DJI Mavic Air drone

£769 | $799 www.dji.com This is the pock­etable 4K drone you want in 2018

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DJI’s lat­est con­sumer drone, the Mavic Air, is the nearper­fect love child of the very suc­cess­ful Mavic Pro and the com­pact and user-friendly Spark.

By tak­ing the tech and fold­able ro­tor arms from the Mavic Pro and the small size and play­ful­ness of the Spark – and then im­prov­ing on both – DJI has pro­duced its best con­sumer drone yet.

It has just about ev­ery bell and whis­tle you could ask for, from 4K video and 32MP panoramic pic­tures to a 21-minute bat­tery life. More im­por­tantly, the DJI Mavic Air is easy to fly thanks to an im­proved ob­ject avoid­ance sys­tem and ges­ture con­trols.

Price and avail­abil­ity

With a start­ing price of £769 ($799), the Mavic Air is cheaper than its Pro sib­ling. This gets you the drone, a bat­tery, the pro­pri­etary charger, a redesigned re­mote con­troller, a small car­ry­ing case, four pro­pel­ler guards and two full sets of pro­pel­lers. DJI also of­fers the Fly More Combo, which bun­dles the drone, three bat­ter­ies, a re­mote con­troller, a travel bag, two pairs of pro­pel­ler guards, six pairs of pro­pel­lers, a bat­tery-to-power­bank adapter and a bat­tery charg­ing hub for £949 ($999).

De­sign and build

The Mavic Air is ro­bust and well-built. The re­cessed gim­bal adds a layer of pro­tec­tion, mak­ing this a great travel com­pan­ion.

The Mavic Air is the first DJI drone to in­tro­duce USB-C for con­tent trans­fer. Sadly, the USB port can’t be used to charge the drone. For that, you’ll need the pro­pri­etary charger. The Mavic Air also comes with a mi­croSD card slot, and 8GB of on­board stor­age.

An­other re­mark­able innovation is the redesigned re­mote con­troller. Its joy­sticks are tucked neatly away un­der the fold­able smart­phone clips. The con­troller lacks the Mavic Pro re­mote’s built-in screen for flight teleme­try, but squeeze your smart­phone into the fold­able clips and, voilà, you have ac­cess to a live video feed and ev­ery other piece of pi­lot­ing in­for­ma­tion that you need.

Per­for­mance and con­trol

Set­ting up the Mavic Air isn’t hard if you’ve used a DJI drone be­fore. If you haven’t, you’ll need to in­stall the DJI Go 4 app on your phone and fol­low the steps on screen to con­nect to the drone, ei­ther di­rectly via Wi-Fi or by link­ing to the con­troller. Once set up, fly­ing the drone is smooth as but­ter. And it’s fast. In Sport mode, this pocket rocket can reach a max­i­mum speed of 68.4km/h (40mph).

The Mavic Air is harder to crash too, thanks to its seven-cam­era vi­sion sys­tem and three-di­rec­tion en­vi­ron­men­tal sens­ing. DJI’s new Ad­vance Pi­lot As­sis­tance Sys­tem (APAS) doesn’t just stop the drone

in its tracks when it comes against an ob­sta­cle – it’ll chart an al­ter­nate route and con­tinue fly­ing safely. For APAS to work ef­fec­tively the drone needs to fly around and sur­vey the lo­ca­tion for a bit, pick­ing up in­for­ma­tion to process from its sur­round­ings. This is au­to­mat­i­cally done by the drone. This doesn’t mean the craft is crash-proof; there are no sen­sors on the top and sides, so there could still be a few close calls if you aren’t too care­ful.

You’d might ex­pect that due to its size and weight, the Mavic Air would have a hard time stay­ing sta­ble when hov­er­ing, but DJI prom­ises it should be just fine in winds of up to 35km/h (21.7mph). Fly­ing it by the sea­side, when winds can pick up sud­denly, the drone re­mained sta­ble in the air.

The trans­mis­sion range for the Mavic Air is lim­ited to 4km/2.5 miles us­ing the con­troller. This is be­cause the Mavic Air re­lies solely on Wi-Fi in­stead of also us­ing ra­dio fre­quency (RF) for its drone-to-con­troller con­nec­tion. If you’re plan­ning on push­ing the Mavic Air to its lim­its, you may ex­pe­ri­ence some dropouts in the video feed.

Like the Pro, the Mavic Air fea­tures a three-axis gim­bal. Al­though gim­bal con­trol while pan­ning side­ways is smooth, mov­ing the cam­era up and down is still a tad jerky.

The DJI Mavic Air also makes use of ges­ture con­trols and has SmartCap­ture func­tion­al­ity. Us­ing your hands, you can make the quad­copter take off and land, fly to­wards and away from you, and get it to fol­low you around as you move. Mak­ing a peace sign takes a still, while hold­ing your thumbs and fore­fin­ger in a frame will be­gin and stop video cap­ture.

It also has a cou­ple of Quick­Shot modes, called As­ter­oid and Boomerang. These have pre­set flights paths that cap­ture short videos with a sub­ject as the fo­cus, and work with just a few taps on the app, no com­po­si­tion re­quired.

Im­age qual­ity

Top fly­ing tech and a sta­ble gim­bal amount to noth­ing if the built-in cam­era isn’t up to the mark, and the Mavic Air’s does not dis­ap­point.

The Air shares the same 1/2.3inch CMOS sen­sor as the Mavic Pro, but has a nar­rower ISO range, mean­ing it doesn’t do as well in low-light con­di­tions.

The Air’s ca­pa­ble of shoot­ing 4K video at up to 30fps at a bit-rate of 100Mbps. Drop the res­o­lu­tion and it can cap­ture 2.5K at 60fps and Full HD at up to 120fps for slow mo­tion.

“In well-lit con­di­tions, the Mavic Air’s videos are crys­tal clear, with near per­fect sat­u­ra­tion”

In well-lit con­di­tions, the Mavic Air’s videos are crys­tal clear, with near-per­fect sat­u­ra­tion, and there’s plenty of dy­namic range to work with de­spite the small sen­sor size. In a gloomy setup we did lose some vi­brancy, how­ever, and our footage looked a tad washed out. How­ever, the gim­bal helps keep ev­ery­thing you shoot su­per sta­ble.

Sum­mary

The DJI Mavic Air is the best drone for most peo­ple thanks to the fact that it fits top specs in­side a pock­etable drone form fac­tor.

Get­ting 4K video at 30fps, de­cent bat­tery life, im­proved smarts and bet­ter ob­sta­cle avoid­ance for £769 ($799) makes this drone great value.

Al­though the cam­era could have been bet­ter, the footage it cap­tures is ex­cel­lent. The more au­to­mated Quick­Shots and track­ing fea­tures en­sure that any­one is ca­pa­ble of pulling off an amaz­ing shot – no ex­pe­ri­ence nec­es­sary. A small fly­ing drone with big am­bi­tions – you’ll be hard pressed to find a bet­ter one for the money.

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