Mavic Air 2 marks a massive leap forward for DJI's foldable camera drone
DJI has upgraded its popular lightweight foldable camera drone range with the release of the new Mavic Air 2, juicing up the camera, the control communications and the battery, and giving it the ability to detect other aircraft in the area.
The Mavic series was revolutionary on its debut in 2017, packing the features of the much larger Phantom drones into a foldable device you could throw in a backpack. The Mavic made it a breeze to take an aerial camera with you on a hike, a ride or a trip, and it spawned a series of offspring, including the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom, the Mavic Mini and the Mavic Air.
Looked at from above, the Air was barely bigger than a smartphone, but offered a decent little gimbal-stabilized 2.7K camera, 21 minutes of flight time, and some intelligent flight features for an impressive sticker price of US$799. The Mavic Air 2 is equally tiny and keeps the affordable price tag, but it's an absolute beast in comparison.
The camera, for starters, uses a larger, 1/2-inch sensor, set in a new rectangular casing reminiscent of the Hasselblad-branded box hanging off the Mavic Pro 2. Stills resolution quadruples to a crazy 48 megapixels, while its video capabilities leap up to give you 4K/60fps shooting. In terms of slow motion, the Air 2 can give you an enormous 240 fps at 1080p resolution – that's 10x slow-mo if you're presenting at a cinematic 24 fps.
New HDR shooting modes vastly extend the dynamic range of the shot, filling the darker and brighter areas of the image with color and detail at resolutions up to 4K/30fps. It'll do the same with stills, capturing seven exposures at once and blending them into a single 12-megapixel image. Similar multiple-capture technology can grab vastly better shots in low light situations, reducing noise substantially in a new "hyperlight" mode. These are wrapped up in a new scene-detecting "Smartphoto" mode that looks like it'll deliver superior photos in almost all circumstances if you don't mind the resolution drop. These shots can be wrapped up into automatic panoramas, too.
Intelligent video modes abound as well; you get your standard Dronie, Circle, Helix, Rocket, Boomerang and wacky projection-stitching Asteroid modes built in for one-touch shooting, but it also gets a beefed-up AI object-tracking suite, capable either of flying itself while tracking an object or letting you fly the drone while it keeps the camera fixed on a target. There are also multiple modes for hyperlapse shooting as well, which look pretty incredible around busy urban areas where you're not supposed to fly these things.
A bigger battery, as well as optimized flight electronics, gives this little monster a full 34 minutes of flight time in optimal conditions, and a top speed of 68 km/h (42 mph). A vastly upgraded OcuSync 2.0 transmission system allows you to fly the Mavic Air 2 up to 10 km (6.2 mi) away, while still streaming HD video back to your screen in real time. Extraordinary. The furthest away I've ever flown a drone was around half that distance, in the Mongolian wilderness, and I found even that distance absolutely terrifying. The Air 2 will happily livestream to YouTube from two suburbs over.
The Air 2 also gets obstacle avoidance, packing in front and rear sensors capable of detecting things up to 23.6 m (77.4 ft) away – just not when you're flying sideways, which is when I've had the most crashes personally. The Advanced Pilot Assistance System 3.0 will reroute you away from trouble if it spots it.
The redesigned controller looks simple and streamlined, if a little bigger than previous Mavic controllers. Its runtime is also improved, with a 240-minute battery life. And the Air 2 becomes the first DJI drone to get a built-in AirSense system that communicates with nearby planes and helicopters to give you very clear warnings when you're flying too close to something that doesn't like sharing airspace.
The drone, controller and a battery are yours for $799, and as usual there's a $988 "fly more" combo with three batteries, a charging hub, a shoulder bag and a set of ND darkening filters to help you capture better footage in bright lighting conditions.
The Mavic Air 2 is available now in China, and should get to other markets around mid-May. Check out a video below.