On April 27'th, 2020, DJI released its latest drone – the Mavic Air 2. Aimed at the hobbyist, the Mavic Air 2 comes with new features not yet seen on a DJI drone, as well as numerous upgrades over its predecessor, the Mavic Air. But is the hype surrounding this new drone warranted, and should you upgrade?
I've had a blast spending many hours testing the Mavic Air 2, and I can confidently say that this is hands-down the best mid-range drone you can buy, to date. Read on to see how I came to that conclusion!
Full transparency- I aim to accomplish two things with this post. I'll highlight Mavic Air 2's biggest specs and explain how it's different from its predecessor. Secondly, I do my best to help you decide if this drone is right for you. I receive a small commission if you choose to buy from a link on this page, at no additional cost to you. Your support is much appreciated!
What has been upgraded with Mavic Air 2?
Released in 2018, DJI has had two years to upgrade the original Mavic Air. These long-awaited upgrades consist of a newly designed controller, APAS 3.0, OcuSync 2.0, a camera that captures 48 MP stills, and a lot more! Let's break this up into categories.
You were able to choose between a red, white, or black version when choosing the original Mavic Air. Grey is the only color that the Mavic Air 2 comes in, which matches the Mavic Mini and Mavic Pro line. The flare of a bright red Mavic Air was appealing, but I have to say that the grey is a bit more “official” looking.
At 183x253x77 mm (unfolded), the Mavic Air 2 is slightly larger than the Mavic Air which sits at 168x184x64 mm (unfolded). The Mavic Air 2 weighs 570 g (1.26 lb), 140 g heavier than the Mavic Air which comes in at 430 g (.95 lb).
The larger Mavic Air 2 makes it slightly less portable than its predecessor, but the added weight really helps to stabilize the drone in heavier winds.
Keeping the Mavic Air 2 in the air for an acclaimed 34 minutes is a 3500 mAh battery, which is a huge improvement over the Mavic Air which has a 2375 mAh battery and an acclaimed 21-minute flight time. The 34-minute flight time of the Mavic Air 2 is the longest out of any DJI drone – impressive!
One of the biggest complaints that the drone community had with the original Mavic Air were the connectivity issues. DJI used a WiFi transmission system with the Mavic Air, which lead to short ranges and flights flooded with interference – especially for those flying in the city.
DJI listened to the masses and upgraded the transmission system in the Mavic Air 2 to OcuSync 2.0, which is the same system used by DJI's top-end Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom. What does this mean for real-world usage? Not only will the connection between your drone and RC be more stable, but we now have a 10 km (6.2 mi) max transmission distance with the Mavic Air 2, up from 4 km (2.5 mi) we had with the Mavic Air.
Here are the benefits of OcuSync 2.0 over a WiFi transmission system:
- Less latency (less video lag)
- More stable connection
- Longer range
- 2.4 and 5.8 GHz operating frequencies
- 1080p live view (vs 720p on MA)
Apparently, DJI thought the original Mavic Air was quick enough. The Mavic Air 2 matches its predecessor's max flight speed of 42.5 mph. This doesn't quite rival the Mavic 2 Pro's 44.7 mph max speed, but it's quite a bit quicker than DJI's entry-level Mavic Mini (29 mph) and it just barely edges out the original Mavic Pro (40 mph).
The Mavic Air 2 is equipped with a 1/2″ CMOS sensor – a welcomed upgrade over the smaller 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor found on the Mavic Air.
While both drones are able to capture JPEG and RAW images, the Mavic Air 2 is now able to take 48 MP stills, which is a gigantic jump from the 12 MP stills of the Mavic Air. Incredible! We now have a new Smart Photo option as well when capturing stills.
The Mavic Air 2 is capable of recording 4K 60 fps videos and HD1080 240 fps videos (great for slow-motion), which outperforms the Mavic Air's 4K 30p and HD1080 120p camera capabilities. It's worth noting that these particular Mavic Air 2's specs top the more expensive Mavic 2 Pro, which records 4K at 30p and HD1080 at 120p.
Adding to the higher quality video's of the Mavic Air 2 is the 120 Mbps bitrate, up from the 100 Mbps bitrate found on Mavic Air's videos. Mavic Air 2 supports both H.264 and H.265 video formats, whereas you were only given the option of H.264 with the Mavic Air.
Lastly, as with the Mavic Air, the Mavic Air 2 has D-Cinelike – a flatter color profile. This is DJI's way of giving us more control of how we want the color profile to look in post-production, but D-Cinelike isn't quite on par with the Mavic 2 Pro's 10-bit Dlog-M.
