Sneak Peek at the new DJI Mavic Air

Mavic Air

Earlier this week at a live event in New York City, DJI unveiled their newest drone, the Mavic Air. It looks amazing and the specs look almost too good to be true for a drone of this size and weight. Mine is on order and I will have a complete review as well as tutorials to help you get the most out of your Mavic Air just as soon as it arrives and I have had time to give it a workout. But in the meantime, here is a look at the features as well as some of my thoughts about what to expect from the Mavic Air.

Where does the Mavic Air fit in the DJI lineup?

By all measures, the Mavic Air sits between the Spark and the Mavic Pro. There are enough differences between the three drones that I don't think the Mavic Air will render either of the older drones obsolete. It's not a "Mavic Killer" or a "Spark Killer" in other words.

Spark ($499 USD)
Mavic Air ($799 USD)
Mavic Pro ($999 USD)
Mavic Pro Platinum ($1,199 USD).

For a detailed list of camera specs you can take a look at a chart I have put together a comparing the cameras for all of DJI's consumer drones.

Better than the Spark with its 3-axis gimbal and the ability shoot 12 MP RAW stills and 4K video. The camera on the Mavic Air appears to be nearly identical Mavic Pro's with one fairly big difference—it is fixed focus. More on that later.

Flight Modes: Seven flight modes compared to the Spark (5 modes) and the Mavic Pro (13 modes).
Flight Time of 21 minutes is longer than a Spark (16 min) and less than a Mavic Pro (27 min) or Mavic Pro Platinum (30 min).
Top speed of 42.5 mph is faster than both the Spark (31 mph) and Mavic Pro (40 mph).
Three-way collision avoidance with the addition of rear facing sensors. Both the Spark and Mavic lack the rear sensors.
Built-in 8 GB storage. No more packing up when I get to a location because I forgot an SD card!

So just how small is the Mavic Air? 

Really small! If you've ever seen a DJI Spark you know they're small. Well the Mavic Air is just a tiny bit bigger than a Spark! It is roughly the same length and width of an iPhone 8 Plus. And it's extremely light, tipping the scale at just 0.95 pounds as compared 1.6 pounds for a Mavic Pro.

What am I looking forward to on the Mavic Air?

  1. The size and weight, of course. As someone who travels frequently I will be able to slip this in my bag and hardly notice it.
  2. The removable joysticks on the controller. It's a little thing, but it will fit in my bag so much easier.
  3. Rear collision avoidance. As someone who has hung a Mavic Pro in a tree while backing up I'm really looking forward to this feature.
  4. The new FlightAutonomy 2.0 capabilities that will enable the Mavic Air to navigate around obstacles automatically.
  5. The camera and gimbal seem to be protected more than they are on the Mavic Pro.
  6. The increased bitrate (4K at 100Mbps) for video is an improvement over the Mavic Pro.

What am I "waiting to see" about on the Mavic Air?

The things below are't complaints. I'm not being a grumpy old man here. These are things that will be different than what I'm used to. Once I get this baby in my hands they will probably be no big deal. 

There are a couple of Intelligent Flight modes (Course Lock and Point of Interest) I use on the Mavic Pro and Phantom 4 Pro that do not appear to be available on the Mavic Air. Of course, they may be added later with a firmware update. 

Another thing I am wondering about is the fixed focus lens. With the Mavic Pro you can either use autofocus or choose a particular point of focus by tapping on the screen. There are times I want to have creative control over focus. With the Mavic Pro or Phantom 4 Pro, If I want to focus on an object in the foreground and blur the background, all I have to do is tap on the foreground object on the screen. I'm not sure how this will work with a fixed-focus lens. 

One big difference between the Mavic Air and the Mavic Pro is the lack of an LCD screen on the controller. Obviously, I look at the screen of my phone or tablet most of the time I fly. But there have been times when I have lost the video feed and my phone screen went black. It's good to still be able to see vital information about signal strength and flight parameters on the Controller screen when that happens.

I am not thrilled with is the flight time. If it's rated at 21 minutes, real-world times will likely be in the 15-16 minute range. It may not be an issue since I usually get up, get my shots, and get down fairly quickIy.  I'll just have to see how it goes. I did order extra batteries, of course.