DJI, spark, drone, portable, camera, gimbal, uav, review
DJI Mavic Air

Drone technology is advancing so fast that it’s an expensive business just trying to keep up. No sooner have you bought your lovely new DJI Mavic Pro when along comes the much smaller, cheaper and just as capable Mavic Air. Honestly, DJI is so far ahead of the curve, it’s a wonder other manufacturers even bother to compete.


The new Mavic Air is a true pocket rocket that excels in every department. It’s quite a bit lighter and smaller than the DJI Mavic Pro (168mm in length against 198mm) and not much bigger than its smaller sibling, the Spark. Figure in the four folding rotor arms and what you have here is the most portable 4K camera-equipped drone currently on the market.


The 4K video quality from the Air’s robust 3-axis camera system is generally on a par with the larger Mavic Pro while its 12mp photos are arguably more detailed and blessed with better contrast. It can also take four styles of panorama images and it does this all by itself. Simply select the panorama function and the drone hovers in one spot while it takes a series of images from different angles (with no pilot input) which it them stitches together to produce a seamless widescreen vista.


Like the Spark – and to some degree the Mavic Pro – the Air can also be controlled with palm gestures or a mobile phone; handy additions for those times when you can’t be bothered to dig out the supplied hand controller. That said, flying with the hand controller is far and away the most satisfying way to operate it. It also lets you fly much further – up to 4km (2.48 miles) away and back again on a battery that lasts around 21 minutes.


The Mavic Air’s hand controller is smaller than the Mavic’s and it doesn’t come with an LCD screen so you’ll need to rely solely on the data and picture feed to your smartphone or mini tablet. But that’s no big issue as long as your mobile has enough battery.


The bit this writer loves most, though, is the addition of obstacle avoidance sensors on the rear as well as to the fore and below the craft. This makes flying more confidence inspiring than ever and is arguably the best reason for choosing a Mavic Air over a Mavic Pro; at least until the new Mavic II is announced (but that’s another story).


For something so small, you’d be amazed at how well this titchy drone copes in winds as strong as 22mph and even higher. It’s also very fast, especially in Sport mode – how does 42mph grab you?


Granted, the noise this little tyke makes is higher pitched than the larger Mavic, which can be a bit irritating, but that’s a small price to pay for such a cheap, reliable, easy-to-fly and unbelievably well equipped travel package. Top marks all round.