Camera-drones have been charting their way to popularity for a while now. Since the early inception of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to the development of satellite guided quadcopters, the evolution of the drone industry has been one of the most celebrated technological landmarks in the modern era. Dà-Jiāng Innovations Science and Technology, known as DJI in the international market, and casually dubbed as the ‘King of Drones’ by enthusiasts, have transitioned from ‘just another drone company’ to the maker of the finest civilian-drones the world has seen.
The latest DJI Mavic Pro, released in the latter half of 2016, is nothing short of an engineering marvel.
Notably, the most standout feature of the Mavic Pro is its super compact build structure. Aerial photographic drones had till date been a concoction of fixed-arm, space-absorbing hulls with a ton of bulky, over-sized cameras, controllers and peripherals. With the Mavic Pro, DJI has gone back to the drawing board with its design and boy, have they done something special. The Mavic features a set of four fold-able wings that slip right alongside the belly and back of the drone. This clever design also provides for undetachable rotors unlike its counterparts, dispensing the need to assemble the drone every time the pilot wants to take a flight. When folded, the entire unit is a little larger than a human palm and weighs around 743g, half as heavy as the Phantom 4 Pro, making it a truly portable machine.
The Mavic’s remote is almost the size of an iPhone 6 but sports an LCD screen, allowing the pilot to fly without DJI’s mobile app while still receiving the required telemetry data (altitude, distance, direction) for a smooth flight. Another aspect of the Mavic where DJI has hit it out of the park is that the drone can be flown without a remote at all. Switching over to its Wi-Fi, this UAV can be controlled using just a phone. Doing this will lead to loss of fine-grained control due to control through virtual joysticks and shall cut back on flight range but nonetheless it proves to be a handy feature for someone who wishes to ditch the remote and carry lesser gear.
The Mavic Pro and the flagship Phantom drones, both use downward-facing optical flow sensors to see the ground below. Using this image, the Mavic Pro works to stabilize itself against strong winds and even hover unflinchingly without a GPS signal when indoors. This Downward Vision is also utilized for Terrain Follow, an all-new flight mode feature built in the Mavic. Apart from operation modes like Point of Interest, Waypoints, Follow Me and Course Lock, in Terrain Follow, the drone maintains a certain distance from the ground, which is fantastic for shooting footage in unlevelled landscapes. A trademark Mavic Pro mode called Gesture Control enables a pilot to set up and click a selfie, without the remote, by waving his arms and making a “picture frame” shape with his fingers, which is pretty extraordinary!
Despite the camera being smaller in size than the Phantom 4 Pro, it pretty much dons the same specs. The Mavic can shoot in cinematic 4K and click 12.7 megapixel stills compared to Phantom’s 20 megapixels. It boasts of burst shooting, exposure bracketing and unlike its bigger compatriot, it features manual focus which requires the pilot to choose the subject. With the Mavic’s new video transmission system called OcuSync, it can stream footage at a 1080p resolution over a max range of 4 miles. It also has the same front-facing optical sensors that, using ActiveTrack, can detect obstacles and alter the flight path according to image analysis algorithms.
The Mavic Pro uses a 20mm lens and 79º field of view versus a 24mm lens and 94º FOV in the Phantom 4 Pro. The compact 3-axis gimbal allows the device to capture super stabilized video without having to cut back on resolution for digital stabilization.
The Mavic comes equipped with a 50W battery and a recharge time of little over an hour for a 27 minute flight at optimum speed and wind conditions or just 24 minutes of hovering. These are by far the best flight times witnessed in any commercial quadcopter.
The only design flaw in the Mavic Pro is in the 3-axis camera gimbal. It is secured in position by four small rubber bands and given the Mavic can fly at speeds up to 65miles/hr, this entire assembly seems too fragile for use. If even one of the bands snap, the device is going to have a tough time stabilizing the camera resulting in blurry, dull footage.
Technically, the motors in the Mavic aren’t as powerful as in the Phantom but due to its enhanced control and agility, it somehow manages to match the same level of stability as the bigger drones. Despite the Mavic’s small rotor size, it can maintain its position better than a Phantom but due to the constrained FOV, video footage is not as steady as in its bigger brother.
With prescient thinking and precision engineering, the DJI has announced itself as a unicorn in the drone market and is here to stay. Packed with state-of-the-art features and some serious photography arsenal, the Mavic Pro is unarguably the best video tool for professional cinematographers. A combination of sheer portability and power, the DJI Mavic Pro has set an all-new standard for drone makers across the world.
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- The DJI Mavic Pro folds down as small as a bottle of water, making it small enough to bring with you everywhere.
- New OcuSync transmission system offers up to 4.3 miles (7km) of transmission range. Fly at up to 40mph (64kmh) or for as long as 27-minutes.
- ActiveTrack, TapFly and other smart features make professional looking video effortless. True 4K, fully stabilized ensures smooth footage
- Obstacle Avoidance combined with sensor redundancy increases flight safety and reliability.
All in all, at a retail price of $999, the DJI Mavic Pro beats all other portable drones available by a huge margin. It has defined itself as the poster-boy for all future drones to come.
- The build quality is simply unparalleled.
- Light, compact and truly portable machine.
- Better camera featuring burst shooting, exposure bracketing and manual focus.
- Best flight times witnessed in any commercial quadcopter due to long lasting battery.
- 3-axis camera gimbal secured by four small rubber bands making it too fragile.
- The motors in the Mavic aren’t as powerful.
- Video footage is not as steady.
- Poor low-light photography