The new release from DJI - the “Mavic” - is a radical departure for DJI
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Believe it or not, there’s much more. But let’s get the Mavic Pro up in the air. The 3830 mAh LiPo battery charged in about an hour, using a compact charger that includes two USB ports. This is handy for charging the remote controller at the same time (plus there’s a spare for your phone, which slots into the bottom of the controller).
Speaking of the controller, it too is small. Two handles/phone grips swing outward from the bottom and will snugly hold most standard or even large-sized phones. But don’t try jamming a full-size tablet in there – it won’t fit. Your phone connects to the controller, as with previous DJI remotes, via USB cable.
The remote features a small but clear monochrome screen that displays modes, telemetry and other key features. But it does not provide the first-person view. For that, you’ll need your phone. (Or the optional HD goggles - which in most jurisdictions you will be able to wear only if someone else is the pilot.)
Oh – before we forget – the Mavic Pro streams at 1080p to your phone or goggles, rather than the 720p of the Phantom 4. What’s more, if you’re using the goggles, DJI has managed to make the lag time so short as to be virtually imperceptible (meaning people shouldn’t get queasy).
Forget your phone? You have the option of using the remote alone to fly the craft. Forget your remote? You can use your phone, with swipe gestures, though the range will be reduced. The foldable props slot in with a locking mechanism in mere seconds (and can be left on when the drone is all folded up).
All set? Satellites locked? Let’s fly. Takeoff was smooth, and we lifted off to less than three meters and took our hands off the sticks. (It comes programmed for Mode 2, but you can change it easily). The Mavic Pro hung there like it was glued in space. It was also noticeably quieter than the Phantom 4, therefore much less obtrusive for people who don’t like the buzzing of drones. This is a major difference.
We lifted higher and carried out a figure-eight. Flawless, smooth, and highly responsive. The lower weight of this machine (1.64 lbs, including battery and propeller), make it feel more agile and nimble. In attitude mode, it immediately inspired confidence.
Because of the reduced weight, the occasional patch of unstable wind threw it for a small bump (something less noticeable with, say, the Phantom 4), but the three-axis gimbal took it in stride. The lighter weight also means great flight times despite the smaller battery size. DJI says you can get up to 27 minutes of flying time with zero wind, and 24 minutes of hovering.
Despite the fact this was a test unit, we just had to try the obstacle avoidance. And so we did – heading at speed toward a tree. Right on cue, the Mavic Pro slammed on the air brakes by popping nose-up, allowing its prop blast to stop the forward motion. We soon had enough confidence in the feature that we flew it directly toward ourselves (please don’t try this - no matter how excited you are by the feature. And yes, it worked flawlessly). The controller also features tactile feedback, so you also get a little vibration to give you another cue.
We also popped briefly into Sport mode – which allows the Mavic Pro to achieve a maximum speed of 40 mph (64.8 kph). Plenty fast enough for most flyers – and still a joy to fly. Even at these speeds, the craft is incredibly responsive and nimble. No, it’s not on the same level as a tweaked-out racing drone, but it is *very* impressive for a consumer/prosumer personal quadcopter.
Don’t like the speed? We tried “Tripod Mode” – which actually limits the speed to a maximum of 2.2 mph (3.6 kph). Yes, that is s-l-o-w. But that makes it killer smooth, perfect for cinematography (or total beginners).
In terms of intelligence, the Mavic Pro picks up where the Phantom 4 left off – adding even more smart features. For example, it can distinguish between people, cars, bicycles, and even animals. And it can track each of them, in a variety of modes: It can follow from behind, lead from the front, track alongside – even orbit the moving subject while keeping the camera locked on. In addition, it can follow someone up a slope while maintaining a pre-programmed altitude above ground level (think following a mountain biker or hiker as they ascend).
Speaking of the camera – the images we took with the test unit were awesome. Using a 1/2.3” CMOS sensor with 12.3 million effective pixels, clarity and dynamic range were excellent. There was real detail in the shadows, and our daylight photos (bright conditions, no filter) didn’t suffer from that washed-out, high-contrast look that occasionally plagues drone shots taken during peak sunlight. You can also roll the gimbal 90 degrees to take a vertical shot – a highly welcome feature.
As you’d expect, the Mavic Pro has both GPS and GLONASS for improved accuracy (just one of many redundant features). What you might not expect (certainly we didn’t) was a feature that allows for precision landings pretty much exactly in the same spot where you too took off. WHAT?? Yup. During takeoff, the Mavic Pro’s stereo cameras record a burst of photos without you even knowing it. It then uses that imagery and GPS information to land within an inch of where it took off when you’re using an auto-land/RTH function. Think about that for a second. Lands within an inch.
With its multiple sensors (including ultrasonic and barometric sensors), this unit is bristling with technology. Of course, when you start jamming all of those electronics and brains into a small package things heat up. But a cooling fan, in addition to the bottom heat sink and forward motion – keeps things at safe temperatures.
And really, the hottest thing here is the Mavic Pro itself. This drone is no mere evolution; it’s a revolution. Is it absolutely perfect? Tough to tell with just a few flights and without fully dialing in and tweaking all the controls. But the only potential flaw we could come up with were the sticks. With everything else on the system folding down into tiny proportions, we wish DJI had come up with a way for the sticks themselves to telescope or fold sideways or otherwise disappear into the remote so it could slide more easily into your pocket. But hey – if that’s all we can find right now to criticize – we can’t complain. Mind you, DJI has somewhat spoiled us. Their products have consistently performed superbly out of the box, and the Mavic Pro does the same – only with more features.
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