in at 21 minutes. The Mavic Air has 8GB of on board storage to save and write video and stills on board, plus downloading directly to your smart device. There’s also a USB-C connection for updating or wired transfer after the flight.

The 4K camera is built around a 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor that can capture 12 MP still images and 4K videos at 30 fps, at 100 MBps. Slow motion can be captured in full HD at up to 120 fps.  The Mavic Air can even capture a panoramic and tiny planet images at 32MP by shooting and stitching up to 25 still images on board the drone, which is then processed at under a minute and downloaded to your phone. That’s pretty remarkable.

DJI has also added a high dynamic range capture mode for still images, to preserve details in over and under exposed images.  The 24mm f2.8 camera is recessed deep inside the front of the Mavic Air, but DJI’s redesigned three axis gimbal hides inside the drone body to make the drone as aerodynamic as possible, and protecting the camera while in the air or being transported.

Flight modes: Active Track, a follow me feature, that keeps multiple subjects centered within the image as it flies. Aogotrhms have been improved to prevent subject loss and to compensate for a change in movement. QuickShot modes are still one of DJI’s most popular features which include Dronie, Circle, Helix and Rocket. These fast 10 second video clips are captured and then can be instantly shared over a mobile device.

But DJI has also added two new Quickshot options including a new quick shot feature called “Asteroid,” which starts your image in Tiny Planet scale, and then zooms straight into to its main subject, like an asteroid that’s hitting a planet; and Boomerang, which will capture a flight image that goes out, orbits, and returns, much like a boomerang.

To capture on the go, DJI has refined the gesture control mode known as “smart capture,” adding a few new gestures.  By pointing your palm to the drone, the Mavic Air turns on and hovers about four feet in the air. Gesture control is more responsive, following the subject anywhere it goes.  But now DJI has added a spread eagle gesture for distance control. Spread your hands apart, and the Mavic Air will move up to 19 feet further away. Close your hands, and the Mavic Air will return to its original hovering position. Point your palm to the ground and it lands and turns itself off. Very intelligent.

The Mavic Air also has an autonomous flight mode called Flight Autonomy 2.0, that builds a 3D map of it’s surroundings as it flies, to compare it’s position to while flying, so it can never get lost. DJI has also added a vision compass and terrain detection system to enable a more precise return to home feature.

Advanced Pilot Awareness Systems enhance optical avoidance to automatically bypass an obstacle by either flying around or above whatever is in the way, and do it while still enabling the drone pilot to keep manual control. DJI also has created the DJI Geo System, which gives pilots real time access to restricted areas and updated flight conditions.

Beyond 19 feet, control is transferred to your mobile device, which can guide the Mavic Pro to up to 250 feet. Beyond that range, you need the new, pocket sized remote for control via WiFi up to 2.5 miles. Not only are the antennas collapsible in the remote, but the control sticks are detachable, and fit inside a cubby hole built inside the controller body. Users also insert their mobile device to work as it’s flight display.

The Mavic Pro is also DJI’s fastest drone ever, reaching a top speed of up to 42 miles an hour in sports, or drone racing mode, and can flight in windy conditions up to 22 miles an hour. It also has a maximum altitude of over 16,000 above sea level, so that drone pilots can get some great shots from on top of a mountain pass and not worry about running into a ceiling limit.  But you’ll have to keep in mind local FAA regulations when sending your drone aloft.

The Mavic Air comes in three colors, Onyx Black, Arctic White, and Flame Red (why can’t they just say black, red and white?), and will start at $799, which includes propeller guards, an additional set of propellers, remote controller, and protective case. The Fly More Combo will sell for $999 and comes with an additional set propellers, two extra batteries for extended flight time, controller, a folding charging hub and a shoulder pack.

But here’s the thing. The DJI Spark costs $399 and shoots in full HD. The Mavic Air is $799 and shoots in 4K, but also has adds foldable drone boons, enhanced connectivity, and smarter flight features. Is it worth the extra $400? Well, that’s up to you. But I think the Mavic Air really is what the Spark wanted to be when it grew up.

Preorders start today. Shipping January 28th. For more information, visit DJI.com.

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About James DeRuvo 179 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.

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