DJI Mavic Air vs. Mavic Pro vs: Spark? It’s a tough decision, but the answer is actually pretty clear depending on your needs and budget.
In a little more than a year, DJI has launched a slew of drones — all extremely accessible, easy-to-fly, (relatively) affordable and wildly popular.
The DJI Mavic Pro with 4K video, which launched in October 2016 wowed fans for being a foldable drone — the Chinese dronemaker’s most compact drone at the time. Then DJI came out a few months later with the DJI Spark in May 2017. It was smaller (though not foldable), but it really sparked fans’ attention with its gesture control abilities, turning drones into the stuff of Jedi Mind Tricks. It was a slightly lesser quality drone in terms of camera quality, and features like the RC transmitter came at an extra cost, but it still seemed an incredible valuable nonetheless.
And now, the DJI Mavic Air seemingly combines the best of both worlds. It’s incredibly small and folds up to be even smaller. It has the 4K video of the Mavic Pro, plus the gesture control capabilities of the DJI Spark.
But is the Mavic Air necessarily going to cannibalize the Mavic Pro and Spark? In most cases, yes, actually.
When the DJI Mavic Pro came out, I thought that DJI had reached peak perfection with a drone. Boy, was I wrong. The DJI Mavic Air is way better than the DJI Mavic Pro.
The DJI Mavic Air combines the best of both worlds of the Mavic Pro and Spark. It’s about the size of a Spark in flight, but folds up like the Mavic Pro to become even smaller. It has the Spark’s nifty gesture control, but it also has the Mavic Pro’s 4K video.
And best of all, while it’s a huge improvement over the Mavic Pro, it’s $799 — less than the price the Mavic Pro was when it launched.
The Mavic Air is incredibly small and nimble. It’s about 8 inches diagonally across, and it weighs less than a pound. It makes the Mavic Pro look kind of huge — which is surprising given how small the Mavic Pro felt when it was announced.
The DJI Mavic Air can fly for just over 20 minutes on one battery. It comes in three colors — white, red or black. There are also sensor improvements, with a sensor that detects objects on both the front AND back of the drone. That’s amazing processing power, given how small this drone is.
DJI also made some improvements to its camera technology with the Mavic Air, including removing the delay in the shutter when it is triggered, and better highlight and lowlight details. The drone also has TapFly and ActiveTrack features, along with improvements such as “TapFly Backward Mode.”
The Mavic Air also comes with two big changes to the RC transmitter. The transmitter doesn’t have a built-in screen like the Mavic Pro does, alerting you of things like battery life, flight modes, etc. It pretty much guarantees that in order to use the Mavic Air, you’ll need to rely on a smartphone app to translate what all the various beeps mean while in flight.
The other major change is that the joysticks on the RC transmitter can actually be removed. At first I was a little surprised by the decision to make the joysticks removable. “Is this REALLY necessary?” I thought. Turns out, it really helps when packing the drone away.
However, those little joysticks can get lost super easily. I’ve already had one small heart attack over losing them — though the easy solution for forgetful folk is to simply never unscrew them.
That being said, I’ll still withhold the title of “perfect” on this drone, because there are some issues I’ve found in my year of flying the Mavic Pro that still haven’t been fixed with the Mavic Air. Namely, the RC transmitter. DJI’s drone design is simply flawless, but it seems that care given to the drone itself has been ignored on the RC transmitter. The spot to hold an iPhone just doesn’t quite fit perfect. It’s clunky to tap the iPhone’s home button when the phone is connected to the transmitter. Most phone cases must also be removed to connect them. Maybe Android users are exempt from the RC transmitter issues (I’ve never used one with a drone!) but the user experience connecting an iPhone to the drone just isn’t quite there — and never improved upon with the Mavic Air.
The DJI Mavic Air is the second drone I’ve ever reviewed that I thought that I’ve truly, 100% fallen in love with. (The first was the Mavic Pro). It’s a drone everyone needs. It’s easy to fly, takes gorgeous images and even more portable than the Mavic Pro.
I can’t wait for you to get your hands on it. Happy flying!
The Lily drone has had a rough go — and things haven’t gotten better since its release.
It’s a nice little drone with a decent camera that’s extremely easy to fly and set up. But the big problem? At $699, the Lily drone is 5x more expensive than what it should be.
A brief history of Lily Drone:
For the uninitiated, Lily launched to much fanfare in 2015 on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, raising $34 million in pre-orders. The promo video showed a sleek drone that took off when thrown in the air and could navigate around objects — something no drones were able to do at the time.
The Wall Street Journal put Lily on its list of products “that will change your life,” and the drone’s cofounders were named in Fortune’s 30 Under 30.
(Drone Girl has a policy against reporting on Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns because there is little to no guarantee the drones will come to production in the form they were promised.)
Of course, Lily was a textbook example of that.
After a series of delays and hundreds of angry customers, Lily’s creators eventually admitted they couldn’t finance production and said they would give refunds to backers.
The drone embodies the spirit of a Jedi using the Force — you don a controller on your wrist, and control it entirely with the movement of your hands.
There’s no RC transmitter or phone app involved, so the control of the drone entirely is up to the way you wave your hand. Tilt your hand up, and the drone flies higher. Tilt your palm toward your body, and the drone comes to the ground. A certain flick of your wrist will also make the drone flip.
Trackimo has been making 3G GPS tracker devices for years — to give to kids or elderly relatives who might get lost, or to add to cars. But the company recently developed one specifically designed for drones.
The Aerix drone racing kit is the complete package for getting into indoor drone racing. It’s called the Nano FPV Indoor Drone Racing Package, and for $245 (* currently on sale for $195!) offers everything you need to get started drone racing, including the controller, goggles, and even light-up archways to fly through.
Looking for a drone that costs less than $200? The market is saturated with cheap, toy drones, and it can be tough to filter out which is the best.
Toy drones under $200 are great for a variety of purposes, including introducing kids to drone flying and practicing on yourself before you fly a more expensive drone (you really don’t want to mix up your left and and your right and accidentally fly your new DJI Mavic into a pool).
Note that while all of these drones technically can take videos, the video quality is pretty low — think about the same quality as the camera on your Razr phone back in year 2004. But, for such a low price and ease of use, these drones are a great gateway into the world of drone flying.
All of these drones are also “FPV” drones, meaning they offer a smartphone app you can connect your drone to, and see in real time what the drone’s camera sees.