The DJI Mavic Air is the drone we’ve always wanted


Want the foldability of the DJI Mavic with the compact dimensions of the DJI Spark, along with the smarts of all of DJI’s finest quadcopters combined, and 4K video capabilities? Of course you do. DJI’s latest — and most compelling — attempt to part us from our hard-earned cash is just what the drone enthusiast ordered. It’s called the Mavic Air.

We loved the Spark’s dimensions, but because it didn’t fold up like the bigger Mavic and only offered 15 minutes of fly-time and HD video, the Mavic Pro remained our most-recommended drone… until now. DJI says the Mavic Air is 41% lighter than — and about half the size of — the Mavic Pro, making it the perfect size to fit into your pocket, and 4K support and some new sensor smarts mean we’re going to have to try very hard to resist splashing out on one when it goes on sale in South Africa at the end of this month. So, what else is new?

Aerial 4K video for real

The Mavic Air is equipped with a 4K camera attached to a three-axis gimbal and offers 12MP stills and support for HDR. DJI says low-light shooting has also been improved. Even more exciting is the new ability to shoot and create 32MP 360º panoramas with the touch of (an on-screen) button. That’s a welcome step up from the HD-capable Spark, and though you’ll probably still get slightly better stability from the larger Mavic Pro, this should make the Mavic Air the perfect companion for the drone operator who still wants 4K video resolution but prizes compactness.

Look at the body on this bird

DJI’s also given the Mavic Air a redesigned, sleeker body and the all-important gimbal has been completely redesigned and is set further into the body of the drone for more stabilisation and a lighter footprint.

Another new addition is the 8GB of on-board memory to save footage to, which should mean less fiddling with SD cards. If you don’t plan on shooting 4K video 8GB should be sufficient to last you a whole flight.

And in this case, a whole flight means up to 21 minutes. That’s less than the Mavic Pro’s 30 minutes, but a healthy chunk more than the Spark’s 15. There’s a USB-C port on board for recharging, which is a welcome change from the microUSB of the Air’s predecessors’.

No fly-by-night, this one (though you can definitely fly at night)

The Mavic Air features Active Track, which lets the drone follow its subjects as they move (that’s right, you can now set multiple subjects), which makes it possible to shoot action videos without the aid of an additional crew. New “Asteroid” and “Boomerang” shooting modes, meanwhile, shoot pre-programmed panning-style shots.

The gesture controls DJI first rolled out with the Mavic Pro and Spark are present and accounted for, too, but the range for recognition has been boosted to roughly six metres. Hopefully they’re also less finicky than previous renditions.

Like the Spark, you can control the Mavic Air with just a smartphone. That’ll give you a range of around 80 metres, but add the standalone remote and the range jumps to an impressive 4km. ‘Sport’ mode allows for speeds of up to it’s capable of speeds up to roughly 68km/h, but will cut your battery life dramatically.

Position tracking and object avoidance have both been improved, too, courtesy of seven on-board cameras capable of three-directional tracking, and obstacle avoidance should work even in wind speeds of up to 35km/h.The Mavic Air will go on sale in South Africa on 29 January and a number of retailers have already revealed their pricing for the drone, and for the Fly More combo that includes the remote and additional battery. The Mavic Air will be available in Onyx Black, Arctic White, and Fire Red.

Navworld: Standalone unit = R15,695; Fly More Combo = R19,695

Outdoorphoto: Standalone unit = R15,695; Fly More Combo = R19,695

Droneworld: Standalone unit = R15,699; Fly More Combo = R19,699


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Digital Editor at Stuff. Nevermind the fancy title, I like writing about things that are cool. Like games, gadgets and sometimes even software. Depending on how cool it is.

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