The latest DJI drone is also the smallest and lightest the company has ever made. It is so small and light that buyers do not have to register it with the Federal Aviation Administration.
The heavily leaked Mavic Mini, as it is called, was announced Wednesday morning and is now available for pre-order and will be shipped on November 11. The drone is sold for $ 399 with a remote control, a battery and a set of extra propellers, or in one of DJI's "Fly More" combo packs, which costs $ 499 and includes propeller protectors, three batteries, a battery charger, a carrying case , a controller and three sets of extra propellers.
Despite the relatively low price tag, the Mavic Mini has many of the best aspects of the more expensive (and more capable) drones from DJI. It's basically as small as the DJI Spark of 2017, but the foldable legs of the Mavic series make it even more portable. It only weighs 249 grams, which is just one gram below the weight limit for FAA registration. (DJI did work with Intel on an even smaller drone in 2018.)
The Mavic Mini also shares many software features with other DJI drones, such as creative recording modes and the ability to automatically return to the starting place (although it uses another new app).
The Mavic Mini, perhaps because of its lightweight design, also does not skimp on the life of the battery. DJI estimates 30 minutes of flight time per battery, although I couldn't really test that during a short demo.
One of the only compromises with the Mavic Mini is that it cannot make 4K recordings. Otherwise the Mavic Mini should be a suitable tool for photographers and videographers. The drone's camera uses a 1 / 2.3-inch sensor that can take up to 2.7K images at 30 frames per second, 1080p images at up to 60 frames per second and 12-megapixel photos. Just like all other DJI drones (except the Spark), the camera is stabilized with a three-axis gimbal that should help generate super smooth footage in low winds.
Another compromise: the Mavic Mini has fewer sensors than the other DJI drones, which means that it is more prone to crashes. Ground-facing sensors help with little float and soft landings, but it is up to the pilot not to fly the Mavic Mini sideways into a tree, wall, or other object. (This is a place where, although comparable in size, the heavier, more sensor-loaded DJI Spark prevails.)
Despite being so light, the Mavic Mini felt stable and precise during a short test flight earlier this week. While looking at the iPhone connected to the controller, I was able to make a few careful, slowly evolving recordings that make the video images of a drone so stunning. However, it was a quiet day, so we need more time with the Mavic Mini to get an idea of how it handles wind and outright windy days.
The price, weight and ability to avoid FAA registration make the Mavic Mini look like a very attractive product for both novice and experienced drone pilots. DJI still warns in the Mavic Mini press release that "drones pilots should always understand and follow local laws and regulations," and it says the built-in safety features (such as height restrictions) and educational aids help prevent new pilots from flying dangerously. But that, as they say, is still in the air.