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Portability is all the rage in commerical drones market right now – pilots want quadcopters they can pack up and take anywhere. Unfortunately, a compact form factor usually translates to fewer features and abilities. But with DJI’s new Mavic Pro, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In addition to being one of the most portable drones we’ve ever seen, the Mavic also happens to be one of the most feature-packed drones on the market right now.
But do portability and capability really coexist in the real world? We took it out for a solid week of hardcore flight tests to find out.
Features and specs
Without a doubt, the most standout feature of the Mavic is its portability. DJI went back to the drawing board with this drone, and it shows. Instead of a space-hogging fixed-arm hull, the Mavic features a set of folding arms and props that, thanks to their clever configuration, allow the drone to fold down into a neat little package that’s roughly the size of a standard brick (but not quite as heavy). This, along with the super compact controller, make the Mavic one of hte most portable drones we’ve ever encountered.
Up front, it’s also equipped with a 4K camera and super compact 3-axis gimbal. This allows the device to capture super stabilized video without the resolution cutbacks required for digital stabilization. Plus, behind the camera, the drone also has DJI’s ActiveTrack and Optical Flow software, which allow it to track objects and sense obstacles (respectively) using nothing but the camera and image analysis algorithms.
Flight and range specs are also pretty impressive. DJI equipped the Mavic with an all-new video transmission system called OcuSync, which stretches the Mavic’s max range to over 4 miles and also boosts its resistance to interference. At shorter ranges, this tech can even stream footage to you at 1080p resolution, allow photo and video downloads at 40Mb/s – which is absolutely nuts.
To round out the package, the Mavic Pro also sports all the same Intelligent Flight Modes that DJI’s Phantom 4 has — plus two new ones. In addition to the standard Follow mode, Point of Interest, Waypoints, and Course Lock, the Mavic also has DJI’s new Terrain Follow and Gesture modes. It’s absolutely stuffed with features.
Build quality and design
Build quality is off the charts. The Mavic Pro is a sturdy little beast with one of the toughest hulls we’ve ever encountered. We crashed it a handful of times and it didn’t even seem fazed. Sure, it’ll complain and tell you “Ouch, you crashed me!” in a series of annoying beeps — but after a quick reset it’ll forget the whole thing ever happened and get right back to flying like a champ. We wouldn’t trust it to survive a big plummet onto a hard surface, but 30 feet onto a patch of grass? No problem.
When it comes to portable drones, the Mavic Pro has no equal — at least not yet.
Same goes for design. DJI deserves a Red Dot Award for this one — it’s nothing short of brilliant. I mean, we’ve seen folding drones before, but this one takes it to a whole new level. Thanks to a very clever hinge system, the arms fold up into a neat little package just smaller than the dimensions of your average brick, which makes it a breeze to stuff in your backpack or messenger bag and lug along on your adventures. It might even fit in a purse.
Another design element that we’re totally in love with is the portable controller. It’s not a measly little smartphone app that forces you to use virtual joysticks, and it’s also not a gigantic ground station that takes up half your backpack — it’s a thoughtfully designed hybrid that gives you the best of both worlds. When it’s all folded up, it’s roughly the size of a walkie talkie — but flip out the antennas and pop in your smartphone, and suddenly it’s a full-fledged controller with tons of telemetry data, an intuitive layout, and fantastic range.
The only real flaw we could find on the machine was its 3-axis gimbal assembly. It’s impressively small and compact, but it’s also held in place with four small rubber bands that seem to be a bit fragile. If one of these bands snaps (which happened to our review unit while it was in the previous user’s possession), the camera will have trouble stabilizing itself, which ultimately means you’ll end up with shaky, “Jello-effect” video footage. That’s really the only design flaw we could find though — everything else on the Mavic is well-built and designed to last.