What drone to buy in 2018?

Ismael Vorajee / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
The DJI Mavic Air boasts a flight time of 21 minutes. Courtesy of DJI

Nobody does drones better than DJI. The company – without a solid competitor – can afford to take its foot off the pedal, revel in its past glory, and continue living off the fame of its hugely successful commercial Phantom series.

But that’s not the DJI way. The Chinese behemoth – the world leader in civilian drone and aerial imaging technology and whose products account for 85 percent of the global consumer drone market – have recently added a further product to their already impressive arsenal; the DJI Mavic Air.

The Mavic Air – priced at $799 – fills the slot between the 2016 Mavic Pro and 2017’s Spark. The cheaper Spark can be had for $399 and the Mavic Pro standard package will set consumers back at least $999. Meanwhile, the new Air is a compromise.

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The above products while all lacking killer features from DJI famed Phantom series, are still supremely capable for consumer and hobbyist use.

The Mavic Air, weighing in at just 430g, is a compact quadcopter bursting with sensors. A 4K camera (24 or 30 fps) handles video, while an intelligent gimbal and onboard storage make the entire package an intriguing prospect for those wanting to dip their toes into drone videography.

DJI claim the Mavic Air can boast 21 minutes of flight time on a charge – some eight minutes less than the Mavic Pro.

The Mavic Air is remarkably small. DJI state a folded drone has the footprint of a large phone and while this is somewhat true – real-world dimensions place the Mavic Air similar to a small bag of sugar. At a height of just two-inches it can be safely stowed away in a backpack.

Now on to how it flies! With a fully charged drone, controller and companion DJI Go cell phone application a first flight is a simple affair, even for novices. The Mavic Air’s array of on-board sensors enable it to detect objects around it. Coupled with an object avoidance algorithm, the device is pretty adept at avoiding crashing headfirst into trees and walls.

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DJI says the Mavic Air has a range of 2.4 miles and thanks to the new Wi-Fi connection with the controller this claim is largely true. While the video feed beamed to your cell phone can experience pixilation and glitching at such a range, the connection with the controller is very good.

Speaking of the camera, the Mavic Air is equipped with a 4K-capable sensor. HDR, higher bitrates of 100Mbps and are a clear upgrade from the cheaper Spark model.

So if you are a beginner in the market for your first drone is the Mavic Air worth a $799 investment or should you plump for the cheaper – at half the price – Spark?

Or could you could be tempted to spend an extra $200 by the $999 Mavic Pro.

The Mavic Air is perhaps the best compromise and currently offers the best value in DJI’s consumer product lineup. An updated design, upgraded components and a reasonable price tag make this drone the smart decision for beginners and hobbyists alike.

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