- Mark Wison | TechRadar
Is a successor to the original Mavic Air preparing for lift-off?
Drones are back, it seems. Just months after we were treated to the Mavic Mini, a new DJI Mavic appears to have leaked – and it could be the Mavic Air 2, a successor to the popular DJI Mavic Air from 2018.
The name is far from confirmed, as the leaked drone appears to be somewhere between a Mavic Air and the Mavic 2 Pro in size and features. But with the former now over two years old and largely sold out in stores, it looks like a mid-range drone will be DJI's first model of 2020.
So what exactly will this new Mavic bring to the flying camera party? DJI's original Mavic Air become its all-rounder offering for drone beginners and enthusiasts, offering 4K video in a travel-friendly, folding package. And from what we've seen so far, that drone looks like this apparently leaked drone's spiritual predecessor.
This means it would likely sit between the Mavic Mini – an even smaller drone that narrowly dips under the weight requiring registration, under new laws in the US and UK – and the Mavic 2 Pro.
The latter is currently top of our best drones list, largely thanks to its big one-inch sensor, and it seems likely that the DJI Mavic Air 2 will again sit beneath it in terms of specs and size.
But could the Mavic Air 2 (or simply DJI Mavic, as some have speculated) 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.
DJI Mavic Air 2: release date and price
The latest rumors suggest that a new mid-range DJI Mavic, possibly called the Mavic Air 2, will be launched in April 2020.
This was backed up by what appeared to be a fairly significant leak from Chinese drone site Kanzhagi on March 10.
Naturally, there is some uncertainty right now about launch dates due to the knock-on effects of the coronavirus. But if the DJI Mavic Air 2 is as advanced as the leaks suggest, then it's certainly possible that an April 2020 launch could go ahead with pre-orders, with ultimate availability to be confirmed at a later date.
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 is indeed its successor, we'd expect the new drone's price to be in that ballpark.
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 Kanzhagi, 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
Although no specs have been leaked DJI's new Mavic yet, there is one thing we can be sure – it'll 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 360-degree 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.
One other feature that seems likely on the Mavic Air's successor, given its apparently greater size, is an improved battery life. This is one of the main drawbacks with the current Mavic Air, which is rated for 21 minutes of flight time, but more realistically gives you 18 to 19 minutes of flight before needing to return home. We're hopeful that DJI's new drone will keep going for nearer the 30 minutes of the Mavic 2 series.
The leaks so far certainly suggest that DJI is preparing to release a mid-range drone that will succeed the Mavic Air soon – exactly what features, specs or name it will have remain unclear, as does how much its release date will be affected by the knock-on effects of the coronavirus.
But the Mavic that has seemingly been revealed in recent photos 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.
Original article at TechRadar, here.
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