DJI Mavic Air 2 - The Post 1 Year Review
With the DJI Air 2S now available in the market, Is the Mavic Air 2 still a good investment for all you drone enthusiasts?
Rating - 4/5
People have all kinds of special moments in their lives. Their first job. Their first car. Their first anything. The kind of impact it has on someone’s life is extraordinary. 2018 was a special year for me. It was the year I got my first ever drone. The DJI Mavic Air. Boy was it a beautiful drone. It had everything an amateur film-maker/ tech-enthusiast like could me want. 4K Video Recording, 3 Axis Gimbal, Obstacle Avoidance Systems, all in that tiny compact body.
As time went by, I started getting even better at flying. I no longer required propeller guards. I stopped skipping heart-beats every time I’d fly over the waters.
My footage started looking more cinematic than ever. I guess it also had to do with the fact that the drone was smart enough to take over if I messed up.
But I did mess up. You see in 2019, I decided fly my DJI Mavic Air over the mountains in Hatta. I was determined to push the drone to its limits. To see how far it could go. To see how high it could go. It went on and on and on that was until I lost connection with the drone completely. Man was I panicking like crazy. I thought this was it. This was the last time I was going to see my beautiful drone. I couldn’t view the live feed through my phone. My remote had lost connection with the drone so there was no feedback from that. I had officially lost hope. I was on top of a dam. There was no way I was ever going to be able to locate the drone in this pitch darkness. A few minutes of later from a distance I could see flashing lights and beeping sounds. I couldn’t believe it. It was my drone. It was flying itself. The autonomous safety features had kicked in upon disconnection from the controller. Right when it reached the dam, it automatically increased its altitude without crashing into the wall and landed where I had taken off. The drone landed on a dam with water on both sides with absolute precision at the point of take-off without human intervention.
I was stunned. I was speech-less. Just when I had lost all hope, the drone wouldn’t give up on me. It was determined to be re-united with its owner.
But as a consumer, what you need to understand is the amount of work that goes into building these products. How the mastermind engineers at DJI had thought of every possible scenario to ensure the safety of both the drone and its pilot. There is a reason these products don’t come cheap but they’re probably the best long-term investments you can ever make.
Fast forward to 2020, rumors started kicking in about the next generation of the Mavic Air Drone. I mean, the first generation was perfect itself so what could DJI possibly do to make it better? Once the official announcement was made.
Turns out, quite a bit.
34 Minute Flight Time and 240 Minute RC Battery Life
Advance Pilot Assistance Systems (APAS) 3.0
OcuSync 2.0 (10 KM 1080p Video Transmission)
Active Track 3.0
Point of Interest 3.0
Newly Designed Remote Control
Support for ND Filters
48 Megapixel Photo
1/2” CMOS Sensor
1/2-Inch Image Sensor
120 Mbps Max Bitrate
GPS + Glonass
8GB Built - In Storage
What We Liked
Extended Flight Time (34 Minutes)
OccuSync 2.0 is a drastic leap from the Enhanced Wifi transmission on the original Mavic Air
Downward Obstacle Sensing with Auxiliary Light functionality is a pretty big deal
Feels a lot more durable than the previous generation
What We Didn’t like
QuickShots are limited to 1080p
Limited Video Profiles
Lack of Omni-Directional Obstacle Sensing
SmartPhoto is limited to 12 Megapixels
In terms of the design, the Mavic Air 2 may not be as compact as the original Mavic Air but take our word for it, it’s still small enough to fit in any regular sized bag-pack. Having owned the previous generation Mavic Air, I can definitely vouch the fact that this years model is far more durable than ever before.
The way I see it, it’s positioned somewhere in between the Mavic Mini and the larger Mavic 2 Pro. As far as the color options are concerned, there’s just one color available and seems like DJI has standardized it across all the drones they’ve launched in recent times. I actually prefer this over the previous glossy/plasticky finish the OG Mavic Air had. It just makes the drone less susceptible to scratches especially given the UAE is a very sandy region and we have dust storms all the time. Probably not as bad what we saw in Mission Impossible : Ghost Protocol but it is still pretty bad.
