DJI’s Mavic Air Could Be The Drone You’re Looking For

February 20, 2018 5 min read

In the world of tech, it’s not uncommon for the middle child to show up out of nowhere and steal the spotlight. This is exactly the case for DJI’s latest addition to their drone lineup — The Mavic Air. Size wise, the Mavic Air is a game changer. It’s not much different than carrying around a bottle of Fiji water.

Size isn’t the only wow factor though. The four armed super gadget is packed with hero caliber powers. However, if we’re being honest, running out of power might just be the only downside. The battery life is definitely lower than it’s big brother, but what it lacks in flight time, it more than makes up for with a bevy of impressive features and possibly the sleekest design on the market.


Details and Specifications

The Air’s commercial slogan is: ‘Adventure Unfolds’. That’s because perhaps its most unique feature is the intelligently designed folding system. The arms and wings of the unit smoothly tuck into its sides. You’ll have to get your hands on one to fully understand how it works, but to further illustrate the cool factor, the two back arms open up like Lamborghini doors.

When folded up, it’s about the height and width of an iPhone 8 Plus, and weighs in at only 15 ounces. The Air’s camera sensor captures beautiful 4k video at 30 fps. It records at 100MBPS, which is a much higher bitrate than the Mavic Pro. A higher bitrate translates to crisper, ultra HD quality footage. When it comes to photographs, it has a 12MP still camera. And if you forgot your memory cards at home, not to worry, it comes with 8GB of onboard storage.

For the drone user who wants to bend the laws of time and capture crystal clear high-speed action, the Air supports 1080p, 120fps slow-motion video recording. Like the Mavic Pro, it comes with a 3-axis gimbal which provides incredibly smooth stabilization even when making acrobatic maneuvers.

It’s maximum flight time of 21 minutes lands right in the middle of the Spark and Mavic Pro. Most users mention that by the time you actually get the Mavic Air in the sky you’re looking at closer to about 15 minutes of flight time.

The Air is geared towards travel and mobility which explains why it comes with an extremely high quality and portable carrying case. The outside of the case is a durable weaved material that feels like high end Scandinavian luggage. The inside is housed with a soft padded liner that will keep your drone safe and sound during travel.


Comparison of Mavic Air, Mavic Pro & Spark

Flying The Mavic Air

Flying a drone is half the fun, and the Mavic Air doesn’t disappoint. It clocks in at a top speed of 42.5 MPH (68.4 KPH).

The remote control also falls in with the whole space-saving concept. You can actually twist off the two joy sticks and store them inside the remote’s housing. There’s no built in screen on the controller, so naturally you’ll need to download the app on a smartphone or tablet if you want to monitor real time information.

If you like using your drone up close and personal, the Air also comes with DJI’s futuristic gesture controls. Like previous models, they respond well and it makes you feel like a Jedi controlling a drone — can’t argue with that.

Like the Mavic Pro, the Air comes with a return home feature which allows one touch return to the exact same spot it took off from. This feature kicks in automatically when the battery is low or if the remote control connection is lost.

Another solid advancement from the Mavic Pro is the Air’s crash avoidance system. It has seven cameras and multiple built in sensors to prevent accidents, including cameras in the rear to avoid flying backwards into objects. Still worried about damaging an $800 product? Here’s a whole bunch of crash tests that show the astonishing durability of the Mavic Air.

The Mavic constructs a real time 3D map of its surroundings and uses that information to not only avoid objects, but to search for ways around it. You can keep your finger on the gas and not worry about losing that perfectly smooth shot by coming to an abrupt halt. This system isn’t completely full proof and it’s important not to rely on it entirely. For best results, make sure the
feature is activated and your connection is strong.


Problems and Concerns

Revolutionary devices that seem too good to be true usually come with a particular set of problems and concerns. Amazingly, the Air has a pretty short list. Most people are worried that such a small device won’t be able to handle mother nature’s curve balls. But the truth is the Air is able to produce shockingly smooth stabilization even in the face of adversity. Here’s a sample of just how well the Mavic Air tackles windy situations.

Unlike it’s big brother, the Air communicates with Wi-Fi rather than radio frequency. Some users have reported that the initial pairing process can be a little frustrating, especially in areas with Wi-Fi interference. Compass calibration can also be an issue at times, but that’s easily solved by a quick reset.

If you’re one of those people who likes the thrill of losing site of your drone and flying it long distances, this may not be the drone for you. The Wi-Fi connection only allows for 2.5 miles (the Mavic Pro travels 4 miles) and it can be a little spotty when pushed to its limits.

Don’t get it twisted, the video quality is amazing, and it’s even a slight step up from the Pro. However, when filming landscapes with high contrast you may find yourself jacking up the ISO to compensate for the lack of detail. Shadows may end up appearing a bit noisy for some people’s liking. Although, it’s definitely not a deal breaker because for most situations it’s not really an issue.


Who Should Buy The Mavic Air?

So how do you decide which of these magical flying cameras to pick up? Well you have to consider exactly what you’re using it for.

If you do a lot of commercial work, it’s recommended that you check out DJI’s Phantom line. The Phantoms are definitely more of a cumbersome, less portable option, but with a 1” sensor and a 20MP camera, their image quality is unmatched.

However, if flying drones and capturing top notch quality footage is more of a hobby or travel necessity, than you definitely want to look into a Mavic Air. It’s built for portability — you’ll barely even notice it in your backpack or jacket.

The Pro is also a great option. The image quality is slightly stronger, and it gives you 8 or 9 more minutes in the sky; but the Air has a slight edge in functionality. Plus, it’s cheaper.

You could jump down to the Spark if the Air’s price tag is a little bit daunting, but you’d be sacrificing a ton of premium features. It’s hard to ignore that the Mavic Air might just be the optimal balance between size, performance and price.

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