DJI Mavic Air – Full in-depth Review
We all remember when DJI Mavic Air was released (January 2018), the excitement of having a marvel of engineering and design indeed. DJI Mavic Air was a revolutionary drone on the field of both portability and performances.
But now as time passed, does this drone is still on the top? Does it still worth buying?
In this post, I will try to write a full and in-depth review from my personal point of view after using this drone for a while. Moreover, this post was updated on mid-September 2019 for more accurate information about this drone.
THE DRONE WHICH CHANGED THE WORLD. OR NOT?
1. DJI MAVIC AIR – Portability.
One main reason the Mavic Air became so popular is because of its size: it is no bigger than a smartphone (more or less), but much thicker.
Believe me or not, you can put it in your pocket (if you have large ones)
I am always carrying my drone in a shoulder bag with 3 extra batteries and the remote control. I still have space for my 11″ tablet and a bunch of other stuff.
And talking about portability, the Mavic Air weight under 500 grams with the battery on.
In some countries, you need additional documentation in order to fly drones over 500 grams. This is a big plus to have Mavic Air if you live in one of those countries.
This drone was brilliantly engineered, the way it does fold and unfold, ready to fly in seconds (except the part of setting the remote, connecting the phone and following every step until you ready to take off, which can take up to 2 minutes).
About the portability? Absolutely nothing to report.
Just be aware of the joysticks from the remote controller, can be easily lost.
I bought a case for my remote controller with a special spacing for the joystick, so I will never have to take them off and put them on anymore.
2. DJI MAVIC AIR – Performance
This category I will split into two parts: camera performance and the UAV performance.
2.1 Camera performance:
Some technical details about the camera:
- The sensor is 1/2.3″ CMOS with 12MP effective for photography
- Aperture of f/2.8
- ISO range goes from 100 to 3200.
- Max Video Bitrate is 100mbps
- Photo format is JPEG and DNG, and the video format is MP4 and MOV (with the H.264 and MPEG-4 AVC codecs)
Ok. Those are details on paper, but what is the camera performance in reality for both photos and videos?
In photography, the camera from the Mavic Air acts.. okay. It could be room for improvement with honesty, but the quality of the photographs are good enough even to licence the photos on microstock websites.
It will never reach the capability of a DSLR, that’s a fact! Phantom 4 PRO and the new DJI Mavic Pro 2 cameras are superior to the one found on the Mavic Air.
But let’s not forget the main reason you are probably considering the Mavic Air: PORTABILITY.
One thing to keep in mind: never increase the ISO above 100. Set it manually to 100 and you should be fine.
More to talk about, there is one specific photography mode you can find on the DJI drones: AEB.
AEB is similar to HDR but it doesn’t blend images automatically, and give you those pure RAW photographs on different exposure (either 3 or 5)
This is the only mode I am taking photographs with my Mavic Air: It gives me full control over the dynamic range and retouching.
For taking videos, Mavic Air is far superior to Spark and Mavic Pro (1st generation). Recording in 4K 30FPS at 100MBPS, you can’t ask for more.
The video footages are stunning. Adding an additional ND Filter to take good cinematic videos, you will fall in love with this drone (if you are buying for video recording mainly)
Even like that, you will fall in love with this drone (see below few photographs taken with it).
2.2 The UAV performance
DJI advertise that Mavic Air’s flight time is around 21 minutes. With honesty, I never managed to get more than 15-17 minutes of flight time.
I always leave room for returning the drone safely back instead to drain every bit of power from it and risk to lose it.
You will normally get around 15 minutes of flight time, plus / minus the conditions you are using the drone (e.g. windy, sport or normal mode, recording videos or taking photographs etc.)
When I first bought my drone, I got the fly more combo with 3 batteries. After I ordered it, I bought a 4th battery just to make sure I will have enough flight time for any trips I am taking.
And guess what: most of the times I am not even using the 4th battery.