Safety and Obstacle Avoidance
The Mavic Air and Mavic Air 2 both have forward, backward and downward sensors to protect the drone from collisions. I think we were all hoping for upward and side sensors with the new Mavic Air 2, but it looks like DJI is restricting the additional sensors to their top-end Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom.
What the Mavic Air 2 does have that I am thrilled about is the Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) 3.0. For those of you who aren't familiar with APAS, it's a system that uses your drone's sensors to alter your flight path to fly around an object that you're headed towards.
APAS was introduced with the original Mavic Air, but it wasn't perfect. Being the first system of its kind on a DJI drone, APAS would often not detect smaller objects or the drone would simply not figure out an algorithm that allowed it to navigate around an object.
The Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom were released with APAS 2.0, which saw improvements over Mavic Air's APAS 1.0.
We are now on APAS 3.0 with Mavic Air 2, and DJI has really stepped up their game. This is likely because of the pressure that Skydio has placed on them with their Skydio 2 drone. Known in the industry as the best “follow-me” drone, the Skydio 2 was leaps and bounds ahead of what DJI had to offer.
Has this changed with the release of Mavic Air 2? Well, I'll say that the gap is closing. The Mavic Air 2 avoids obstacles (in a direction it has sensors in) better than any drone that DJI has released to date, but it's not yet on par with the omnidirectional sensing Skydio 2.
What I can really appreciate with this new APAS 3.0 is that the Mavic Air 2 did not collide with anything during my testing. I certainly put it through its paces, and although it came close a few times, the drone would stop and hover if it got too close to an object. Maybe it's a bit frustrating that the drone can't always find a path around objects, but I'd rather it hover in place if it's not confident that a safe path could be calculated.
Discussed above, the OcuSync 2.0 transmission system in the RC of Mavic Air 2 is a huge upgrade to the WiFi transmission system on Mavic Air. That said, the internal components are not the only changes we see with the RC.
The controller was completely redesigned for the Mavic Air 2. Not only is it different from the Mavic Air's, but its design is not one we've seen on any of DJI's drones – until now.
Mavic Air 2 takes a page out of DJI's Phantom lineup of drones in that you mount your phone on the top of the RC, which is different from the bottom mounting design that we see with every other Mavic. So, is that better or worse? Well, without getting too much into the minutia, I'll give you two reasons why I think a top mounting design is better.
- It's easier to see a screen that's mounted on the top of the RC as you don't have to look down as far.
- The RC feels more balanced with the phone on top.
Different from any other DJI controller is the placement of the antennae. Until now, the phone/tablet mount and the antennae were two separate pieces on the RC. The antennae on Mavic Air 2's RC now make up part of the phone/tablet mount, requiring one less step when preparing for flight.
DJI integrated a permanent Lightning cable for iOS users, but in the box are USB Type-C and Micro USB cables as well.
Lastly, I will say that although I feel that this controller is an upgrade over its predecessors', the controller is physically bigger than other Mavic controllers. Something to keep in mind if portability is a huge deal for you.
The Mavic Air 2 is able to track subjects better than any DJI drone I've tested. Focus Track is DJI's overarching name for the various tracking modes that we have. Here are the different Focus Track modes that the Mavic Air 2 has.
With Spotlight, the drone's camera keeps a lock on the subject, but the drone itself does not move.
Active Track: Trace
Active Track is one of the most common features that people use with DJI drones. You have no doubt seen (if not used, yourself) many videos of people demonstrating Active Track. Trace Active Track is where the Mavic Air 2 will follow behind the selected subject.
With APAS 3.0, Trace Active Track has gotten that much better! I really am impressed by how well this drone was able to follow me through paths that were surrounded by trees.
Active Track: Parallel
Similar to Trace in that the drone follows the subject, with Active Track Parallel the drone follows the subject, but from the side. It is intended for the drone to follow the profile view of its subject.
With my testing I've found that this Parallel mode does okay if I am not too sudden with my movements, but it does have a hard time remaining on my side if I move quickly.
Point of Interest
Once selected, you can instruct the drone to circle the subject in either direction with Point of Interest Focus Track. I have to say that I'm very impressed by how far I was able to fly the drone away while it kept a lock on me. This is a great mode for those using drones for real estate or anything else that requires 360 views of an object.
Quickshots are preset flight paths that DJI integrates into the drone to make getting cinematic shots a breeze. Select the desired Quickshot and the drone will automatically begin flying and recording video. When the Quickshot is completed, the drone will return to its starting position.
