Necessary Toys: Does the DJI Mavic Air 2 Mean It’s Time To Break Down And Buy A Drone?
Up until now I have resisted drones. I saw them at first as toys. Later I realized that they had practical uses but “weren’t for me.” Now I realize that it is an inevitability that I will at some point acquire one for my photography. I am actually glad I haven’t purchased one yet because the quality of the photography is starting to really impress me. Plus, unlike before, you don’t need a really big drone to get really good photos.
I have been looking around the market, but there doesn’t seem to be any real competitor to DJI, the global leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology. For serious consumer drones equipped with professionally usable photography, there don’t seem to be any other options, at least across a broad product line. If you disagree, please let me know in the comments. I don’t pretend to be a drone expert. In fact, I have never yet flown one. When I do, I will let you know.
Today DJI introduced the Mavic Air 2 drone, combining high-grade imaging, advanced flight performance and new safety technology in what they are calling “the best all-around drone we’ve ever made.”
The Mavic Air 2 is a compact and easy to use folding drone that features 8K functionality. A larger 1/2” camera sensor offers high-resolution photos and videos while advanced programmed flight modes, intelligent features and imaging technology enable the capture of professional content. Drone pilots can now stay in the sky longer with an enhanced maximum flight time, capture vivid imagery with completely revamped autonomous capabilities, and modify their content with in-app editing features.
“Mavic Air 2 is another milestone for DJI, demonstrating that our smartest consumer drone does not have to be the largest,” said DJI President Roger Luo. “While the Mavic Air 2 bears all the hallmarks of the Mavic drone family, we had to completely rethink its design and development process. Our goal was to create a drone that offered the best overall experience possible to even the most novice pilot. We hope our drones can help boost creativity and become a fun yet educational experience that can be enjoyed, even at this unprecedented moment in history.”
Robust Imaging Capabilities
Mavic Air 2 is the first drone in the Mavic series to offer 4K video at 60 fps and 120 Mbps. Additionally, users can record content using HDR video (up to 4K 30fps), 4X Slow Motion in 1080p at 120 fps or 8X Slow Motion in 1080p at 240 fps. Pilots can record 12-megapixel (12-megapixel photos use advanced processing and pixel binning) images or choose a new high-resolution 48-megapixel feature, while a mechanical 3-axis gimbal helps compensate for camera shake to create smooth and stable footage. Taking full advantage of the large Quad Bayer 1/2″ sensor, the Mavic Air 2 is the newly added SmartPhoto records 12-megapixel photos using advanced scene analysis and deep learning to automatically choose one of three image capture options.
- HDR photos: Mavic Air 2 automatically captures seven varying exposures of the same photograph, merging them together to bring out a highly dynamic image.
- Hyperlight: Hyperlight is designed for low-light scenarios, taking multiple photographs and merging them to bring out a clear image with less of the noise which usually occurs in low-light scenes.
- Scene Recognition: Mavic Air 2 can recognize five categories of scenes including sunsets, blue skies, grass, snow, and trees, then optimize settings to make the photograph pop by bringing out the highest degree of color, detail, and tones.
The Mavic Air 2 weighs about as much as a small water bottle at 570 grams, the Mavic Air 2 features new motors, new electronic speed controllers (ESCs), enhanced battery technology and an aerodynamic design to provide a maximum flight time of up to 34 minutes. DJI’s proprietary OcuSync 2.0 transmission technology has been upgraded to deliver a more reliable and stable HD video feed from the drone at a maximum distance of 10km. OcuSync 2.0 supports both 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz frequency bands and uses an auto-switching feature to move between the two based on signal strength, while anti-interference technology blocks unwanted signals to keep the video feed clear.
The Mavic Air 2 is equipped with new safety features to improve flight safety. Obstacle sensors on the front and rear of the drone warn pilots when they’re too close to an object and can also be set to stop the drone from moving any closer to avoid collision. Additional sensors and auxiliary lights on the bottom of Mavic Air 2 assist with several functions including smooth, automatic landing even in difficult lighting. Mavic Air 2 also comes equipped with DJI’s GEO geofencing solution to help keep drones away from the highest-risk locations, such as busy airports.
Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) 3.0 brings the next level of autonomous flying to DJI drones. When users enable APAS 3.0, as obstacles come into the drone’s path, Mavic Air 2 will create a new path around, under or over the object to avoid collision, giving pilots the confidence to fly in more complex situations while focusing on capturing their ideal images. Using 3D mapping, the updated version aids in smooth transitions and more fluid movements around objects even in extraordinarily complex environments.
In accordance with DJI’s 10-point Elevating Safety vision published last year, Mavic Air 2 is also DJI’s first consumer drone designed to include AirSense technology, which provides enhanced safety by warning drone pilots of other aircraft nearby. AirSense uses aviation technology known as ADS-B to receive signals from nearby airplanes and helicopters and displays their location on the drone pilot’s control screen. As these other aircraft approach the drone, AirSense will warn the drone pilot with messages, sounds and vibrations, enhancing the pilot’s awareness and ability to move the drone safely away.
Due to supply chain shortages related to the coronavirus pandemic, Mavic Air 2 units equipped with AirSense ADS-B will initially only be available in North America. A version of Mavic Air 2 will be available outside of North America without ADS-B. The two models are identical in all other aspects such as flight and imaging performance.
“DJI has an unwavering commitment to enhance drone safety with technology, and Mavic Air 2 implements yet another pioneering safety solution for drone operations,” said DJI Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs Brendan Schulman. “Our ambitious commitment to installing ADS-B in our new product models means Mavic Air 2 will be the world’s largest single deployment of ADS-B receiver technology, fulfilling and furthering our vision as the industry’s leader on voluntary safety efforts.”
Mavic Air 2 has features allowing users to quickly and easily record images and video. DJI claims FocusTrack is the most advanced tracking feature on any DJI drone and offers three different capture modes:
- ActiveTrack 3.0: Select a subject for Mavic Air 2 to automatically follow. The third iteration of ActiveTrack uses state-of-the-art mapping technology and new flight path algorithms to offer improved subject tracking and obstacle avoidance, along with the ability to quickly re-engage the subject if it temporarily moves behind an object.
- Point of Interest 3.0: Set an automated flight path around a specific subject. The updated iteration improves surface recognition to better dynamically track subjects.
- Spotlight 2.0: Found in professional DJI drones, Spotlight locks a subject in the frame while the user has free operation of the drone’s movement.
FocusTrack and APAS available in a maximum video resolution of 4K 30fps, 2.7K 60fps and 1080p 60fps.
A Hyperlapse feature brings the visual appeal of time-lapse but with the added element of the drone physically moving. Hyperlapse can now be shot in a max resolution of 8K while pilots can choose four flight modes including Free movement, Circle, CourseLock and WayPoints. 8K HyperLapse can only use flight modes Free mode and Waypoints. 8K and 1080p are available at launch and additional resolutions will be added at a later date, the company claims. Pilots can also choose from several pre-programmed flight maneuvers known as QuickShots, which use a 3-axis mechanical gimbal and electronic image stabilization for highest video quality. Pilots can choose Rocket, Circle, Dronie, Helix, Boomerang or Asteroid.
Editing and Accessories
An updated version of the DJI Fly app adds advanced functionality for the Mavic Air 2 while maintaining its user-friendly navigation. New tutorials get users familiarized with the drone and quickly in the air to start capturing compelling footage. In-app editing features seek to make the DJI Fly app a one-stop tool to edit and adjust the footage captured. Mavic Air 2 will be supported by a host of additional useful accessories including a shoulder bag, ND filter sets, propeller guards, protective case, tablet holder for the controller and monitor hood.
Pricing and Availability
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new complexities for global shipping and logistics of many products. As a result, the Mavic Air 2 will be initially available for immediate purchase in China today while other regions will begin taking preorders today with an expected ship time of mid-May. Mavic Air 2 will be available in Colombia after the second half of May and in two purchasing options: a standard package which includes Mavic Air 2, one battery, remote controller and all the required wires and cables for $799 USD, and the Fly More option which includes all items from the standard version as well as a shoulder bag, ND filters, charging hub, and 3 batteries for $988 USD.
Photos courtesy DJI