For quite some time now, we had been considering getting a new drone. The Parrot BeBop drone we had was a great drone to get started into the hobby but, for the website and for our other publishing requirements, we really needed something that is a bit more professional. That said, I wasn’t keen on going to a full size drone like say a DJI Phantom. Instead I wanted something portable that could be packed away into a camera bag or back pack. The DJI Mavic Pro looked the goods but then DJI released the Mavic Air and this really did spark my interest.
The Mavic Air completely folds down into a bundle that fits in the palm of your hand. It is truly amazing how compact it is when stored. It could easily fit it into a spare section of a camera bag even into a jacket pocket. The standard case for the drone is not that much bigger than a glasses case.
We got the fly-more pack which comes with a couple of extra batteries, a charging hub and a custom carry bag that is large enough to carry all the kit but small enough to be completely portable. It’s a great bag. The additional batteries are a bonus which should give us around 1 hour flying time. Compared to the 10 minutes I used to get from the BeBop drone, that’s a ridiculous amount of flying time. Bloody fantastic.
Unpacking and setting the unit up is not quite as simple as I thought it would be but it’s not all that bad. I had a spare Samsung smartphone that I thought I would use specifically for the drone so I had to change the cables in the remote control to allow it to connect. It’s a tad fiddly but once it done, its set to go. If you’re using a an iPhone, there’s no need to change the cable.
A bit about the remote control. Its brilliant and very simple to use. The joysticks are stored in the cavity where the phone holders fold over and they need to be screwed onto the controller. This is a great feature as it add to the portability of the package but it is another fiddly thing to do and it’s easy to drop the sticks. If you drop them in long grass, you may never find them again so care is needed when putting them in place and storing them again. Fortunately, DJI provides a spare set just in case.
When setting up the controller and phone for the first time, it’s essential to read all the steps on the control app carefully. Don’t do what I did and rush into it. There’s 2 different ways to control the drone. Either using the controller or just from the phone and this is explained in the setup procedure. Mixing up these two processes will confuse the system. Take it one step at a time.
For the first flight I took it to an open area of the estate we live in where there are no trees or houses nearby. Just a wide open space surrounded by paddocks. Perfect for the beginner. I was a little nervous at first but once in the air and getting a feeling for the controls, it all felt quite familiar. The Mavic Air is very easy to fly and very responsive to commands from the controller.
I gave the camera a test and, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much as it was pretty close to dusk and normally these sort of cameras don’t cope too well in low light. To my surprise, I was able to capture quite acceptable quality photos and video even in these conditions. There was also a bit of a gusty wind blowing just to make life more difficult for the Mavic Air but the gyro stabiliser works a treat. I can’t wait to give it a try in brighter daylight hours.
With the old drone, it had a tendency to loose contact with the controller or it would get too far away to discern which way it was pointing, making for a few skips of the heartbeat. No such issues with the Mavic Air. It has three safety features that give the novice flyer a high degree of confidence. Firstly, the two bright red LED lights in the front and green flashing LED at the back combine to give a great idea of the drone’s orientation. Then there’s the return to home function which commands the drone to fly back to the point it first took off from, all under its own control. I tested this a few times and it worked absolutely perfectly. The last safety feature is, if the drone loses contact with the controller, it will automatically go into return to home mode and fly back. Just brilliant.
For the moment its early days but right now I am completely wrapped with the Mavic Air. To have such a great camera that is on a drone that is easy to fly is brilliant but for it to be in bundled into such a small package overall is a revelation. The option to take the complete kit or just the drone itself and control it with just a smartphone makes it the perfect drone for the semi-professional on the go. For most caravanners and grey nomads, the DJI Spark might be a simpler drone to use but for the more adventurous RVers out there who are looking for a drone that can go anywhere easily, the Mavic Air is just awesome.
I can’t wait to get out there with it.