DJI Mavic Air Review: Flight Range, Flight Time, Film Quality & Price Comparison

Entertainment factor
Flight behavior
Material quality
Recording quality
Price quality
Overall rating 4.8 / 5

The DJI Mavic Air is the new drone from industry leader DJI. Armed with technology to the teeth, the high-tech drone is said to be the new wonder drone in the sky for helicopters.

The camera is even better than the Mavic Pro and the new flight modes should make this drone the best drone of all time. We’ll put the Mavic Air to the test and show you what to expect from a drone in practice.

You can watch our test video here:

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Mavic Air Quadcopter at a Glance

It makes sense that DJI’s latest quadcopter, which was developed under the tentative name Mavic Air, joins the company’s previous range of products.

The quadcopter was presented to the public on January 23, 2018 in New York, and of course, it was presented in detail.

Mavic Air flying in the house

Due to the high technology of many of DJI’s predecessor products, the audience’s expectations for the latest Mavic Air are of course particularly high.

DJI said the Mavic Air should technically complement the two Spark and Mavic Pro drones already in the product portfolio.

Spark is the company’s lightest and most affordable quadcopter, which can be controlled even over the air using the owner’s smartphone.

DJI Spark in the test

The Mavic Pro is a handheld camera drone with retractable rotor blades, fairly extended flight times and relatively low rotor and drive noise during operation.

That’s it for the classification of the Mavic Air in the existing DJI product range. But what can customers from all over the world expect from this innovative new quadcopter?

Portability

Everyone who buys a drone today pays attention to a correspondingly high portability for a variety of reasons. There are various reasons for this.

On the one hand, as is well known, the legislature made the so-called drone driving license compulsory for unmanned aerial vehicles with a total weight of 2 kg or more, on the other hand, with an increase in the dimensions and weight of the flight weight, the possibility of trouble-free transportation and use in almost any location decreases sharply.

Thus, since its founding in 2006, the Chinese company DJI, in particular, has made a clear commitment to optimize the portability of its drones and aircraft as much as possible and thus ultimately provide a proper usability.

The Mavic Air’s predecessor model, the Mavic Pro, which was introduced to the public in 2016, was already characterized by attractive portability, but this crucial and, from a pilot’s point of view, very important product feature was again in the latest product, the Mavic Air. drastically improved and optimized.

The plane no longer has the famous retractable load arms (they are rigidly installed). Only outriggers fold in and out. Then the entire plane weighs only a moderate 430 g. It surpasses the lightest and cheapest DJI aircraft – the Spark – by only 130 g.

The Mavic Air folds and folds easily for easy transport. Product descriptions in English that were released to the market at the same time as the initial presentation of the Mavic Air in New York in early 2018, the product is additionally labeled “Smart Capture”.

In particular, all outdoor users will undoubtedly appreciate the further enhancement of the Mavic Air’s usability and will of course respect it accordingly.

The Mavic Pro, the predecessor from DJI, weighed 313g under the Mavic Air. Thanks to its smaller size, the Mavic Air is an additional improvement in handling and transportability over its predecessor, the Mavic Pro.

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As far as the dimensions of the Mavic Air are concerned, its suitability for transport and overall very good portability is emphasized.When folded, the Mavic Air is only 169mm long, 89mm wide and only 53mm high.

When compared directly with the Galaxy Note 3, the drone is as big as a folded cell phone. The Mavic fits into any jacket pocket or small backpack.

In addition to the Phantom 3 Pro, all the minimalism becomes apparent. Not only the width of the drone, but also the height is much less. Absolutely lightweight, full to the brim, built with the latest technology.

Creating a relatively compact, streamlined, and technology-rich aircraft that is lightweight and easy to fly was clearly a recognizable DJI intention in the design and manufacture of the Mavic Air.

In general, we can say that the company did it very well.

Built-in drone camera: photo and video quality

In my opinion, the Mavic Air’s camera is the best thing about the whole drone. Not only the increased bit rate, but also the higher sharpness, attention to detail and high contrast convinced me completely. I will explain all the parameters to you in detail below.

The impressive 32 GP spherical panoramic images can be captured by the pilot from the ground thanks to the built-in 4K camera that can be rotated around 3 axes.

The 3-axis harness is clean and reliable. We have not yet managed to find a single wobbler in the video with us. The camera sits slightly deeper in the body (compared to the Mavic Pro), so image stabilization wins.