The Mavic Air drone isn’t the only thing that’s gotten a major overhaul. It would be an absolute crime to not talk about the new controller. It’s far more ergonomic and comfortable to hold. You’ve got USB-C built in to charge the device. A spring-loaded phone holder that also acts as the antennas for the new OccuSync Transmission system (More on that later) and battery life has been significantly improved with up to 240 minutes of usage on a single charge.
One thing that is very evident with the all-new Mavic Air 2 is that it is one of quietest drones I’ve ever flown. I mean I’ve flown a lot of drones over the years but no drone offers the same kind of versatility the Mavic Air 2 offers for the price. Flight time is now 34 minutes. That’s the highest on any drone that DJI currently offers. On sport mode, I pushed the drone to its speed limits on an RC Airplane Runway here in Dubai. What I achieved was simply unbelievable. The little monster reached a maximum speed of about 70KM/h. That’s incredible. You’d probably wonder why you would require a drone to be that fast and it’s fairly straightforward. Two words. Cinematic Footage.
Ever seen those shots in movies where you have aerial shots of high speed chases? Those are captured on high speed drones. You know. Like the Mavic Air even with those kind of speeds, the drone still manages to remain stable thanks to its 3 axis gimbal.
Ease of Use
Roughly 5-6 years back, I could only dream of ever flying a drone. I was always fascinated by the idea of capturing aerial footage because it gives you a completely different perspective than what you are used to as a regular photographer/videographer. I mean imagine getting a birds eye view using something that resembles a mini-helicopter.
But things weren’t so simple back in the day. Drones were incredibly bulky. Low flight time and you had to resort to third party accessories like a GoPro that you’d attach to get the actual footage.
Over the years manufacturers like DJI continued to innovate. They worked hard to reach drone technology to the masses creating a completely different class of drones for hobbyists and recreational users. These drones were compact and far easier to use. They were equipped with state of the art sensors to minimize human error. Obstacle-sensing technology was introduced to mitigate the risk of a possible collision.
AI and Autonomy was introduced to take extremely complicated shots that only a super-experienced pilot could capture before. With the click of a button using functionalities like QuickShots you could get cinematic shots that you never thought was possible.
Fast forward to 2020, the Mavic Air 2 is without a doubt one of the easiest drones to fly. You’ve got forward, backward and downward sensors to help you avoid possible collisions with things like tree branches and walls. With the addition of an auxiliary lighting system, you can land the drone in almost any lighting condition with utmost precision. The Return-to-home feature takes control of the drone in the event the remote controller gets disconnected from the drone. All this is possible thanks to the Advanced Pilot Assistance System which has been upgrade to version 3.0 for increased safety and automatic flight planning.
The controls are pretty much the same as any other drone in the market so it really shouldn’t feel any different when you hold the Mavic Air 2 controller in your hand for the first time.
The Mavic Air 2 features a bigger camera sensor that is supported by the Quad Bayer Technology so you’ve got dual-resolution right out of the box at 48MP and 12MP. Surprisingly, the higher resolution actually outclasses its older brother, the Mavic 2.
During initial tests, I noticed that performance in low-light conditions had significantly improved when it came to photographs however depending on the lighting conditions, videos did appear a little grainy due to the limitations of the ISO control. Videos weren’t overly saturated as I thought it would be with enhanced HDR. The Mavic Air 2 supports HDR Video at 4K/30 FPS and 2.7K/30 FPS. They’re quite the right balance and if you’re shooting in flat then you have some insane control over the footage while color grading.
What really impressed me was the SmartPhoto feature which combines Scene Recognition, HDR and Hyperlight into one single fully integrated shooting mode. Images appear crisp and well-detailed.
