I get the sense that most pilots are sceptical of drones, particularly those flown by hobbyists. But, there’s no denying that even ‘recreational’ drones are impressive gadgets. They’re here to stay, and their rate of development is incredible – the DJI Mavic packs top-end capabilities into a drone that folds up to fit in your pocket.
Multi-rotor camera drones, such as the Phantoms, are all the rage. At least half a dozen pop up each month on the CAA register – and those are the ones being registered. They’re great for aerial photography and checking out the world from above through the screen of your cell phone. But carrying them around with you can be a hassle. So, DJI have developed the Mavic, a drone with 95% of the Phantom’s capabilities, but which folds up to less than half the size.
When you’re ready to fly, you unfold the propeller arms, pull off the domed camera cover, and slide out the camera gimbal lock. Preparations complete, you find yourself with a solid drone similar in size to the Phantom. Folding open the arms at the bottom of the controller makes space for your phone, and you’re ready to go. As soon as you apply power, the Mavic’s blades fling themselves out to full length (21 cm).
The Mavic is simple and stable in the air. It has forward-facing obstacle avoidance built in, so it’ll warn you when you’re coming close to something and even prevent you from flying into it. Top speed is about 65 km/h, and it holds a steady hover. However, on a windy day, the Mavic finds itself working overtime to stay in one spot. Transmission range is up to 7 km in open terrain.
Handy flight modes include ‘ActiveTrack’, which, by drawing a box around your subject on the screen, prompts the drone to follow the subject; ‘Points of Interest’, which automatically circles your target, and ‘Waypoints’, allowing you to move the drone precisely between points in space. In ‘Gesture’ mode, the camera will take a selfie of you when you wave at it – making it the ultimate selfie stick. Finally, ‘Tripod’ mode makes the drone extra slow and precise, particularly good for indoor work.
The Mavic’s camera has a sharp 4K/24 frames per second imaging system that can also shoot DNG, RAW and JPG photos. Field of view is the equivalent of a 28 mm lens on a 35 mm camera.
When it comes to landing, the Mavic won’t let you fly below about 50 cm over the ground, but if you hold the throttle stick down it will commence its own automatic landing. While it’s descending, you can still move it horizontally for precise positioning. You do need to be careful where you put it down, because the props are close to the ground, so can easily get wrapped up in long grass.
The Mavic is available from Droneworld for R17,995, which is a competitive price for a drone with its capabilities.