What's going on, guys? Billy here, and DJI has upgraded the DJI Air 3's obstacle avoidance system with new camera hardware, giving it the ability to better avoid obstacles. This means that we now have higher-resolution cameras with a wider field of view on the front and back sides of this drone, so you can see obstacles around it, even directly above the aircraft.
This is super handy when the drone is flying by itself with all of its intelligent flight features. We also have two cameras on the DJI Air 3, one having a 24-millimeter lens, and the other having a 70-millimeter lens. Both of these modes are available on this drone.
So, in today's video, I'm going to cover how to use all of the intelligent flight features built into DJI's Air 3 so that when you take your drone out, you'll know how to make better use of them.
Also, this video is sponsored by Lexar and their new Fly micro SD card, but more from them later.
Okay, so there are quite a good amount of intelligent flight modes available in the Air 3. We've got FocusTrack, so ActiveTrack, Point of Interest, and Spotlight, as well as some camera-specific flight modes like Hyperlapse, Master Shots, and Quick Shots. We even have some miscellaneous flight modes that you could consider as intelligent, such as Waypoints and Cruise Control.
In today's video, though, I really want to focus on the flight-specific intelligent modes and not so much the camera-specific intelligent modes. So, we're not really going to be covering Master Shots, Quick Shots, or Hyperlapses. Instead, we'll be covering FocusTrack, ActiveTrack, Spotlight, Point of Interest, as well as Waypoints and Cruise Control.
ActiveTrack on the DJI Air 3
ActiveTrack, I think, will be one of the most used flight modes on the Air 3. Just a few weeks ago, I uploaded a video of an entire flight where I had the drone follow me without crashing once. If you want to check that out, I'll leave a link in the top right corner and in the playlist link in the description, so you can get a good understanding of how this drone fares when left to fly entirely on its own.
The way that we enable ActiveTrack is very simple. Right from the live feed on our screen, we drag our finger over the subject that we want to track, creating a green box. This pulls up our list of FocusTrack flight modes, with ActiveTrack sitting on the left side. The drone will stay stationary until we make our selection and then hit go.
By the way, it knows what we're tracking, and then we'll tweak the drone's ActiveTrack system based on what it's tracking, so it can determine whether it's a boat, a person, or a car, as defined towards the bottom of the green box.
Now, once enabled, the drone begins flying on its own, keeping the subject in the frame and making adjustments to dodge obstacles as you move
In that video I mentioned where I did a full ActiveTrack flight, the drone made some really impressive maneuvers while I was riding my OneWheel and ultimately didn't crash.
I also use ActiveTrack quite a bit when I'm flying from a boat because I can take my hands off the sticks and not have to worry about the drone just hovering there. It'll keep up with the boat while I change settings or switch positions. It's nice because I know it's always right there.
By the way, look at the bottom of the box; it shows a little boat icon because it knows it's tracking a boat and tweaks the ActiveTrack system to fly differently because of that.
Now, just like the Mavic 3's ActiveTrack flight mode, you've got the option to choose where the drone follows you from, using the selection ring at the bottom.
You can press on the small selection icon, which will bring up this tool, and then from here, we have the option to choose eight flying locations: front, right, back, left, and then the four other points in between for more granular control.
In my time using ActiveTrack with the Air 3, I found that switching between points can sometimes take a while. For example, if I had the Air 3 tracking me from behind and wanted to move to my side, it would take its time making that change.
Sometimes it even gives you an error or some sort of message saying, “Hey, the subject is moving too fast, and the drone will get there when it gets there.”
Also, when trying to use ActiveTrack up close and personal when it's directly in front of you, I feel like the drone sometimes doesn't fly fast enough, which makes it easy to lose the subject.
Jumping back to the example of tracking my car, though, the Air 3 did a really good job, even at higher speeds. Moving positions over to the side, so I've got to say that it seems like DJI is actively improving this; they're actively improving ActiveTrack over time, which is great to see.
Now, remember, as I mentioned, the Air 3 here has two cameras: a 24-millimeter and a 70-millimeter lens. The great thing is, ActiveTrack can be used with both of those different focal lengths.
The 24-millimeter camera has a fairly wide field of view, but switching over to the 70-millimeter medium tele camera gets us closer to the action. So, in regards to ActiveTrack, it allows us to keep the drone further away from us while still enjoying a fully autonomous flight.
However, this completely changes the way that ActiveTrack is used on your drone, in my opinion. When using that tighter focal length, when using the 24-millimeter wide camera, I'll call it in this scenario because 24 millimeters is way wider than 70 millimeters,you've got the drone closer to you; it's in the action; it's got that wider field of view to make any adjustments and keep the subject it's tracking in the frame.
