In early 2018, DJI was announcing the first “pocket-size” drone able to record 4K at 30fps. Coming as an upgrade of the amazing DJI Spark, DJI Mavic Air was more than that. Equipped with 3 axis mechanical gimbal, a tone of sensors and a 4K camera capable to record at 100Mbps, DJI Mavic Air exceeded even the DJI Mavic Pro, the flagship of DJI consumer drone line at that time. So capable and small, DJI Mavic Air quickly become the best seller drone on the market.
Despite this, Mavic Air was not perfect. Flaws like weak signal due to WiFi communication system, high pitch noise and lack of 60fps at 4K made room for competitors to kick in with their drones.
Two years later, DJI engineers managed to overtake most of the technology gaps and put together a new advanced aircraft that will be present in top for at least 2 years. It is the DJI Mavic Air 2, the latest DJI entry launched on 11 may 2020.
After more than 15 years in drone industry DJI reached to an important milestone when talking about aircraft design. Looking behind, DJI had a progressive trend in designing consumer level drones which led nearly to perfection.
I say nearly, because, in consumer market designing for performance is not the only criteria to success. Portability and safety are also important to consider when you design aircraft that are going to be used in public environments.
In the end, the road to a perfect design continuously fought the battle between flight performance and portability. Looking back at the first Mavic Pro, DJI had a huge step forward in design innovation, coming from the big and bulky DJI Phantom, which even if nowadays is a great piece of technology everyone hates it because its impossible to transport it.
Even if Mavic Pro was the first drone having folding arms with a considerable small size factor, DJI insisted to focus more on the portability, therefore they released DJI Spark and DJI Mavic Air 1 with a even smaller size chasing the “pocket-size drone” trend.
Reducing the size was a wrong turn for DJI as this choice drastically affected their new DJI Mavic Air. With such a small factor the first Mavic Air came with several flaws like a very high pitch and disturbing noise during flight due to the smaller propellers and high RPM. Also the wind resistance and the antennas size were affected in exchange of portability.
To be clear, DJI Mavic Air is an outstanding piece of engineering, but in the end everything reduces to usability. Nothing matters if you manage to scare all people around you with a sound of a billion pissed bees, especially during events, or if the gimbal can’t keep up with the drone struggling to balance the wind.
The solution to this mess came from the original Mavic Pro. Longer arms can allow bigger propellers and therefore lower RPM solved the disturbing noise.
Asymmetric position of the arms, like on the Mavic Pro added to a larger spread also gained back stability and wind resistance. Some competitors, like Autel, also borrowed the original Mavic Pro design, following the success model.
Waking up from this, all DJI releases since the Mavic Air, followed the original Mavic Pro design, excepting DJI Tello which is more of a toy. The Mavic Air 2 is one of them and all the tests results testify years of engineering innovation.
At this moment, DJI Mavic Air 2 is available in DJI Shop in one color and two combos. You can buy it in Single Combo or Fly More Combo. In addition to the Single combo, the Fly More Combo has more content, especially for those who want spend more time in the air.
Mavic Air 2 Single Combo content
Mavic Air 2 Fly More Combo content
Usually the Fly More Combo package is the best way for any drone enthusiast due to the flight time boost. With the new Mavic Air 2, this is not the case anymore. Even with one battery you get so much flight time that makes Single Combo enough for most of the people.
An new interesting addition to the Fly More Combo is the ND Filters set. This is the first drone from the DJI consumer line which comes with dedicated ND filters included. The ND kit contains three dedicated filters rated at ND16, ND64 and ND256. This filters are not polarized. They are only intended to stop down the light getting trough the lens.
Until now, all DJI ND filters, which they sell separately, are not even close to Polar Pro glass quality. There is some sort of improvement in this kit, but still, after some tests, fine scratches appeared across the glass and the frame also.
With battery and props on, Mavic Air 2 weights 570g, which is a third more than Air 1. For most of us, this shouldn’t be a problem since for 100g we get allot more performance and battery life, but there are countries in which law enforces paper registration for drones heavier than 500g.
Folded, Mavic Air 2 has 180×97×84 mm (Length×Width×Height). Once you unfolded, it gets a little bigger than Air 1, measuring 183×253×77 mm (Length×Width×Height) with a diagonal of 302 mm.
