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DJI’s New Mavic Air Combines the Best of the Spark, Mavic Pro

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DJI isn’t resting on its laurels as it works to make sure it has a drone for every possible customer. After introducing the simplified Spark as its first entry in the consumer market, DJI has now announced an entry-level version of its Mavic Pro, called the Mavic Air. I guess I did always wonder why the Mavic was called the Pro when there was only one model, but now we know. The Mavic Air (See on Amazon) is designed to have some of the Spark’s ease-of-use features like gesture control, but also some advanced capabilities like obstacle sensors in all directions, typically found in higher-end models.

DJI’s Mavic Air: By the Numbers

You can see the Mavic Air isn't that much larger than a big smartphone or small cameraThe Mavic Air includes a similar camera to the Mavic Pro, with a 3-axis gimbal, probably about 12MP resolution, 4K video capability, a 120fps 1080p mode, and a 32MP Panorama mode. The sensor is 1/2.3-inch, but not quite as bright as the Pro, at f/2.8. It is also a little wider, at a 24mm equivalent versus 28mm.

Like the Mavic Pro, the Mavic Air folds. In addition, it weighs in at a svelte 430 grams (15.1 ounces). DJI says that folded it isn’t much bigger than a large smartphone. For me, folding is a big deal. Because it folds, I actually think it can be easier to travel with the folding propellors and arms of the Mavic Pro than with a Spark. The Air will make travel even easier.

DJI claims a 21-minute flight time for the Mavic Air, between the Spark and the Mavic Pro. Of course, that’s best case; expect shorter flights in tricky conditions or if you don’t want to risk running your battery too far down.

The Air will also pick up gesture control from the Spark, for casual use without the remote. The updated FlightAutonomy system uses upgraded processing technology to construct a 3D model using its seven cameras and infrared sensors. This is supposed to result in better obstacle avoidance, an area where the Mavic Pro has been criticized by many users. Similar to the Pro, the Air is touted as being able to fly in winds up to 22 mph and at elevations up to 16,000 feet above sea level (but not that high above the ground, of course). Range is listed as up to 2.5 miles, thanks to antennas mounted on the foldable landing gear. In Sport mode, it’s good for up to 42 mph and will work with DJI’s Goggles.

Lots of Photo and Video Goodies

Purists who shoot photos in RAW, video in D-Log, and use programs like Litchi to create massive panoramas may not see much they need in the new Mavic Air software. But for those looking to get fast results, it’s chock full of productivity assistance. In addition to the new panorama modes, there are some intriguing new pre-programmed QuickShot video effect flight modes like Asteroid and Boomerang which you can see illustrated here:

The new Mavic Air Asteroid mode illustrated

The new Mavic Air Asteroid mode illustrated

The new Mavic Air Boomerang mode illustrated

The new Mavic Air Boomerang mode illustrated

Pricing and Availability

The Mavic Air retails for $ 799, including a dedicated remote. That puts it not much more than the Spark plus a standalone controller. You can pre-order one starting today, with the first orders expected to ship on January 28th. There is a Fly More Combo available for $ 999 that includes a couple additional batteries, a travel bag, extra pairs of propellers, and a battery-charging hub. DJI’s replacement plan, DJI Refresh, is $ 89 per year, but you’ll need to register within 48 hours of activation.

Now read: Best Drone Picks for Every Budget

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