Like, I feel like if I'm on my OneWheel going down a trail, and I've got the drone close to me, it can make those adjustments on the fly and keep me in the frame a lot better than if I was trying to, say, fly further away with the narrow field of view of the 70-millimeter ActiveTrack flight mode.
So, when you're using both of these lenses, you've got to understand that there are different scenarios to use them in. Like, even though you've got the drone further away from you using that 70-millimeter camera, you might lose the subject more because you've got that tighter field of view.
This is why, for a flight like this where I'm out in the open trying to track a much larger subject like my car, the 70-millimeter camera works great.
It even lost me a couple of times as I went behind the building and picked me right back up and made adjustments to make sure that it could continue to see me while the drone was tracking me, which is really cool.
Now, I've used ActiveTrack in quite a good amount of scenarios. When I was out in Utah driving around in some of the desert areas, it led to an effortless filming experience with little input needed from me on the sticks as I chased this rental Model Y that we were driving. In the case
of the full OneWheel ActiveTrack flight that I did, though, this is much better suited for the wider camera. There are a lot of tight turns and low obstacles, so having a wider field of view and being closer to the subject gives it a much better chance at keeping you in the frame and keeping up with the subject in general.
I mean, even when I tried some quick maneuvers where I would spin around and quickly try to leave the frame, the Air 3 did a really good job at adapting and keeping up with me.
Here's something funny, though. On that same exact course through the neighborhood and on the golf course, I used my Mavic 3 Pro and tried to do an ActiveTrack flight with the 70-millimeter lens.
Let me just say, even though it was very tight, there were some moments that really shocked me. This meant that it had to weave through the trees, around all of the branches, and try to find me again. Don't you know, it did with absolutely no issue whatsoever?
Even though this is a completely different drone from the DJI Air 3, I wanted to show this example because both of these drones have the same 70-millimeter camera and are running the same version of ActiveTrack, which is ActiveTrack 5.0, and basically have the same obstacle avoidance sensors.
So, the Air 3 is completely capable of doing this same thing and searching for its subject when it gets lost.
Now, one more thing with ActiveTrack, sort of as a pro tip, when you put the drone up in the air and go to track your subject, you can use the controller to slightly change the way that the drone follows you.
Right after I begin ActiveTrack, I typically adjust my drone's height, distance, and gimbal pitch accordingly. Then, as I go about what I'm doing, the drone will keep that position as best as it can.
So, if I want my car to be right in the middle of the frame, I can do so. I can make those adjustments. I can put the drone up high, and then from there, throughout the flight, it'll do its best to keep the car, the subject, in that same exact spot during my flight.
As well, I could change that if I wanted to, so I could lower the flight, I could change my gimbal pitch and put it down towards the bottom third, let's say, for example.
The thing that just really sucks is that you need to have the remote controller on you. There's no way that you can just kind of leave it on a bench and then say start riding your bike because if you did that, then you wouldn't have control over your drone, and if it disconnected, it would fly back to its own point.
So always make sure that when using ActiveTrack, you've got your remote controller handy.
DJI Air 3 Spotlight
Now, let's move on to our next flight mode, Spotlight. Next up in the FocusTrack suite of flight modes, we've got Spotlight, which makes capturing video very easy.
Just like ActiveTrack, we'll drag our finger over the subject that we want to track, which then stays highlighted in a green box. From here, the drone takes over the camera controls entirely, from the pitch of the camera to the rotation of the actual drone itself.
So, with my subject being my car here, as I move forwards and backward, the drone is automatically moving the camera and rotating the actual drone itself to keep me in frame.
Now, in a real-world use case scenario, Spotlight is really useful when tracking a moving subject because it takes away a lot of the finite movements and finesse you need to have when filming.
All you need to do is position the drone using the two control sticks, and you can totally leave your finger off of the gimbal wheel. You don't need to worry about rotating the drone; just change your altitude and move your drone in space, and the drone will handle the rest for you.
Spotlight doesn't end there. With a moving subject, it works just as well on a static subject, like a building, for example.
All you need to do is highlight your subject and move the drone around. The camera movement and aircraft rotation, as always, are handled by the drone thanks to Spotlight, making capturing dynamic video with multiple levels of movement, like a reveal shot, really easy.
You also aren't locked into keeping your subject right in the middle of the frame. After the drone has determined what it is that you want to capture and the icon switches to that smaller square, you can rotate the drone and pitch the gimbal to place the subject in any part of the frame that you want.
