Baler, Aurora—If you’ve never flown a drone before, how hard could it be? This is what I sought to answer on a recent trip with DJI distributor MSI-ECS. They wanted us to try out one of DJI’s newest drones, the Mavic Air—one that’s marketed as a consumer drone you’d want to take on your next adventure.
The Mavic Air sits itself between the Mavic Pro and Spark. It’s considered as the most practical option for those looking to get a drone now as it’s more portable than the Mavic Pro, but also offers more features than the Spark.
It’s certainly an easy drone to carry around as it’s foldable and almost the same size as the bigger smartphones out on the market. At the same time, it packs in a 1/2.3” 12-megapixel CMOS sensor, 3-axis gimbal, 4K video support, and a lot of features that will help even newbies like me feel comfortable operating it.
Some of the key technologies that make this possible include its ability to stay in its altitude and position when you’re not touching the control sticks; a collision avoidance system, which means it won’t run into obstacles it detects via its three-directional environment sensing capability; and vision positioning system, which detects the floor underneath it even when you’re indoors and it gets cut off from GPS.
One of the first things we were taught that afternoon was to let go when in doubt, to not force the drone to head in any direction since it has packed into it technologies that will help keep it up in the air while you try to re-orient yourself.
If you’re unsure of getting the Mavic Air off the ground, the accompanying DJI GO 4 app can launch and land the drone for you. But if you are familiar with flying a DJI drone, you can have the Mavic Air take off and land manually. It doesn’t take too long to learn this part, nerves aside you can do so fairly easily. Just push the joy sticks downward into the corners to start the propellers and you can have it off the ground soon.
Like with the other DJI drones, there are a lot of fail-safes integrated into the Mavic Air and its remote control to make sure you don’t accidentally hurt anyone around you or damage any property. It starts from powering on the drone. You need to tap the power button once and then do another long press to get it to switch on. Its collision avoidance system stops it from flying right into anything, the caveat to this though is you’ll need to be in a well-lit area for it to work. I saw this in action as we were flying in groups in an open area. The drone wouldn’t land or take off when it detects we were too close to it nor would it fly too close to someone else. Its return home feature will make sure the drone makes its way back to you when you’ve flown it out far enough and you aren’t confident yet of getting it back on your own or when it detects your battery is running low and you need to charge it.
The Mavic Air is as responsive as you’d expect and it flies as jittery as its pilot. With proper practice though, you can have it gliding easily in the air. It takes some getting used to when it comes to holding the remote control and the control sticks but once you have that down, you can start experimenting with your shots. It was emphasized to us how important it is to get comfortable with flying the drone. It isn’t just about relying on the pre-selected modes, return home feature, support for hand gestures, or even the automated takeoff and landing options. You would need to be a good drone pilot first before you become a great aerial photographer or videographer.
This drone is certainly made to make it easier for both newbies and professionals to get the shots you want. It has a 21-minute flight time, maximum video transmission distance of 4km, and top speed of 68.4kph (in Sport mode with no wind). Plus, it has those intelligent modes you can use to get the creative shots you want. There’s the Mavic Air-specific Asteroid, Sphere Panorama, Rocket, Helix, and many more other ways to get some pretty cool shots of you and your surroundings.
While intimidating at first glance, especially with all the information you see on the app, the actual flying itself isn’t as complicated if you concentrate on what you’re doing. It felt a lot like driving a radio-controlled car. And the ease of using the Mavic Air made it a great learning experience. I’d definitely do it again if I could.
MSI-ECS sells the DJI Mavic Air for P61,000 and it comes in what is called a Fly More Combo, which includes the remote control, intelligent flight battery and battery charging hub, propellers and propeller guards, charger, power cable, battery to power bank adapter, RC cables (Lightning connector, standard microUSB connector, USB Type-C connector), communication cable (USB 3.0 Type-C), USB adapter, carrying case, travel bag, gimbal protector, RC cable slider, and spare control sticks. The Mavic Air is available in Onyx Black, Arctic White, and Flame Red.