That Mavic Air and the Mavic Air 2 have six different Quickshot modes: Dronie, Circle, Helix, Rocket, Boomerang, and Asteroid.
I'm hoping that DJI allows for some additional Quickshot modes with future firmware updates. Additionally, one limitation is that we are limited to 1080 at 30fps, so no 4K video for Quickshot modes at this time on the Mavic Air 2.
I will say though that I'm very pleased with the performance of the Quickshots on the Mavic Air 2. While testing, not once did I have any errors or instances where the Quickshot did not execute the proper course.
A new feature for the Mavic Air 2 is the 8K Hyperlapse mode. This is where the drone will take a series of still images while you either control the drone's heading or have it follow a preset path. After the images have been taken, the Fly app will stitch them together to create a hyperlapse.
The Mavic Air 2 has four 8K Hyperlapse modes at this time: Free, Circle, CoursLock, and Waypoint.
I have really enjoyed experimenting with this new 8K Hyperlapse mode, and have gotten some great short videos. I would say the biggest downside to these hyperlapses is that the final video can be shaky. Unlike a timelapse/hyperlapse that is created from a ground camera, the drone is either moving or doing its best to remain stable.
My biggest tip is to capture 8K Hyperlapses on the Mavic Air 2 while it's not windy outside. This will yield the most stable final videos.
DJI announced that starting in 2020, all of their drones that weigh 250g or more will have “Airsense” installed. Airsense is a system that detects nearby aircraft. You get a notification while you're flying and if you enlarge the onscreen map, you will see where the nearby aircraft is in realtime.
Living in an urban area, I really enjoyed having this feature. Even when flying in permitted areas, I will occasionally see the low flying helicopter, and having the Fly app notify me is handy.
One caveat is that Airsense is only available on Mavic Air 2's in the United States at this time. Hopefully, other countries will see support for Airsense with future updates!
I would say that the Fly app is more user friendly than GO 4, but at the expense of some missing features. Let's look at some of the pros and cons of each app.
DJI GO 4:
- Supports a wider range of DJI drones
- More programmable options
- More camera settings
- Larger than the Fly app (older devices will struggle to run GO 4)
- Voice and gesture control
- Will run on older iOS and Android devices
- Currently only supports the Mavic Air 2 and Mavic Mini
- Very quick to set up
- User-friendly interface
- Limited camera settings
- Lacks voice and gesture control
- Smoother performance
- Requires a newer iOS or Android device to use
Who is the Mavic Air 2 made for?
With DJI's drone lineup constantly expanding, picking one that's right for you can be a tough task. In my opening paragraph, I said that this drone is aimed at the hobbyist, but who exactly is a “hobbyist”? Well, here's a breakdown of different types of drone pilots, along with an example of what drones would fall into each category.
Someone just getting into drones. Wants a capable aircraft, but is willing to sacrifice some advanced features for a budget price.
Profile examples: never owned a drone, YouTuber
Wants an aircraft that is able to produce professional-grade video/photo footage, but doesn't necessarily need all the bells and whistles.
Profile examples: YouTuber, Traveler, Real Estate Agent
Uses their drone daily for work. Needs the best features to remain competitive and keep up with industry standards.
Profile examples: YouTuber, Cinematographer, Creates 3D Maps/Models
Uses drones for a very specific purpose and needs equipment curtailed for their operations.
Profile examples: Law Enforcement Officer, Agricultural Farmer
The above examples are by no means set in stone – these are just examples. It's not uncommon for an advanced drone pilot to buy the latest “beginner drone” to have some fun around the house with. Vice versa, a new drone pilot occasionally needs to purchase an enterprise drone because their job requires it.
Is the Mavic Air 2 worth the upgrade?
Now that I've laid out all of Mavic Air 2's biggest features, what do you think, is it worth the upgrade?
My take is this: the Mavic Air 2 is the best drone you can buy today for the price. Sure, some drones have better features – the Mavic 2 Pro has a 1″ camera sensor and Skydio 2 has omnidirectional obstacle sensing, but the Mavic 2 Pro is twice the price and Mavic Air 2 outperforms the Skydio 2 in nearly every other category.
If you have the original Mavic Air and you're wondering if the MA2 improvements are big enough to warrant an upgrade – I say, yes!
If you just want an all around really great drone that won't break the bank, I really don't think you'll regret picking up a Mavic Air 2.
At the end of the day, we're all in different situations and it's up to you to decide if the Mavic Air 2 is worth your hard-earned cash. Personally, I think it's worth every penny I paid for it.
Lastly, if you would like to see the Mavic Air 2 in action, check out this YouTube video where I put it through its paces!