You don’t need more than one hour to fly your drone and take some shots from a single location. But you will need if you plan to fly it on multiple locations without to charge the batteries in-between.
Okay. Talking about sport mode, this drone is super fast. And when I mean fast, is like a Ferrari-drone.
DJI advertise about 68.4km/h (42.5mph) speed but with honesty, I reached over 80km/h when flying with the wind.
But there is one small issue when flying the Mavic Air at high speed: video feedback.
And now I am talking about the most negative part of this drone.
The Mavic Air signal is not RC like on the PRO 1st and 2nd gen., zoom or phantom drones. Is WiFi (2.4Ghz and 5.8Ghz).
This really sucks. While other drones can go distances over 5 miles, with the Mavic Air you will barely reach 1.5 miles and start losing signal. Badly.
Same thing I’ve noticed when you are in sport mode and you fly it very fast. Many times you will see on your phone the live view in frames, in special if you are getting far away (and you will, at that speed.)
In this case, I will NOT recommend using this drone as an FPV racing drone, as you will more likely crash it. (never did mine, yet.)
If you are not planning to fly the Mavic Air far away, chase cruise ships or go over mountains, it should be fine.
Be mindful that if there would be devices which operate through WiFi signals nearby (e.g. in cities), you will get a lot of interference.
One point to add, if you have a smartwatch with WiFi, leave it at home. I was getting interferences in an open-field because of it (and tablets, other phones etc.).
For maximum signal performance, avoid those interferences by any chance.
Stability and others.
Even in windy conditions, the drone is very stable, hovering in the same position. Never had an issue with that.
The drone itself has front, back and landing sensors. They are not perfect like on any drone on this market for detecting small obstacles, but should work just fine with anything else.
RTH (Return to home) is working perfectly. Usually, what I am doing is that I set the GPS position to the location of taking off manually. Moreover, you can tick to accurately record your take-off position, but increases the time of the drone when taking off.
From my personal experience, I always use that option for a more accurate landing on return. As an instance, with this option, if you take off your drone from a landing pad, it should return to it by a button press (RTH) as long as you have your altitude of returning to home above any obstacles such as trees or buildings.
Without that option, 80% of the times, the drone is landing within 0.5 meters from the take-off point.
The gimbal is super smooth and even in the toughest weather conditions you can fly the drone, your photographs will always look sharp as your videos smooth.
3. DJI Mavic Air Remote Controller
With honesty, there is not much to say about the remote controller.
It works perfectly fine and never had the problem with the battery on it. Usually, it lasts for hours, and always recharge it when I am charging the drone batteries.
The gimbal sticks are removable and can be easily lost.
For the best performance in getting signal with your drone, always face the antennas on the direction of the drone.
You will have some backup cables for the remote controllers such as connectivity for your iPhone, micro-USB or USB-
You can fit most of the phones with the remote but it doesn’t fit tablets. And the 3rd party tablet holders are crap. Bought two different ones and both of them broke before my first flight or didn’t hold the tablet properly.
4. DJI MAVIC AIR – Price
You can buy the Mavic Air from Amazon (by clicking the image on the left)
Please keep in mind that those are the actual prices at the time I am writing this article and can change.
When I bought my fly-more combo, I paid over £1000. There are active discounts on the DJI website at the moment.
Is still a good price if this is the drone you are looking for.
5. DJI MAVIC AIR – Conclusion.
While the time passes, the DJI Mavic Air is and remains one of the top drones on the market on accessible price.
While the WiFi signals is an inconvenience for some UAV pilots, the advantages of having a drone of this size and mainly for portability overtakes any doubt for most buyers.
At the time of writing this article, DJI still supports this drone with full updates and technical support, with plans like DJI care and there is no sign that they will end this anytime soon.
And in the meantime, there is no information about any DJI Mavic Air 2 or similar drone releases.
This is NOT a paid review, and I wrote this in order to help you decide if this drone is for you or not.
