Today's arrival of the DJI Mavic Air 2 cannot come as a surprise to anyone anymore. This undoubtedly was the drone maker's worst kept secret! Maybe the recent reorganization at various DJI offices had anything to do with the large volume of photos and specs that were leaked over the last few weeks? It's a possibility. Either way, I had signed an NDA with DJI for this release, so I couldn't join in on the fun. But, we're getting off track. Let's talk about my first impressions now that I have flown the DJI Mavic Air 2 for the past week or so.
First impressions Mavic Air 2!
My first impressions on the DJI Mavic Air 2 are very favorable. DJI claims that the DJI Mavic Air 2 it the smartest drone they have ever made. I'd argue it is also the safest drone they have ever made. That is, of course, until the DJI Mavic 3 comes out.
The all-new DJI Mavic Air 2 is the successor to the DJI Mavic Air that was launched in January 2018. That was DJI's first 4K drone in a tiny and lightweight package. It was presented as the ultimate 4K adventure travel drone. The design was very sophisticated, and it came in three distinct colors.
The new Mavic Air 2 is a big step up from the original. It is bigger, more substantial, but more importantly, a lot smarter and much more capable. The original Mavic Air was controller thought a WiFi connection, whereas the new Mavic Air 2 uses an improved version of OcuSync 2.0. This provides a much better connection and a range of more than 6 miles, which is well beyond visual-line-of-sight.
Before we go into all the details of the Mavic Air 2, I should point out that my version was a European model without ADS-B In and future firmware updates that will be released before this drone hits the market may bring further improvements.
The design and form factor of the Mavic Air 2
The DJI Mavic Air 2 has lost its innovative and distinctive design from its predecessor. The three color options are also gone now. I know some of you view this as a disappointment. The new Mavic Air looks just like its bigger brother, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro/Zoom, just a little smaller. All three recent Mavic drones, the Mini included, now share the same design language. I think this is a good thing as I value the form factor over the actual design of a drone. It's an instrument, and what it can do in my view is more important than what color it has or how it looks.
In a conversation with one of the DJI employees here in New York, I was told that DJI had researched what the size and weight of the ideal drone would be. And, you guessed, the DJI Mavic Air 2 is as close to that ideal as the drone maker could get.
DJI Mavic Air 2 specifications that matter most
If you want to see all the DJI Mavic Air 2 specifications, I would suggest reading this article here. In this post, I will focus on the specs that matter most.
First of all, the camera. The DJI Mavic Air 2 features a 1/2-inch sensor that shoots 4K video at 60 fps and 120 Mbps. I will take a closer look in a video and article where I compare the Mavic Air 2 with the Mavic Mini, Mavic 2 Pro, and even the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0, but I can tell you already the Mavic Air 2 raises the bar significantly and it wouldn't surprise me if it outperforms the M2P in all but low-light performance. But, as I said more on this later.
Second, is the improved OcuSync 2.0 connection. We experienced a huge step forwards when the Mavic 2 Pro/Zoom was introduced almost two years ago. All of a sudden, connectivity problems seemed to have vanished. Drone pilots reported that they had so much more confidence flying with OcuSync 2.0. It was a game-changer. Well, I'm glad to say that the new Mavic Air 2 does not disappoint. It offers an incredible range and a high-quality connection. I have found that you fly the drone, and within FAA-approved distances, connectivity is a non-issue.
The third major improvement is DJI's ActiveTrack 3.0 and Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) 3.0. As I will show you in a video, I was able to ride my mountainbike in between trees, and the Mavic Air 2 followed me while avoiding the trees, branches, and leaves. It even followed me as I rode downhill, something that previously was not possible with a DJI drone. It doesn't quite match the Skydio 2 in its ability to fly autonomously, but it is the closest DJI has ever come. Keep in mind that the DJI Mavic Air 2 does not have any obstacle avoidance sensors at the top or sides of the aircraft. It will fly into a tree sideways if you're not careful! We'll probably have to wait for the DJI Mavic 3 to have near Skydio-like levels of autonomy as that drone will have 360-degree obstacle sensing and avoidance.
The fourth major feature on the DJI Mavic Air 2 is the new AirSense Technology. Unfortunately, this was missing on my test unit (not sure why they sent me a European model…), but ADS-B In is a technology that will pick up ADS-B Out signals from nearby manned aircraft and will warn the drone pilot so that any near-misses can be avoided. I think this is a huge improvement, and I am looking forward to experiencing this myself soon.
The fifth major improvement is the Remote Controller that you use to fly the Mavic Air 2 with. It is very similar to DJI's Smart Controller in its design and layout. No longer do you have to fiddle with your phone and try to keep it in place between two grips at the bottom of the controller. No, the new Remote Controller holds the phone firmly at the top. It is a much more user-friendly design and layout. The phone holder includes the antennas as well, so you have to change how you hold the controller at times to maintain an optimal connection with the drone. But, let me tell you, once you have used this, there is no going back. It just makes sense. The only downside might be for some pilots who like to travel lightly that the new controller is a little heavier and bulkier.
Talking about the Remote Controller, I'm warming up to the new DJI Fly app. Initially, I didn't care for it so much, and I felt that I missed all the options that the DJI Go 4 App offers, but now that I have used the new app for some time, I'm starting to really like it. It is way less cluttered and easier to navigate. I would expect DJI to continue to improve this new app and ultimately ditch the DJI Go 4 application.
Lastly, DJI improved the flight time of the drone. The DJI Mavic Air 2 will now stay airborne for up to 34 minutes, which allows you to fly so much longer.
New and improved features of the Mavic Air 2
DJI didn't stop here. They have also included many of the features and QuickShots that we know and love, such as the rocket, dronie, helix, circle, boomerang, and others. The ones that stood out to me, but that I have yet to try are the Spotlight 2.0 feature that allows you to lock the camera on your subject while having free operation of the drone. This allows you to create more cinematic shots as a single pilot that previously could only be done with a DJI Inspire 2. Other noteworthy features are the 48MP image, 8K Hyperlapse (to be released in May).
The shot on the left is a normal photo taken with the DJI Mavic Air 2. The photo on the right is a High-Dynamic-Range version.
First impressions Mavic Air 2 wrapped up
I think the new DJI Mavic Air 2 is a clear indication of where DJI is heading in terms of drone design and capability. This drone performs so well that I would be hard-pressed to recommend spending more money on a DJI Mavic 2 Pro or Zoom unless low-light aerial photography or an optical zoom lens are must-haves.
So far, the only downside, I have experienced is some hesitation when landing the drone. The aircraft would hover around for a bit and seem unsure as to where or how to land. I think there's a good chance this will be improved with a future Firmware Update.
Furthermore, I wasn't able to try out the 8K Hyperlapse option (this will be released in May) or test the AirSense technology (I had an EU version of the Mavic AIr 2). I hope to be able to do so soon when I get a US version of the drone.
Otherwise, I am really impressed with the DJI Mavic Air 2. If you are new to drones and can afford the price tag, then this is the one to get. I would pick this over the Mavic Mini and the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom. If you really need more performance out of a DJI drone, than you will have to wait for the DJI Mavic 3 to come out or pick up a Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 while there still available.
You can download some of the original photos here.
The first two photos are shot in ‘wide-angle' mode. The last two photos of the Croton Dam are vertical panoramas.
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 global regions will be taking preorders today with an expected ship time of late May. Mavic Air 2 will be available 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.
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