DJI Mavic Air 2: everything we know so far about DJI’s incoming drone
With much of the world in lockdown, it doesn't feel like perfect time to be launching a new drone. But DJI might be planning to cheer us all up and do just that with the release of the Mavic Air 2, a successor to the popular DJI Mavic Air from 2018.
DJI has announced a new launch event, titled "Up Your Game", which will be taking place on April 27 at 9.30am EDT / 2.30pm BST / 11.30pm AEST.
The event invite (below) doesn't give much away and it's possible that the name is instead referring to the launch of a new RoboMaster, which is a ground-based tank robot. But there's been a lot of rumors lately about the Mavic Air 2, including an FCC filing that confirmed the new drone's name.
This means we're tentatively expecting the Mavic Air 2 to be announced on April 27, even if it might not be immediately available to pre-order or buy. If you're unfamiliar with DJI's drone lineup, the Mavic Air is the company's mid-range model and became a popular all-rounder for both drone beginners and enthusiasts, thanks to its ability to shoot 4K video and fold down into a travel-friendly package.
The Mavic Air 2 leaks so far suggest its design will be closer to the larger, more expensive Mavic 2 Pro (which currently sits top of our best drones list) , but it'll still likely sit between that model and the smaller DJI Mavic Mini.
But could the Mavic Air 2 bring new features and trick shots that would see it replace the Mavic 2 Pro as our pick as the best drone for most people? Here's everything we know so far.
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DJI Mavic Air 2: release date and price
It looks likely that the DJI Mavic Air 2 will be launched at the event on April 27, even if there's an outside chance that launch event could be for a new RoboMaster instead.
Naturally, there is some uncertainty right now about release dates due to the knock-on effects of the coronavirus. Even if the Mavic Air 2 is announced on April 27, it's not guaranteed that it will be available from then for pre-order, so we'll have to wait until the event to find out.
There have been no leaks about DJI Mavic Air 2 pricing yet, but we can make some educated guesses based on the Mavic Air. That drone launched for $799 / £769 / AU$1,299 in early 2018 and, if the new Mavic Air 2 is indeed its successor, we'd expect the new drone's price to be in that ballpark, or perhaps slightly above it.
That's because that price is almost exactly halfway between the two other current drones in DJI's lineup. The smaller, beginner-friendly Mavic Mini costs $399 / £369 / AU$599, while the Mavic 2 Pro hasn't moved a great deal from its original $1,599 / £1,349 / $2,499 price tag.
This would make the new DJI Mavic the new mid-range option in its lineup, and this is backed up by the leaks so far…
DJI Mavic Air 2: design
Based on the five photos leaked by Kanzhaji, it looks like the new DJI Mavic will closely resemble the Mavic 2 series, only with a smaller form factor.
This means we'll get a folding drone, whose four arms can neatly fold away to help it it squeeze into a backpack. The design looks larger than the existing Mavic Air, but still more compact than the Mavic 2 Pro.
Aside from the new metallic base, one of the most notable features from these leaks are the number of sensors on this new drone. The Mavic Air had three-directional environment sensing, but the new Mavic looks closer to the 360-degree obstacle avoidance seen on the Mavic 2 series. This should make it even easier to fly, particularly for nervous beginners.
The busy underside – which includes DJI's dual vision system, infrared sensors and auxiliary LEDs – plus that new sensor on the back all combine to help the drone avoid obstacles and find its landing spot. DJI's tech in this department is pretty incredible, but it doesn't make the drones completely crash-proof, so you'll need to pay attention to your flying too.
One thing the leaked photos don't show very clearly is the camera and gimbal. It looks similar to the three-axis setup seen on the Mavic 2 Pro, but we don't yet know if the camera module will similarly be made by Hasselblad or what size sensor it has. It seems likely that DJI will reserve this for its more advanced Pro models, with the DJI Mavic sticking with a (possibly refreshed) 4K-shooting, 1/2.3-inch sensor.
Still, while we're not yet clear on the camera, it seems a little more certain that the DJI Mavic Air 2 will be getting a new controller that's different from the one on the DJI Mavic Air.
DJI Mavic Air 2: controller
The apparently leaked DJI photos also appear to reveal a new controller design, which is significantly different from the Mavic Air's.
It's a lot bigger, for a start, and it looks like you'll mount your phone on the top of the controller, rather than below it. This makes a lot of sense to us, though the bulkier form factor might prove a little divisive, given one of the charms of the Mavic Air is how neatly the whole setup folds away.
Rather than a single switch in the middle for Sport mode, there now seems to be a three-way toggle for Normal, Sport and Tripod modes. The latter is a useful intelligent flight mode, which limits your drone's speed and helps you get smoother set piece shots. Sport mode, meanwhile, effectively turns DJI drones into a racing drone, allowing you to hit faster top speeds (42.5mph, in the Mavic Air's case) and keep up with fast-moving objects.
Otherwise, the controller has the usual 'return-to-home' button, function button and battery status lights. From the photo, it also appears to have the handy screw-in joysticks, which means you can unscrew them when you're not flying so the controller slips into backpacks much more easily.
DJI Mavic Air 2: specs and features
The only real leaked spec we've seen so far for the Mavic Air 2 is its battery – an FCC filing revealed that it'll have a 3500mAh battery, which would be superior to the original Mavic Air's 2970mAh capacity.
It's difficult to say exactly how this will translate into flight time. As a rough guide, though, the current Mavic Air can manage around 21 minutes in the air, so we'd expect the Mavic Air 2 to manage at least 25 minutes of flight before needing to return home.
One other thing we can be sure of is that the Mavic Air 2 will have a new safety system called AirSense.
DJI said last year that all new drones it releases from 2020 (that weigh over 250g) will include AirSense tech, which receives ADS-B signals from nearby airplanes and helicopters and warns you if they're on a collision course with your drone.
To help back up that system, it looks like the DJI Mavic Air 2 will have advanced obstacle avoidance, if those leaked photos are correct. One shot shows that there are two rear sensors on the back, which would mean it would be a step up from the current Mavic Air's three-directional environment sensing.
It's not yet clear what sensor the new DJI Mavic will have. The current Mavic Air is able to shoot 4K video at 30fps at a decent bit-rate of 100Mbps and 12MP stills from its 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, which is the same as the Mavic 2 Zoom but smaller than Mavic 2 Pro's one-inch sensor. It's possible the new Mavic will bring support for new color profiles or HDR video, but we'll have to wait and see.
The recent leaks and FFC filings have confirmed that a DJI Mavic Air 2 is coming – exactly what features or specs it will have remain unclear, though, as does its release date.
Despite the uncertainty, we think it's likely that the Mavic Air 2 will be announced at DJI's event on April 27. The arrival of leaked photos and a FCC filing usually point to an imminent launch and despite the difficult timing, it seems DJI will be sticking to its original schedule for drone launches.
The prospect of a Mavic Air 2 is certainly exciting, particularly if does arrive with a similar price tag to the current Mavic Air. With safer and more stable flying, a longer battery life and a new controller all possible, it could turn out to be the best drone for most people. We'll bring you any official news as soon as we get it.
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