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