Possible angle of inclination of the stabilizer from -100 to + 22 °. It can also be rotated from -12 ° to + 12 °. The accuracy of the controlled angle is ± 0.005 °.

The data rate for the Mavic Air is defined by DJI as 100Mbps. The Mavic Pro came with a 60 Mbps bitrate for comparison.

The difference is really huge and can be clearly seen on video recordings. Video recordings not only look more dynamic and lively, but the sharpness and detail of the image are significantly increased compared to the Mavic Pro.

Normal single image of the Mavic Air without processing

This applies to both bright and dim film conditions. As you can clearly see in the test video, recordings of a moving river, car, or other moving object are much more dynamic and look fantastic.

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If you would like to create still images with the Mavic Air, you can do so in two common JPEG formats, or alternatively in RAW, which can be easily and easily processed by most image editing software.

Images can then be edited in RAW format so that even demanding photographers can make the most of their images. I am using Adobe Photoshop CC for image editing and Magix Video Pro X for video editing.

The richness of detail in images that can be created with a drone is strikingly high thanks to the already mentioned speed of 100 Mbps. Therefore, HDR photography is not a problem or a challenge for a small, quiet and light drone.

The Mavic Air has a range of Intelligent Photo Modes. These include regular, classic single shots, burst shots, exposure bracketing, and indoor time-lapse and panorama photography. You can select 3 × 1, 3 × 3, 3 × 7, or 3 × 8 images for the panorama burst.

The 120fps that can be captured also allows the Mavic Air to create cool slow motion recordings. It looks really good, especially with sharp, jerky movements.

Another enhancement for ambitious hobby pilots and aerial photographers should be the nice fact that the Mavic Air can be used for aerial photography and aerial photography without the need for an external storage medium.

A modern aircraft has only 8 GB of internal memory for shooting or taking photos without an additional memory card. With 8 GB, you can record about 10 minutes of Ultra HD (4k) video.

If that’s not enough for you, you can easily expand it with another 128GB as Micro SD.

It is important here that SD cards support high data transfer rates, otherwise the video will not be saved on the SD card, but in the internal memory. However, this only happens if the inserted SD card is too old or incompatible.

The following video resolutions are supported (I always indicate the maximum available frames per second):

  • Ultra HD (3840×2160) 30fps
  • 2.7k (2720 × 1530) 60fps
  • Full HD (1920 × 1080) 120fps
  • HD (1280 × 720) 120fps

For video format, you can use MP4 or MOV (h.264 / MPEG-4 AVC).

The camera sensor is a 1 / 2.3-inch CMOS sensor with an effective resolution of 12 megapixels. The lens has a field of view of 85 °. The aperture is f / 2.8 and the shooting range is 0.5m to ∞.

Flight safety and control

From the point of view of German law, safety, control and flight behavior always play an extremely important and therefore ultimately elemental role in the behavior of unmanned aerial vehicles such as aerial photography and aerial video drones.

The so-called obstacle avoidance system was developed by the Chinese manufacturer DJI for use in a small drone with a Mavic Air camera.

This allows the small drone, regardless of the pilot or user operating the device, to independently recognize objects or obstacles that may suddenly appear during air flight.

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What’s more: Objects or obstacles when the drone is flying through the air are not only automatically recognized and registered by the drone.

Another technical system that has been installed and used in the Mavic Air by DJI is called Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems, or APAS for short.

This pilot assistance system allows the drone to automatically avoid obstacles detected by the air during flight, or to be able to halt the flight accordingly if necessary.

In practice, obstacle detection works very well both forward and backward. However, the following applies: rely on it only in emergencies and ideally always decide everything with the remote control.

Mavic Air Front Obstacle Sensors

The aforementioned visual sensors, which are located at the front and back, as well as on the underside of the small Mavic Air drone, allow for much more.

Based on this impressive general and very modern technology from the Chinese manufacturer DJI, it would be theoretically and ultimately also practically possible to control the entire aircraft with its pilot’s gestures, if necessary.

However, by default, according to the manufacturer’s specifications, the Mavic Air should be controlled by a flight controller with detachable joysticks and controlled by air.

Remote control of the drone must have a range of up to 4 km. We ran a range test, and as you can see in the test video, we were able to fly the drone without any problems within a visibility range of almost 250 meters.