Just with a simple flight around the building, I managed to move the camera into a few different positions that looked good. I could show off more of the skyline or more of the ground if I wanted to, and the camera would stay locked onto its target.
Just like ActiveTrack, you can also use the 70-millimeter lens here on the Air 3 when using Spotlight, giving you that nice compression from the narrower field of view. In fact, it doesn't function any differently at all. You still just drag the green box around your subject and start flying, but now you're just further away from your subject.
Coming back to the example of the Tesla out in Utah, Spotlight was used much more than ActiveTrack was because I still wanted to control the altitude and position of the drone.
ActiveTrack was great for a few specific types of shots, but the ones where I was flying really low to the ground or where I wanted to orbit up and around the car's position is where I wanted to be in full control, and Spotlight helped me keep my subject right in the middle of my frame or really anywhere I wanted to position it.
So, Spotlight is like a run-and-gun shooter's best friend. It's their ideal flight mode because you put the drone in the air, you drag a box over what you want to follow, and then you just fly, and it keeps it in frame. So, it makes it really easy.
Now, before we move on to our next flight mode, here's a quick word from this video's sponsor, Lexar.
Lexar has been my go-to option for storing data captured on all the different types of cameras I've used for years now, whether it's my Sony A1, my DJI Mavic 3 Pro, my GoPro, or even my small mini drones.
I always rely on Lexar's memory cards to safely store my data because the images I capture, especially for client work, are so valuable and oftentimes can't be replicated.
With the massive file sizes that come from capturing 48-megapixel raw images with the Air 3, it's really important that you have a fast memory card like the Lexar Fly micro SD card.
With write speeds of up to 90 megabytes per second and different storage options of 64, 128, and 256 gigabytes, this memory card will be fast enough to write all the 48-megapixel photos and 4K video that you can capture.
So, a special thanks to Lexar for sponsoring this video and helping me keep the data captured from my drones safe over the years.
DJI Air 3 Point of Interest
Okay, now moving on to Point of Interest, our final FocusTrack flight mode. Point of Interest is pretty self-explanatory. It flies a point of interest on an orbit around a subject of your choosing.
Just like with all the other FocusTrack flight modes, we'll drag our finger to make a box over the subject that we want to orbit. We then have the option to select our direction and speed using the directional arrows above our FocusTrack selection menu. Once you're ready, tap on “Go,” and the drone will be on its way.
No matter the speed you choose, the drone will initially fly a little bit slower to analyze the scene so that it can properly determine how to orbit your selected subject during the Point of Interest flight mode.
Just like with ActiveTrack, you can alter your drone's camera position with the sticks and gimbal. You can also adjust your speed and the overall direction at any time during your flight. So, you can speed the drone up, slow it down, or even go in the opposite direction at any time.
If I had to be real with you, though, I'd much rather use Spotlight to get a clean Point of Interest shot on my own using the sticks. I'd be able to adjust the position of my drone, raise the height, or get closer to my subject. Point of Interest just lets your drone spin around until it runs out of battery, which leads to a shot that doesn't look that dynamic, in my opinion.
Now, remember, we can also use Point of Interest with the other 70-millimeter camera as well, which I actually really like to do. It gives you this awesome parallax effect because of that compression, and it keeps the drone up and away from any potential obstacles while spinning around the subject you've chosen.
One more thing that I want to mention that'll make life a little bit easier when trying to select your subject is called “subject scanning.” It can be found by tapping on the three dots in the top right corner, going to “Control,” and then toggling “subject scanning” on.
Right away, you might be able to tell what subject scanning does. It'll automatically find subjects in your frame that you may want to track, from people to cars to boats. This makes it really easy to tap on the plus icon and then go on with whatever flight mode it is that you want to use.
Okay, so those are all of the FocusTrack flight modes, or should I say these sub-flight modes that make up FocusTrack: ActiveTrack, Waypoints, Spotlight, and Point of Interest.
DJI Air 3 Waypoints and Cruise Control
Now, it's time to move into our final two flight modes: Waypoints and Cruise Control.
Waypoints is a feature that has been missing in DJI's drones for a few release cycles now, but with the Mavic 3, by way of a Firmware Update, DJI finally brought the feature back. The Air 3 also has this feature right from the release date. So, you can finally plan out missions to repeat them down the line.
This mode can be accessed right from your main flight screen by pressing on the Waypoints icon on the left side of the screen.
From here, you can begin planning your mission by flying from spot to spot and adding your points. This can be done from the screen directly by pressing on the plus icon or the C1 button on the back of your remote.
Every time you add a point, the drone will remember everything about the drone's position, from its gimbal pitch to its rotation to its height, literally everything, so that it'll send the drone back to this exact spot every single time this mission is run.
