Product Reviews

DJI Does It Again: Mavic Air Review

Joe Coburn 23-02-2018
Our verdict of the DJI Mavic Air:
This is the smallest 4k drone we have ever flown. Buy it if you need a tiny but capable drone. Don't buy it if you're looking for a low light monster.

The Mavic Air is the follow up to the wildly popular Mavic Pro — a drone that I claimed was the best I have ever flown. The Pro is still being sold however, so the Air can be considered a sibling rather than a complete replacement. It’s also $200 cheaper than it’s Pro sibling.


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Join me as I see what this drone is made of!

It’s HOW small?!

The Air is astonishingly tiny. Just like the Pro, all its support arms fold out, providing a strong and stable chassis in a small and compact body.

DJI Does It Again: Mavic Air Review Mavic Air Folded

Measuring 168×83×49 mm when folded, and 168×184×64 mm when unfolded, the Air easily fits into bags such as the Peak Design Everyday Sling, and even some coat pockets. One of the biggest limitations of drones used to be their size. This little machine makes even the Mavic Pro look huge!


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The included controller is nearly bigger than the drone itself, and is the same design we’ve seen on the Spark and Pro. There’s no screen on this, however. While the fact that you get a controller is wonderful, it would be nice to see the premium controller that’s included with the Pro — although the Pro does cost $200 more than the $800 price point of the Air.

DJI Does It Again: Mavic Air Review Mavic Air Controller

This controller also houses some different features to the Pro. The Air uses Enhanced WiFi, whereas the Pro uses a technology called Occusync. In real terms, this means you can expect to get about 1.5 miles out of the Air, compared to the 4.5 mile range of the Pro.


Inside the box you’ll find a carry case, charging cable, battery and charger. This battery is also diminutive, but this size comes at a cost. DJI claim the Air battery will last up to 21 minutes, but realistically you can expect about 16 minutes of flight time.

DJI Does It Again: Mavic Air Review Mavic Air Battery

Finally, the Air sports a camera with a 3-axis stabilised gimbal. This can shoot at 4k (UHD) at 30 frames per second (FPS), or 1080p at up to 120FPS. The built in 8GB memory is not large enough to record a full flight in 4k, though. You’ll need to purchase a larger microSD card, or just be selective about pressing the capture button.

DJI Does It Again: Mavic Air Review Mavic Air


First Flights

Flying the Air is a surprisingly familiar experience. Just like the Pro and the Spark (with optional controller), you’ll need to install the DJI Go app (iOS/Android), and mount your device into the cradle below the controller. It’s possible to fly the Air with just your phone alone, but I don’t recommend this. Not only is it more difficult, but connecting to the controller also charges your device!

DJI Does It Again: Mavic Air Review DJI Mavic Air

One very cool controller feature is the flight sticks. These unscrew, and mount neatly into the base of the controller. This may seem insignificant, but this feature alone prevents the sticks from breaking in transit, and further reduces the footprint of the controller.

Once you’ve installed the app, updated your drone and registered if necessary, you can go fly! You’ll need to preform what I call the “drone dance”. A simply calibration routine that consists of rotating the drone a few times. Every drone requires this, and a it’s a simple enough process.


DJI Does It Again: Mavic Air Review DJI Mavic Air 2

Once calibrated, you can either press a button and have the Air handle lift-off for you, or you can take off yourself by pointing both sticks to the bottom corners.

Upon flying, you’ll probably be greeted with a series of beeps from the controller. This is the obstacle avoidance. The Air is equipped with forward and rear facing sensors, and these work much like parking assist in a modern car. The camera feed on your mobile phone shows green, yellow, or red lines, showing the proximity of nearby obstacles. Like the other drones in the DJI range, this works very well, but can be a bit annoying if you’re looking to achieve a complex shot. It’s easily disabled, however.

DJI Does It Again: Mavic Air Review DJI Mavic Air 3

While the vast majority of the settings are set with the app, the controller does have a few buttons. There are buttons to start/stop recording, take a photo, and adjust the gimbal. On the front there’s a function button, which you can assign to anything you like, along with a return to home button. Right in the middle is a dedicated sport mode switch. Sport mode transforms the drone from a rather lethargic bee to an angry hornet.

Top speed is increased to a maximum of 42.5 mph, which is insane, quite frankly. You’ll want to ensure you’ve had sufficient practice and are in a wide open space before you try this out.

Image Quality

Image quality is surprisingly good. 4k video looks stunning, as does 1080p and photos. You’ll probably want to shoot in manual mode however. Like many cameras, shooting into bright light does mean the camera will underexpose any shadows, for example.