In addition, the drone initiated an automatic flight home (= return to home) to land again exactly at the starting point that the drone had previously saved via GPS. Everything worked smoothly and really great.

Compared to the Mavic Pro, the Mavic Air could stop at the starting point multiple times in a row with an accuracy of 10cm.

Since we are only allowed to fly in the USA within our field of vision (usually this corresponds to a distance of 200 to 300 m), for most pilots, looking for alternatives for a longer distance is not required.

For all drone pilots who want to fly more distance, automatic channel selection in the app can be turned off and the channel will be selected independently. Then another channel can be selected in the channel index.

Channels 1 through 13 correspond to 2.4 GHz and channels 149 to 165 correspond to 5.8 GHz. You can also see how much the channel is already in use. Of course, you should choose the less visited channel.

In our example, channel 149 or 157 would be suitable for interference-free flight.

The remote control also no longer has a display, which, in my opinion, was already superfluous. Air is started via the GO app, so all important parameters can be viewed there.

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Mavic Air Gesture Control

The Mavic Air can be controlled using gestures just like the DJI Spark. As shown in the Mavic’s aerial test video, it works very accurately, quickly and reliably, but it is more of a gimmick than it is actually useful.

Yesterday ran the Mavic Air test

There are several different commands here. By simply pointing your hand forward at the Mavic Air’s muzzle sensors, the drone can be controlled horizontally and vertically.

In this case, the drone simply follows the outstretched hand.

By spreading its arms to the sides, the drone moves away from us. Under the contract, the drone is returned to us.

The peace sign tells the drone to take a picture. Then it takes a few seconds before the photo is taken. This time delay was built in so that the photographer could position himself appropriately.

created by dji camera

Of course, videos can be started and stopped using gesture controls.

The drone can be launched or landed by simply showing with a smooth palm when the drone is on the ground to take off, or when it should land when it is still about 0.5m high.

The drone can also take off and land with a smooth hand, but DJI strongly advises against this. However, it works through gesture controls.

Mavic Air Flight Performance

All in all, the flight performance of a small and quiet drone with a camera from the People’s Republic of China is well suited to impress and convince amateur pilots around the world to use this technology.

Chinese manufacturer DJI has already convincingly achieved this with the release of its predecessor, the Mavic Air.

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The sleek design of the Mavic Air looks like it is an extremely powerful yet ultra-fast, modern, unnamed aircraft.

The Mavic Air Flight Experience

Durable plastic and last but not least, ultra-light brushed aluminum are the dominant materials for the Mavic Air’s outer shell, not only providing stability, but also significantly reducing weight.

To enable the plane to withstand landings in a confusing environment without damage, it has landing legs that can be folded in and out again.

Chinese manufacturer DJI then reports that the Mavic Air has a total flight time of 21 minutes each. This corresponds to a range (FCC) for an aircraft of no more than 4 kilometers.

Mavic Air speed test in good weather

In practice, we have achieved an effective flight time of 16 minutes. However, this time may vary depending on the load on the drone. To keep the flight from ending after 16 minutes, DJI offers a Fly-More-Combo package that includes two extra batteries.

If you are looking to buy the Mavic Air, I would recommend that you purchase this package directly. It saves you a lot of hassle if you have to pack the drone back to the charging station after flying in a beautiful location.

Mavic Air in the air Wind test with an aircraft in the background

Here I would like to point out that you should only buy original DJI batteries, otherwise there is no guarantee that they will work properly.
A work colleague ordered a NoName battery at half price.

The battery lasted about 2 months, but then the drone caught fire during normal flight due to the explosion of a non-original battery. This scenario doesn’t have to happen, but I wanted to warn you about it.

The flight stability of the aircraft in the tests was also completely convincing. As usual from DJI, the drone stays chiseled in the air, even in stronger gusts of wind. However, it is not recommended to fly the Mavic Air in high winds.

With the Mavic Air, the manufacturer ditched the so-called Ocu-Synch technology that had been used before in favor of tight pre-focusing of flight times. The drone uses GPS and

DJI Mavic Air Flight Modes

The Mavic Air has a number of different flight modes, including a new mode that I especially like, Asteroid Mode. You’ve already seen what this looks like in the test video.

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Next, I will briefly explain the most important modes and Quickshot modes in more detail. The Mavic has the latest technical innovations that DJI has just introduced into its drones.

