Personal drones, or drones small enough to take anywhere yet still pack all the features of bigger drones, are hitting the market. The Mavic Pro from DJI promises a lot, but does it deliver?
DJl have gone from strength to strength and are by far the market leaders in consumer and professional drones. Until now though, their consumer solution has consisted of one flagship drone which you may know, the Phantom.
We love the Phantom, but you will struggle trying to stuff the drone and its large controller into a regular sized backpack and head out for an adventure.
Other manufacturers have been downsizing solutions to increase portability, but just as the competition come up with some half decent solutions, such as GoPro's Karma, DJI aims to wipe the board clean with the Mavic Pro.
No more removing props to pack away, the Mavic Pro folds down neatly and tucks its props away to a ridiculously small size, 83 x 83 x 198mm. It can easily fit into a shoulder bag. You may need a rubber band to keep the props from moving and getting snagged during transit, a small oversight perhaps, but they have included a clear plastic cover to at least protect the delicate gimbal from knocks.
DJI have gone with a completely new transmitter design for the Mavic, and I love it. It's a fraction of the size of their standard transmitters, and even has a super handy LED display showing all your basic flight info including battery life, GPS, flight time, etc. Plug your smartphone in for video functionality, or if you just want to take it for a fun fly don't even connect a phone.
"...in sport mode this little ripper made me smile every time I gave it some."
As yet another option you can connect via Wifi. With a flick of a switch on the drone you can use your phone or tablet alone to control it without the transmitter at all. Limited of course then with wifi range and with less hands on control.
To keep its footprint down, the Mavic Pro has its camera tucked in the front of the drone, rather than hanging below requiring taller landing gear. So the form is low, flat and sleek. And you know what, it looks tech and pretty damn cool. Cooler than his big brother The Phantom for sure, with maybe a naughty streak.
The sensor in the camera is very similar to the Phantom spec wise, giving you crisp 4K at 25fps, 2.7K at 30fps and 1080PCHD) at 96fps compared to 120fps on the Phantom.
Mavic has a different lens and you get a field of view of 78.8 degrees rather than the wider 94 degrees on the Phantom. Which is not a bad thing, it's just different.
The gimbal itself is tiny and seems delicate. You definitely want to keep it protected when you stow it away.
There is very little operating clearance around it and I noticed a few times while recording video the camera bump into the surrounds from an abrupt direction change, with the bounce creating a small glitch in the video.
Mind you I had to try pretty hard and fly a bit rough to get that to happen. The video quality though is excellent, smooth and sharp. Very little lens distortion, hard to notice really.
The new transmitter is a lot lighter and nice to hold, and the controls are super responsive. The airframes flat form, without having the camera and centre of gravity below the aircraft, certainly changes flight characteristics in a positive way. It's a lot of fun to fly! It is accurate, if a little twitchy, but you can tweak the settings to soften it up a bit.
Alternatively, you can flick a little switch on the side of the remote and shift up to sport mode, which is like giving it a shot of adrenaline. You can hit up to 65kph, but you sacrifice collision avoidance in sport so you need to be a bit more careful. I quite enjoy flying just for the sake of flying, no camera, line of sight, and in sport mode this little ripper made me smile every time I gave it some.
The performance in the air is indeed impressive. The Mavic sits poised and ready to jump into action Spins, dips, hard turns, climbs and dives are performed with a dynamic accuracy that would be hard for any commercial non racing drone to match. As it is so light it stops on a dime, almost immediately when you let go of the controls, and directional response is as smooth or as sharp as you tune it to be.
DJI are really streaks ahead in this department. Sure the Mavic has your standard Point of Interest (360 Orbit) routine, WAYPOINTS, plus they have TAPFLY which allows you to touch the screen and fly in that direction using collision avoidance and never touching the sticks. But the stand out feature b\ far is ACTIVETRACK.
ActiveTrack allows you to track a moving object in 3D space, such as a person, animal, car or boat, whilst avoiding obstacles in its path... and it really works.
Once you enter ActiveTrack mode, using advanced object recognition, you are able to simply draw a box around the subject you want to track on your smartphone with your finger.
The object highlights with a big green box around it, you then hit the Go button that appears after the subject is identified and it will start tracking.
You can choose different tracking methods, such as TRACE, which allows you to use the sticks to vary position of the drone as it follows, for instance you can make it circle you (Point of Interest), whilst tracking you. There is also PROFILE, which tracks from the side, or SPOTLIGHT.
Spotlight is pretty cool. The camera will keep tracking the target, but the drone itself will stay still unless you move it manually. So if you don't touch the sticks it will act like a camera on a tripod, pointing at the moving subject.
Or you can move the drone where you like and the camera will keep pointing at it. It's actually pretty neat.
You won't find a safer drone on the market. Mavic packs in all the sensors of the Phantom, including the Downward Vision System which works with GPS and increases stability when at 13m or lower. At low heights this thing is rock solid!
It also assists landing. If you pull down on the throttle to hit the ground, heading potentially for a hard landing, the height sensors will pause the descent when you are about half a metre off the ground and if you keep the throttle down will enter into a gracefully soft landing.
"The form is low, flat and sleek. It looks tech and pretty damn cool..."
The Forward Vision System is excellent, reducing speed to a stop when detecting objects in front of the drone closer than 15m or moving to avoid it if you have Obstacle Avoidanace switched on.
Being a little smaller than the Phantom, the Mavic doesn't handle tre wind as well. So on a high wind day vou will get pushed around a bit, but with GPS and Downward Vision it is still very good at staying put.
Battery life is excellent with over 20 minutes of practical flight time.
In that time you can certainly travel some distance. DJI's new long-range transmission tech called Ocusync is built into the Mavic, and they say you could get up to 7km at 1080p. That certainly sounds like a lot and I didn't have the chance to test it that far, but if it's even half true that is pretty impressive!
The battery management software i will ensure you are never short on power to get home either. It calculates how much power it will take to return to the launch position and if you don't start heading back in time, it will enter Return-To-Home before you reach that point of no return.
|DJI Mavic Pro Specifications|
|Radio control type||2.4Ghz/5Ghz transmitter included|
|Battery||3830mah 3S Lipo|
|Operating range||Up to 7kms|
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Agile, responsive and fast, especially in sport mode. The Mavic is loads of fun to fly and it looks amazing.
You will get between 20-27 minutes of flight time depending how you fly. Loads of time.
I fell in love with this drone at first flight. It is a blast to fly and packs more features in it than just about any bigger, more expensive production drone on the market. If you want a drone to take on adventures or holidays, then this is for you. If you are comparing it to the Karma or the Phantom, it is going to be a hard decision, but the Mavic Pro would be at the top of my list all things considered.