DJI’s $799 Mavic Air portable drone starts shipping January 28

DJI hasn’t done a great job keeping its drones under wraps. As with the last couple of devices, the Mavic Air leaked out just ahead of today’s official unveiling. The drone is more or less what we expected, falling somewhere between the Mavic Pro and Spark and rounding out the company’s current line of consumer-focused quadcopters.

DJI says it “went back to the drawing board” for the Air, which folds up small enough to fit into a pocket. In fact, it’s so portable that the company’s director of North America actually stuffed two of the “smartphone-sized” drones into his vest pocked at today’s event.” It’s roughly half the size of the Pro and weighs around 41-percent of its predecessor. 

There’s a 4K camera on-board, mounted on-top of a three-axis gimbal. The company’s added several photography software advancements to the system, including the ability to stitch together 32-megapixel camera shots. HDR is also on-board here, bringing better shots in areas like landscapes with uneven light. 

The gimbal, like the drone, has been designed from the ground, up. The system is actually recessed directly into the system, giving the drone an even smaller footprint. There’s also 8GB of internal storage on here, so users can save photos and videos without adding a microSD card.

The Air is also the first drone in the line released since GoPro’s unceremonious exit from the space. The company’s Karma offering was arguable the Mavic Pro’s most direct competitor. In fact, the product was born out of a partnership between GoPro and DJI that ultimately fell by the wayside. So too did GoPro’s drone dreams late last year, due in part to a limited feature set at launch and the company’s inexperience building its own flying vehicles, which resulted in drones falling from the sky.

The Air features Active Track, a feature sorely lacking from the Karma, which lets the drone follow its subjects as they move, making it possible to shoot action videos without the aid of an additional crew. New Asteroid and Boomerang features, meanwhile, shoot programmed panorama-style shots with the push of a button.

The Mavic Pro got off to a bit of a rocky start, with a launch that was peppered by shipping delays. Ultimately, however, the product has proven a success for the drone giant, ultimately leading to the announcement of the palm-sized in May of last year. That device was the first of DJI’s to introduce gesture-based controls, with the company positioning the device as a sort of self-drone.

We ran into some trouble in our own testing that ultimately resulting in our producer slicing open a finger on one of the Spark’s blades. The gesture controls were also hit or mess, making the product an interesting step toward a true consumer, but not really all the way there. Hopefully the Air will correct some of those issues with an admittedly first generation product.

The Spark’s gesture control system has been update here with the Smart Capture system. Pointing a palm at the Air will lift the drone off the ground and titling the hand will control it while it’s in flight. In a quick demo at today’s event, the system does appear to be more sophisticated than its predecessor, but we’ll see for sure when we test it in a less controlled environment.

When you’re ready to end a flight, you put your hands together to return it to home and point down to land it. The feature works at a range of up to 19 feet. Using a smartphone to control the system bumps that up to 262 feet, and adding the remote boosts that to an impressive 2.5 miles.


Published at Tue, 23 Jan 2018 15:13:08 +0000