Right now, DJI’s new Mavic Air 2 camera drone can go where I can’t. I live near a county park in New Jersey, where I’ve tested drones in the pastA flight there was out of the question. At least for me.
The Mavic Air 2 can fly farther and longer than thateven though it’s a little bigger and heavier at 570 grams. The maximum flight time is now 34 minutes without wind, of 21 minutes. (I have about 32 minutes to explore my garden before forcing a landing.) The maximum range of video transmission has increased from 4 to 10 kilometers. I was able to stand in front of the almost deserted 121 hectare park – a strange sight for a sunny spring Saturday – and fly over the flowering trees and capture everything with the new 4K camera of the drone, even if I could not see it personally.
The camera uses a larger onebehind an f2.8 24mm equivalent lens. The design of the sensor enables the recording of 48-megapixel images (here is an example that I have taken) and 12-megapixel images with less noise. There’s also a new SmartPhoto mode that uses “advanced scene analysis and deep learning” to automatically select one of three processing options – HDR, low light, or landscapes like snow or sunsets.
With videos, the camera can record videos with a resolution of up to 4K and 60 frames per second. This is a premiere for a Mavic drone. The 4K video records at a higher bit rate of 120 megabits per second and shows the level of detail. You can also shoot in HDR in 4K at 30 frames per second to compensate for things like clouds, where you usually lose some detail in lights and highlight shadow details. The Air 2 can also run 1080p slow motion at 120 and 240 fps. It’s nice to have the 240 fps option, but video quality seems to be dropping. However, the 120fps looked good.
Another new option is the Hyperlapse with 8K resolution, which is also known as movement time lapse. It wasn’t available in the firmware I tested, but will be partially available if the drone comes with additional options that come with another update in June. You also get six automated QuickShot modes from DJI such as Dronie, Helix and Rocket, which perform complicated flight paths and at the same time point the camera at the subject of your choice and create perfect, shareable clips.
Like the original, the Air 2 can track motifs that you choose by drawing a box around them on the screen of your phone in the DJI Fly app. DJI has updated its ActiveTrack mode to improve the detection of motifs and the avoidance of obstacles so that you can walk through trees or other obstacles and the drone will automatically roll over or over. It may be struggling with bare branches, but at least in my first tests it worked as promised. This model also has a spotlight option that allows you to control the drone while tracking, so the camera is always on. You can also automate flight routes around a point of interest.
One reason that all of this is possible is due to the sensors on the front, back and bottom of the drone, which DJI calls the Advanced Pilot Assistance System. You can fly straight at things and the drone will find its own way around or over obstacles and you will get audible and visual warnings from the app and controller all the time.
This is also DJI’s first consumer drone with AirSense, which receives ADS-B signals from airplanes and helicopters. This will give you a notification on your screen to let you know when there is air traffic near you. DJI said the pandemic caused some supply chain problems that would initially limit the availability of AirSense for Mavic Air 2, which is sold in North America, where officials have implemented the strictest regulations. A version without AirSense is sold in all other regions where the ADS-B requirements for helicopters and airplanes are less stringent. AirSense units will ship to regions outside of North America this summer.
Of course, that’s just the tip of what this drone is capable of, and I haven’t even gotten to its great new controller. It’s bigger than the last one and instead of clumsily pinching your phone under the controls, it’s now cut off at the top. The sticks are still removable for travel and can be stored below. You just pull it out and screw it in.
At the front and in the middle there is a switch for switching from normal to slower tripod or to faster sport mode (the Air 2 has a top speed of 68 km / h or 42 km / h in sport). At the top left there is a programmable function key that immediately controls the additional LED light on the drone on the stomach. In addition, there is an adjustment wheel for tilting the camera on the three-axis motorized gimbal and a trigger for taking videos or photos. Another button on the front allows you to switch between photo and video.
I could only get a handful of test flights, but so far it’s been an impressive drone that flies smoothly and has incredible functionality. And once the restrictions are relaxed, this will likely be DJI’s best travel companion for consumers. The DJI Mavic Air 2 will ship in the U.S. from May 11th, starting at $ 799 for the drone, battery, and controller. It is £ 769 in the UK and AU $ 1,499 in Australia. A Fly More package with a shoulder bag, ND filters, charging station and three batteries is also available for USD 988, GBP 949 and AU $ 1,899.