Today we’re going to take an unbiased look at the new drone from DJI… The Mavic Air. I have to admit that when it was first announced I was super excited about this piece of kit. I’ve been wanting to add a drone to my visual communication kit for some time, but in the past just couldn’t seem to justify the purchase.
Then this past summer my brother picked up a Mavic Pro and I had the opportunity to borrow it for an extended amount of time. After getting to finally play around with a drone I knew I would be picking up one of my own soon.
However, by this time the Mavic Pro was starting to age and rumors of an updated version were floating around. I wasn’t in any rush, so I decided to wait. When the Mavic Air was announced I thought I had played my cards perfectly! Who wouldn’t want a smaller more portable Mavic with a better camera and improved autonomous tech? I figured I could live with the limited battery life and the reduced range… I mean who flies their drone more than 2 miles away anyway.
So… I pulled the trigger and pre-ordered the Mavic Air.
Waiting for the Mavic Air to arrive was torture! I couldn’t wait to get this thing in the air and start dialing it in. Just think of all the cool places I’ll be able to take a drone this small!
Finally the Mavic Air arrived. I immediately started charging it up and updated the firmware. I then took it outside and fired it up! For the most part it felt just like the Mavic Pro. Then I took it for a spin around my neighborhood.
It was at this point that my first concerns arose. I never lost control of the drone, but I did notice some stutters in the video feed. I never had the drone more than 250-300 meters away… maybe 400 meters at most. I tried to do some slow passes with some subtle camera movements and the laggy video feed made it difficult (impossible) to control the drone with any precision. I figured maybe it was just a fluke… So I used up a couple of more batteries. Unfortunately, with my specific unit, the video feed continued to stutter and lag with the drone just two blocks away.
As excited as I was about the Mavic Air… I made the hard decision to return it to DJI.
For me a drone isn’t a toy to capture some unique perspectives on vacation. It’s a tool. My hope is to be able to use it for projects both at work and personal. Is it going to come along on vacation? It will. But it needs to be more useful than that, and as much as small size and portability are important to me… Versatility is higher up the list.
I don’t think the Mavic Air is a bad product. It’s actually a pretty incredible piece of technology, and certain people are going to love this thing! I just don’t think it’s for me quite yet. It has almost everything I want. But the choice to go with the wifi video feed is too much of a liability for me at this time. I don’t currently have the resources to justify having multiple drones. So, the one I choose has to be able to do everything and do it well.
I’m hoping the Mavic Pro II is just around the corner and I’m going to wait to see what that looks like before I go and make a final decision. Part of the calculus here also has to do with battery life. The Mavic Air with 3 batteries should provide ~1hr of flight time for $1000 (fly more pkg). The Mavic Pro II is assumed to better the flight times of the current Mavic Pro and if we assume a flight time of 33 minutes… that gives us 1hr 39min of flight time for ~$1400. That means to get a similar amount of flight time out of the Mavic Air I’d need to purchase an additional 2 batteries at $80/each. Once you factor out flight time and the additional cost of batteries the Mavic Pro starts to look like a very good value. If the Pro II gets a 1″ sensor and the same tech that’s on the Air… I will easily be able to justify the minor increase in cost.
I still might end up with the Mavic Air in the end. However, it’s not critical for me to own a drone at this time and I’m happy to wait.