You can manually change these parameters after you plot your Waypoint, and you can even tap on the screen to add waypoints without actually flying to that spot, but I would much rather plan out the mission myself so that I know exactly where my drone is and which way the camera is facing.
This is, however, helpful if you need to plan a mission through an area where you can't fly to without losing connection. So, you can plan a long-distance route without having to actually fly it first.
Now, you can also choose which camera you want the drone to use at each Waypoint, so you can switch between the 24-millimeter and 70-millimeter lenses, and you can tell the drone to hover at a point for a predefined number of seconds, so it doesn't just go ripping from one spot to the next.
You also have the ability to set up an action at each Waypoint. You can tell the drone to take a photo, start a video recording, or end a video recording.
After you have your mission planned, you press “Next” and set up your mission-wide parameters, like the speed, what action the drone takes when the mission is over, what happens if the drone comes disconnected, and what Waypoint you want your mission to start at.
I really like that you can tell the drone to continue on its mission even if it comes disconnected from the remote because this allows you to run complex and long missions in areas where your drone might drop signal back to the remote.
Now, you can, of course, also save these missions to the device you're flying on. And let me be clear, it is the device you're flying on. It's not saved in the cloud; it's not going to be moving from one controller to the next. If you save it on your RC2 and you break your RC2 and buy a new controller, those flight plans will not be there. So just keep that in mind.
Every time I talk about Waypoints, I have to give a word of caution. These flights are not extremely precise and accurate. Like if you go and run the same mission over and over and over again, yes, it's going to fly to the same general spot and take the same general photograph.
But if you're expecting it to be frame by frame perfect every time you fly the mission, no matter what day it is, you're going to be disappointed because it's not that accurate.
So, if you wanted to make, for example, a time-lapse video taking photos from the same exact spot, yes, it's going to get you there, and yes, the frame is going to look similar, but it's not going to be super precise.
For instance, I did a quick test flight around a water tower with the same Waypoint mission. I let the drone take off, run the mission, land, and then I would run it again.
While it made it to each Waypoint successfully, the points at which the drone stopped were always a little bit off.
So, again, just know that it is going to get you close to the same spot, but it's not always going to be 100% perfect. If you really wanted a more accurate flight, you would need to use something like an RTK module.
However, that's usually only available on DJI's Enterprise-level drones and requires some sort of subscription to a network.
So, it's much more complicated and much more expensive than the DJI Air 3. Just know that the GPS-based connection that we have here in the Air 3 gets the job done fairly well when using Waypoints.
DJI Air 3 Cruise Control
Now, let's get into our final flight mode here, and that is Cruise Control. This one can be a little tricky to find as it isn't actually listed as a flight mode anywhere. The only way you can enable this is by going to remote controller settings and mapping it to one of your custom buttons. In my case, I usually have it set to the C2 button on the back of my remote.
From here, whenever I'm flying, I can just press this button, and the drone will move in the same direction indefinitely. This goes for up, down, left, right, straight – it doesn't matter. I could even be orbiting a subject, and if I press this button to enable Cruise Control, it'll continue with this motion until I turn it off.
So, it'll just spin around aimlessly, but of course, it will avoid obstacles and stop if there's something in the way due to its obstacle avoidance sensors.
Cruise Control is very simple. It works like cruise control in your car, and it's really good for two different things, in my opinion.
First, it can make complex shots easier. For example, if you were chasing after a boat, you could take the fatigue off of having to push your right stick forward, hit Cruise Control, allow that motion to be done entirely by Cruise Control, and then just adjust your camera, rotate the drone a little bit, and move up and down. So, it could make complex shots much easier.
But in my opinion, the way that Cruise Control is best used is just for getting from point A to point B. For example, if I was on one side of a construction site and needed to fly to the other, I would start in sport mode at full speed, pull on Cruise Control, and then just let the drone do its thing and get to where I need to go.
So, Cruise Control is great. It takes the fatigue off of having to fly around, and it's a flight mode that I didn't expect we'd ever see in DJI drones. But hey, I'm glad that it's here, and I'm glad that they brought it from their higher-end DJI Mavic 3 down to the DJI Air 3.
Anyway, that pretty much wraps up our entire tutorial for FocusTrack – ActiveTrack, Waypoints, Spotlight, and Point of Interest – as well as Cruise Control.
I think I'm probably going to make a more in-depth video on Waypoints – how to best use them – because I found that there are definitely some things you need to do to make the best use of Waypoints. But we'll save that for another video.
Thank you guys so much for watching, and as always, I'll talk to you later. Peace!
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