ActiveTrack mode is suitable for tracking one or more objects.

As shown in the test video, the drone can follow you without dragging the remote control. The drone was programmed to stubbornly track the object indicated.

All sensors work in this mode, so the drone automatically detects obstacles and flies around them, even if it comes too close. However, caution is advised here, as the obstacles must be sufficiently visible.

In my test, the drone would detect even the thinnest branches in the trees and avoid them (that is, in your case, it’s not the same!).

Active Track Flight Modes in Test Drone Just Before Tree

In Tripod mode (called Tripod on the Mavic Pro), the drone slows down dramatically and only flies around 4 km / h. This mode should be suitable for indoor or deep ground video recording.

The sensors work as usual. The effective braking distance is not even a meter, so the safety in this mode is very high.

In Cinematic Mode, the Mavic Air’s speed is also reduced and the braking distance is shortened. The sensors work fine too.

The peculiarity of this mode is that the camera works very smoothly, and the processes of sudden braking are deliberately slower.

Film excerpt in TapFly test

Rapid changes of direction are also balanced in practice, so 100% guaranteed that the image will be recorded smoothly and absolutely ready for watching movies.

Since we already have sufficient flight experience, we used these modes quite little. However, it can be interesting for beginners.

TapFly can be used to draw a path for the drone on a mobile phone display, which the drone then flies off at a given speed.

It almost sounds like magic, but in practice it works very well and reliably.

The sensors work normally and avoid obstacles in an emergency. The speed can be changed in the app.

Obstacle Sensing When Testing the Mavic Air

TapFly can be of great help on larger sections of the flight. Especially if you want to control the camera individually while flying.

We already know the point of interest mode from the Phantom 3 series. In this mode, the drone moves around a given starting point and circles over the object.

Speed, direction and radius can be set in the DJI GO app.

This mode is especially suitable if you have a vantage point such as a tower, church, or plateau that you want to circle.

I was on vacation in Corsica and used this mode to fly around an old watchtower from old French times. This is where the POI feature really helped.

Drone

In Droni Quick Shot mode, the drone flies backward at the angle you specify and upward at the same time. The air leaves in accordance with the parameters you set with an adjustable speed.

This can be used to create very impressive recordings. However, it should be noted that there must be enough space at the back and top for the drone to fly far enough.

Ultra HD resolution is possible here.

Circles

As the name suggests, in this mode the drone rotates around a specified point. It can be an item of your choice or you can do it yourself.

In the app, you can set the radius, direction and speed. Caution is advised here, however, as the Mavic Air does not have any side obstacles on board, such as the Phantom 4 Pro.

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Ultra HD resolution is possible here.

Spiral

In this mode, the Mavic rotates around the specified point. The drone rises in height and gradually increases the flight radius.

In this mode, we took some very cool aerial photos while on vacation. If you are on an observation tower, for example, this Quick Shot mode is ideal for capturing great shots.

Speed, heading and starting point can also be set in the DJI Go app.

Ultra HD resolution is possible here.

Rocket

In rocket mode, the drone flies vertically upward like a rocket and captures a spectacular video from above.

The app can be used to set the altitude the drone should climb again. You can also enter a speed.

Ultra HD resolution is possible here.

boomerang

Boomerang flight mode allows the drone to fly along the trajectory of a boomerang. The route looks exactly the same as if you threw the boomerang and it returns to the same place where it started.

In practice, the records look really extraordinary and will inspire your partners, that’s for sure.

In the app, you can set the radius as well as the speed.

Ultra HD resolution is possible here.

asteroid

Asteroid Mode is the most entertaining flight mode the DJI Mavic Air has to offer. The drone takes a circular image and then calculates a very stylish circular “world”.

As you saw in the test video, you can definitely impress everyone in your family.

Surroundings can be recorded in Full HD (1920 × 1080) resolution. Unfortunately DJI does not offer a higher resolution for this feature.

However, Asteroid is my new favorite mode and now I use it almost everywhere because it makes even a boring market look really cool.

Mavic Air Conclusion

Many amateur pilots consider the latest camera drone, Mavic Air, from Chinese manufacturer DJI, to be the best comparable product on the market. This is facilitated by security technology, high portability, an impressive camera and, just as important, price.

The DJI Mavic Air is currently very cheap to buy on Amazon.