Comparing with Mavic Air 1, which had a diagonal opening of 213 mm Mavic Air 2 is about almost 9 cm bigger. That difference gives a great boost in wind stability, and also increase the angle of bending allowing quicker acceleration and brake.
Overall, when packed up in dedicated bag – which come only with Fly More Combo – the difference is very small comparing with Air 1. Transporting is easy and comfortable.
Same as Mavic Air 1 and Mavic Pro 2, Mavic Air 2 is also equipped with Vision System. There is no functional difference between Mavic Air 1 and Mavic Air 2 when talking about 3d sensors system. Both Air 1 and Air 2 have Forward, Backward and Downward proximity and vision sensors. Unfortunately there are no side Vision sensors, like on the Mavic Pro.
6 Vision sensors, a ToF (Time of Flight) sesor and a dual band satellite positioning system, together with a very cleaver software that integrates machine learning algorithms ensure a safe flight but also provide improved real time tracking features, thanks to a detection range of up to 60 m.
Both sensing speed and FOV (field of view) have been increased on Mavic Air 2, thanks to a better processing power and upgraded batteries that can delivery more juice. Thanks to that, Mavic Air 2 Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems (APAS) has now been updated to version 3.
Mavic Air 1 APAS system, and even the improved APAS from Mavic Pro 2 are not even close to what Mavic Air 2 can do when it comes to active tracking. Drone enthusiasts even compare DJI Mavic Air 2 with SKYDIO 2, which is probably the best consumer tracking drone ever built.
DJI Mavic Air 2 is powered by a proprietary LiPo 3S intelligent battery rated at 3500 mAh@11.55 V. The battery only weights 198 g, which is allot for a flying device, but provide up to 34 minutes of flying experience.
DJI Mavic Air 2 Battery
Compared with Mavic Air 1 which has a declared flight time of 21 minutes, the Mavic Air 2 has 13 minutes more which is HUGE, when you know that DJI Spark itself had a maximum of only 15 minutes in the air.
Unfortunately, on all DJI drones, the declared flight time is smaller in real time conditions. In normal wind, flying at 60m altitude straight forward, Mavic Air 2 battery lasted about 30 minutes, with a 6% remaining capacity to land.
This is an outstanding performance, considering the size and the features of this drone. Even the Mavic Pro 2 can’t resist that much, having only 31 m declared flight time.
Keep in mind that when recording 4k at 60fps the CPU requires huge amounts of current and can reduce the flight time.
Also, brutal acceleration sprints, fast ascending/descending episodes and flying in intense wind condition dramatically affects battery life.
As a huge improvement from the first Mavic air, DJI upgraded the communication system between the drone and the remote control, from the old and weak WiFi 2.4/5.8Ghz to the newest version proprietary Ocusync 2.0.
To summarize, OcuSync is a DJI proprietary radio communication system designed to maintain a stronger and stable connection with the aircraft. The difference between standard WiFi and OcuSync is that OcuSync uses a different radio frequencies range, with a lower pulse rate, capable to penetrate longer distances.
Thanks to its isolated uncommon frequency range, OcuSync system has almost no radio interferences with nearby radio devices and antennas, and so it offers video link without any interruptions
Now, as you already may know, DJI transmission system has a different behaviour depending on the country/continent that you operate on in order to comply with specific radio regulations.
With the DJI Mavic Air 2, video transmission has the following distance capabilities:
This numbers are very impressive, but remember that they are achievable only in plain field environment, without any obstacles between remote and aircraft.
Manually changing between radio settings is not possible from the application, this settings being automatically detected by the localization systems.
You can hack this on Android devices by using developer functions to mock the current GPS location and fake a FCE position.
Two things shocked us since specs and photos started to leak before official release of DJI Mavic Air 2. One is offcourse the the posibility to record 4K in 60fps, and the other is a totally new controller design.
Since the original Mavic Pro, all DJI drones had a similar RC design, with small differences, despite some had WiFi transmission system and other OcuSync.
Mavic Air 2 comes with a new RC design which is bigger and more squarish and has a different position for main sticks and buttons. This new design should offer a better grip and a more relaxing finger position to reduce fatigue.