Let’s start with QuickShots which offers 6 different modes of video footage that are bound to make you go wow. Drone, Helix, Rocket, Boomerang, Asteroid and Circle are all included out of the box but my favorite one will always be boomerang which starts with a close up of you and then slowly transitions to what you see with your eyes in a wider perspective. Something you could use at a scenic location like watching the mountains from a bridge or a sand dune from up far.
FocusTrack which is basically a suite of three different features, ActiveTrack 3.0, Point of Interest 3.0 and Spotlight 2.0. In a nutshell, all three models help you lock onto a particular subject while you focus on the actual flying process.
ActiveTrack takes things further by letting the drone do all the work from tracking the object and flying autonomously ensuring you get the best possible footage
Another new addition is 8K Hyperlapse. You’ve got 4 different modes to choose from like Free, Course Lock, Circle and Waypoint. All you have to do is set the location and the onboard system take over and do the needful.
In all honesty, this was one thing I really missed in the original Mavic Air. Don’t get me wrong. Enhanced Wifi on the previous model was alright but there were instances where the feed would get choppy on my remote and I’d panic.
Getting smooth footage on your remote control is extremely vital to capture those delicate shots with zero interruption. OccuSync 2.0 is awesome. You now have double the transmission distance at 10KM and the resolution has been bumped up from 720p to Full HD 1080p.
You’ve got dual frequency communication where the drone automatically switches depending on environmental conditions to ensure you get the smoothest possible footage because at the end of the day, all that matters is flight safety. Something that is greatly improved with the Mavic Air 2.
DJI Fly App
The DJI Fly App was first introduced with the Mavic Mini. Personally, I prefer its user-interface compared to the DJI Go 4 app. DJI has managed to integrate a lot of functionality into one single app. You’ve got manual controls on one side, a full-fledged video editing suite built-in with great templates so you can quickly edit your drone shots and post a fancy instagram shot or video.
The app contains a good amount of tutorials for a beginner to familiarize themselves with all the functionalities and features of the new drone.
DJI now offers their very own sets of ND Filters for the Mavic Air 2 so you don’t have to rely on third party vendors. This expands the possibilities of capturing great footage in various conditions. The first set contains ND 16/64/256 filters and is included in the Fly More Combo. The second set is the ND 4/8/32.
The Mavic Air 2 starts at AED 2999 in this region for the standard bundle which is a decent price for a drone of this magnitude.
The Mavic Air 2 Fly More Bundle is priced at AED 3759 and includes two additional batteries, extra sets of propellers, One Set of ND16/64/256 Filters, One Battery Charging Hub and finally One Battery to Power Bank Adaptor.
All models come with a standard 1 Year Warranty and is available at all major electronic stores however we recommend buying your Mavic Air 2 drone from Advance Media as they are the authorized distributor for DJI in the UAE so any after-sales service you may require will be an absolute bliss to deal with.
Advance Media also conducts Free Online Workshops from time to time so you can be rest assured, you are in safe hands. They have a great team of experts who can answer any questions you might have so feel free to get in touch with them at any time.
Whether you are a first-time drone pilot or someone looking to upgrade from the original Mavic Air, the Mavic Air 2 is a no-brainer. It’s not just a minor spec bump. DJI went back to drawing board and designed this drone from scratch while keeping some of the original design elements.
The drone is incredibly user-friendly. Contains all the modes you need to capture excellent cinematic footage and professional photographs. All the gizmos for a safe and fun flying experience regardless of how experienced you are.
Features like 8K Hyperlapse and APAS 3.0 have practically future proofed the drone for years to come making it a great investment in the long run.
As always, it is important you follow all the rules and regulations pertaining to drones as prescribed by your local government. For those of you in the UAE, you can check out the guide we posted sometime back on how to obtain your Drone Registration Certificate and Pilot License.
Taking everything into consideration, this is truly one of the best drones launched in 2020 and for all our valuable readers looking to invest in a new drone. Take our word for it, The Mavic Air 2 is simply one of the best drones we’ve ever flown.