DJI MAVIC AIR TIPS
Nowadays, flying a drone comes with responsibilities. Not only that you will have to respect all the drone laws related to your country but to ensure that you keep other people safe and respect others privacy.
If you live in the UK, I would recommend reading my other post “UK DRONE LAWS – Fly your drone safely in the UK” where I largely talk about the drone laws, regulations and much information covering the subject.
Further, I want to share a few tips on the Mavic Air and Mavic Drones and other general tips to keep your drone safe or improve its performance.
On your remote controller, you have two function buttons: one near the right joystick and the second one on the back right bottom. You can assign special functions for the Fn buttons.
My recommendation (as I’ve done) is to set the back right bottom button to reset the gimbal position and the one near the joystick to switch between live view and a full-screen map for more accurate information about the live location of your drone.
The fly bar
On your phone screen on DJI app, when you fly your drone you have all the information necessary for a safe flight. Above the screen, if you noticed there is a bar represented by 3 colours: RED, ORANGE and GREEN. That is the accurate time left of your drone and when to return home, according to position where your drone is.
Keep in mind also that you will have to return the drone home for safety reason before the green bar is getting to the orange bar (taking in the calculation the wind speed, descending and ascending for return etc.)
Sport mode on Mavic Air
Above I’ve mentioned that Mavic Air works on WiFi signal. Sport mode can fly your drone on speeds up and above 80km/h depending on wind conditions. The WiFI signal cannot keep up for smooth transmission.
Be very aware when and where you are using the sport mode, because is the riskiest part where you can crash your drone (interrupting live feed), in special that in the Sport Mode, all your sensors are deactivated automatically.
Connecting your controller to a tablet
Although the cables provided with the controller to connect your phone to the Mavic Air are too short to connect to a tablet (and the controller cannot hold a tablet), you can still buy 3rd party cables and connect a large tablet to the controller.
It is great to see everything on a 12″ tablet rather than a 5″ phone.
Imagination is your limit.
Although this is not a DJI tip, this drones is extraordinary not only when flying but when we take photographs with it.
If we think outside the box, this drone can do even more than you can imagine. The pictures and footages you can record with it, the limits are only your imagination.
Follow some tutorials and ideas on how to use the drone to take the best out of it. Moreover, I wrote a post about 14 Drone Photography Tips if you want to read.
We all know how noisy a drone can be, in special the Mavic Air. Different manufacturers produced special DJI propellers (including for Mavic air) which not only decreases the output noise but can increase the flight duration of your drone.
Have a look at the major online retail networks and pick the best propellers for your drone. The stock ones are not meant to be there forever.
Avoid flying your Mavic Air near power lines
If you fly your Mavic Air near high-voltage power lines, nothing good will happen. The power lines have an electromagnetic field resulted by high-voltage passing through it. Your compass will not work properly anymore and your signal can get cut.
The same when flying inside a city. The WiFi can interfere with other WiFi networks, and there may be no channels safe to fly. Therefore, your feed will interrupt even if your drone is nearby.
Tripod mode for cinematic footage
Your Mavic Air and other DJI drones have some modes behind the main menu. One of them which I use the most on my Mavic Air drone is the Tripod Mode.
The tripod mode allows your drone to fly at lower speeds, the turnings and everything will be smoother allowing you to record amazing cinematic footage with little to no stress.
Moreover, you can change some settings manually for your drone such as pitch, yaw, gimbal speed and many others.
Have a look at this tutorial on YouTube (is not mine, external link) about how to set up your drone if you are using it for filming more than photography. The best settings for filmmaking cinematic footage
Keep following our website with the latest new releases, reviews and tutorials about photography and UAVs.
Thank you for reading this post. If you have any questions, you can leave a comment below.
Do you want to have a quick read on my other related posts?
- UK DRONE LAWS – Fly your drone safely in the UK
- 14 Drone Photography Tips
- Why photographers fail in photography and how can you prevent that?
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