The new RC design has different phone holder supports, moving from the old bottom collapsible arms to top extensible horizontal clip. The new phone holder is simmilar to Phantoms and Inspire design, but even better. Phone screen corners are not blocked anymore by the holder arms, thus offering a huge advantage when touching all those small icons in DJI App.
Despite the large size, Mavic Air 2 RC doesn’t come with a LCD display like on the Mavic Pro all models. But thats actually a good move, considering that that screen doesn’t actually help to much. Many pilots reported that they never used the embeddded display, as the drones with OcuSync rarely lose video signal.
Mavic Air 2 RC has a toggle switch button in the middle for changing between Tripod, Normal and Sport mode. 4 other buttons are available on the front side for Power ON/OFF, landing and other functions. On the top side there is a big button and a scroll wheel for shoot/recording and gimbal control.
Overall, the downside of being larger is overcomed by functionality and confort, and probably this new design will be present in next DJI releases.
Here we are, at the most exciting chapter, were things start to shine for the new Mavic Air 2!
Looking back at the first Mavic Air, DJI launched it as a major upgrade to Spark and even Mavic Pro, but the camera wasn’t so impressive as claimed.
Despite DJI boosted the processing power to raise the bit-rate from 60Mbps (original Mavic Pro) to 100Mbps, a high amount of grain was present in both video and pictures, due to small factor size of the image sensor of only 1/2.3”.
There are two solutions to overcome grain problem. One is to add a bigger sensors and the second is to mount a lens with a larger aperture. Both solutions offer the advantage of allowing more light to hit the sensor.
For the Mavic Air 2, DJI has chosen to go with the first solution. A new sensor of 1/2 inch together with a fixed f2.8 aperture lens mounted in a new designed camera, like on Mavic Pro 2, handles all grain issues.
Mavic Air 2 camera has 12MP or 48MP effective pixels depending on the usage mode. The difference comes from a technological advantage of reading sensor line, called pixel binning.
Different photo modes allows the user to change between 12MP and 48MP in order to grab more details. Shooting in 12MP mode is more advantageous in low light environments when light/pixel ration is bigger, and so a lower ISO will be possible to use in order to avoid grain.
48MP mode whould make a huge difference in sunny conditions when shooting landscape or architecture, and cropping is necesarly.
While in 12MP mode ISO is limited at 6400, in 48MP mode ISO is caped at 3200, and that is in manual mode. In Auto ISO mode levels are with a stop lower.
New photo modes have been added, along with the classic ones from the predecessors:
Thanks to the boost in effective pixels, 8K Hyperlapse is now available by shooting pictures at 8000x6000px.
Shooting at 60 fps in 4k is now available for Mavic Air 2. Thats crazy considering that almost twice expensive Mavic Pro 2 and Mavic Zoom don’t share this feature.
In addition to its prederecessor, full hd an 4k video recording resolution have been pushed up. Now you can record up to 240fps in FHD which is insane for a drone, and 60fps in 4k. Notice that 2.7k was not boosted to 120fps.
100Mbps was not enough data flow for a decent 4k@60p quality, so DJI boosted up the bitrate also to 120Mbps. Now, if you are a videographer, you know that 120Mbps is not really enough for a decent compressed 4k@60p, but, considering drone footage is mostly smooth, without speedy change of camera angle, it should be ok.
In adition to regular video modes, HDR recording is now available. This new modes allows a richer dinamic range to be captured. HRD video recording is available only in FHD and 2.7k resolutions.
With the new sensor and more processing power, video recording codec has also been updated from H.264 to H.265/HEVC. That means a higher dinamic range, a better compression and a more accurate color pallete.
Overall, this is a really big jump from the camera perspective when comparing with the first Mavic air, especially considering the very attracive selling price.
If you are looking for a drone in 1000-1500$ range, DJI Mavic Air 2 is probably the best choice. With video recording at 4K@60fps, a 48MP sensor that can do 8K Hyperlapse and a very capable active tracking system, DJI Mavic Air 2 is the perferct drone even for bickers, hickers or athleets. Not to mention that it can stay more than 30 minutes in the air.
If you decide to buy this drone, click on the image bellow to see the best offer (Amazon Choice) on Amazon, with the latest promo and DISCOUNTS applied.
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I wish you safe flights and amazing shoots. Thank you for your time!