DJI Does It Again: Mavic Air Review River

The Air has a bitrate of 100 mbps. This solves many issues that the Pro struggles with, dues to its 40 mbps bitrate. Often the Pro would lose detail in busy or fast moving scenes, and I’m pleased to report that this is no longer the case with the Air.

If you’re not too sure on your bitrates, then check out our guide to bitrates What Is Bitrate & Why Is It Important? [MakeUseOf Explains] With today's technology, we can expect high amounts of speed and quality with everything that we do on our computers, our smartphones, and any other recent gadgets. However, while this increase in speed and quality... Read More article!

While this increased bitrate really helps with the video quality, you’ll need very fast microSD cards to utilise it.

As expected, the 4k footage is breathtaking, and 1080p footage is pretty good as well! Slow motion 60FPS in 1080p is ok, but 120FPS is pretty terrible. All the quality goes, and the footage becomes soft and generally much lower quality. The Air clearly struggles with slow motion, just like the Pro does.

DJI Does It Again: Mavic Air Review Sheep

If you’re going for that cinematic look, you’ll definitely want to pick up a set of drone filters, which will really help you to reduce your shutter speed in bright daylight.

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Low light video, however, is a different story. Anything above 200 ISO is asking for trouble, and even high triple digit settings such as ISO 800 are incredibly noisy. Clearly, dusk flights are not its strong suit. Again, many of these drawbacks are similar to those of the Pro. While digital noise is a little finer on the Air, it’s still there, and really starts to degrade the image quality.

DJI Does It Again: Mavic Air Review House

Should You Buy the Mavic Air?

It’s no secret that here at MakeUseOf we’re big fans of drones. Last year alone we reviewed the DJI Spark DJI Spark: The Little Drone That Could (Review and Giveaway!) A tiny drone with no 4K video, for $500? Either DJI have gone mad, or made they've made a superb little drone that's worth every penny. Read on to find out! Read More , Yuneec Breeze Yuneec Breeze 4k Selfie Drone Review The Breeze 4k is the newest drone by Hong Kong manufacturers Yuneec. At 200mm (8 inches) across, the Breeze is tiny – but at a cost of $500, it's not exactly an entry level drone. Read More , GoPro Karma GoPro Karma Drone Review and Giveaway The Karma is GoPro's first foray into the drone market. The device underwent a global recall when it was first released last year, but it's back and ready to take on the world. Read More , and the DJI Phantom 4 DJI Phantom 4 Review DJI's Phantom 4 was the first to introduce smart features, like obstacle avoidance and return-to-home. But it's not cheap, at just over $1000 for the basic kit. Read More . Be sure to check those reviews out before making a final decision.

If you’re looking for a tiny drone, that also happens to shoot some incredible 4k video as well, then you won’t be disappointed with the Mavic Air. From its tiny size, to the camera, this is one epic little drone.

DJI Does It Again: Mavic Air Review Mavic Air 2

If you can afford the extra money however, and space isn’t an issue, you should probably buy the Mavic Pro. Just $200 more gets you much further range, a quieter drone, a better controller, and many more features.

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Sure, the Air does a lot of things better than the Pro, but considering DJI are continuing to produce the Pro says a lot about their market and products.

Enter the Competition!

Mavic Air Giveaway

Related topics: 4K, Drone Technology, Filmmaking, Slow-Motion Video.

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  1. mark michael parreno
    August 22, 2018 at 6:01 am

    did i win?

  2. Gokul Krish
    March 14, 2018 at 3:33 am

    I am a big fan of mavic air and this channel to.I entered into this contest.when is the winner announsmentand I believe that I will win.lots of entries .but I believe

  3. Man Bdr Rai
    February 28, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    I love the review video it awesome this drone is so cool

  4. Jordi Lopez
    February 27, 2018 at 9:49 pm

    It's a spectacular drone,thanks for the raffle and luck to all.

  5. Kilgore Trout
    February 27, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    42.5mph!!! That's fast for a drone!

  6. sijil o
    February 27, 2018 at 9:14 am

    sick drone , the wide angle , 4k , modes . its a definitely a better upgrade for spark & mavic users

  7. Emilly
    February 25, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    When and where will the winner be announced? :)

  8. Redfield
    February 24, 2018 at 10:56 am

    Nice article .. I'll just tell you Something .
    I'm working on a call center and somehow we have access to your website and it's the only website we can visit due to restriction here . I'm always wondering how we can't even access any website even Wikipédia or google translate as these two basically should be accessible, but you know call centers are like manufactories of 16e .

    I can't access the link to register for the giveaway , if you can do that for me it would be great :) i want to Enter the Competition! as i'm a big fan of drones ..

    However, keep up the good work ,your posts contains good information .