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Product Reviews

DJI Mavic Pro

Extremely portable without skimping on the tech

July 21, 2017

Highlights
  • Extremely portable
  • Sturdy and reliable
  • Worry-free flying
  • Variety of modes & settings
The DJI Mavic Pro, in many ways, represents a major departure from DJI’s status quo. There are no slick, bright aesthetics here. A matte steel grey is accented by dark gold, and the airframe doesn’t mess around with any sleek curves. To me, the Mavic feels more like a piece of reliable equipment and less like a drone you just want to be seen with. It’s designed to work, not to be looked at.

And before we dive deeper, I’d like to observe that the Mavic is not comparable to other “personal drones” that we’ve reviewed in the past, despite my prior conceptions. The Yuneec Breeze ($449) and ZeroTech Dobby ($349) are good drones in their own merit, but are not substitutes for the Mavic. This drone is serious, and makes similar sized drones feel like toys.
Before you fly

The standard DJI Mavic Pro package includes the drone, one battery and its charger, six propellers (two extra), the Mavic’s controller, a 16GB micro SD card, gimbal cover and clamp, and a series of cables to connect your phone to the controller. And, of course, a handful of useful reading materials.

You’ll need to attach the props yourself, but it’s not too tricky. Simply match the propellers with a white center to the motors with white markings, then press and gently twist the center of the propeller to lock it in place. Repeat thrice.

When setting up the DJI Go 4 app, it first greets you with a safety tutorial, which you do have the option to skip. I was then prompted to download a firmware update and a geofence update. The whole process took about 20 minutes.

Before you try flying, I’d suggest tinkering around in the app for a while. Even when the drone is disconnected, you can select “Enter Device” and look through the Mavic’s app interface that you’ll be seeing as you fly. Familiarizing yourself with the display and its many options, settings, and buttons will make your first few flights a lot easier. Be sure to tap the icon in the upper right corner — there are a lot of advanced settings tucked in there that are worth looking into.

The app also features a flight simulator, which may be useful if you want to tool around and get your bearings with the controller. But it’s not something that will teach you to fly. You’re restricted to a small flight area and the drone gets hard to see fast. Just get out there and fly.
Into the blue

After removing the gimbal clamp and cover and unfolding the Mavic’s legs, there’s really nothing to getting it in the air. Activate the motors, and you’re off.

From the moment I got the Mavic in the air, I was immediately impressed. It’s responsive and flies so smoothly, it’s very easy to stop worrying about the drone and just enjoy the flight and capturing great shots.

This has always been a big concern for me — when you have a $1,000 drone in the air, it’s hard to not be acutely conscious of every obstacle and gust of wind. But the Mavic is stable and aware, even when you may not be. With visual obstacle-avoidance sensors on both the front and bottom of the craft, as long as you’re not careening sideways or backwards into a tree, you’ll have a hard time downing the drone (that’s not a challenge).

At this point, I’d like to quickly address some of the issues that other Mavic reviewers have noted — yes, the Mavic is less stable than larger drones like the Phantom 4. Of course it is! But if you’re out trying to fly a small drone on a breezy day, you’re asking for some instability. C’mon.

Others have also cited issues with the gimbal not returning to a fully straight orientation and the camera losing focus on the edges of shots. I did not personally encounter any of these problems.

Each of the features I tested worked well on my first try — a wave of the arms turns on ActiveTrack, TapFly mode sends the Mavic in the direction you tap on the screen, Return-to-Home brought the drone back nearly precisely to its origin point. I’m typically pretty hesitant to use “autonomous” features because I am something of a control freak, but I was confident that the Mavic would do what it was told in these modes.

My boyfriend and I very quickly got through most of a battery charge, and then headed to a local Panera Bread to charge up the battery at a public outlet (and chow on some sandwiches as we waited). To avoid having to sit around at a local cafe to charge up, I’d suggest either buying a couple extra batteries ($89 each) or picking up a car charger ($49), which is a very smart offering for this highly portable drone. Keeping it in your car and charged up for whenever you want to pull over and grab a shot is a great option.
Leah Froats
Specs
DJI Mavic Pro
  • Available: DJI
  • Camera: 2.3-inch CMOS;
  • five video recording modes
  • Flight time: ~25 minutes
  • Diagonal: 13.2 inches
  • Folded: 3.27 inches x 3.27 inches x 7.8 inches
  • Weight: 1.62 pounds
  • Price: $899 w/o controller, $999 w/ controller
Final thoughts

When it comes down to it, I’m not sure if I would recommend this drone to a true beginner. There’s a lot of information available to you both within the app and on the controller’s display, and it may be a little overwhelming for the pure novice.

But if you’ve tooled around with smaller drones, know how to work the sticks, and are familiar with the functions of more advanced drones, you’ll be fine.

The portability of the Mavic is not something to be understated. When fully folded, it’s smaller than the water bottle I carry with me everywhere I go, and fits easily into a bag of reasonable size. Being able to carry such a powerful, capable drone with you without any stress or hassle really changes the way you see the world — you’re always on the lookout for what might make a beautiful shot from the sky.

I think the true beauty of the Mavic is that it’s a veritable playground of aerial photography goodness. After landing and checking out my shots, I would immediately notice other opportunities for better photos — a low angle of those reflections on the water, a slow coast over those trees just out of the frame. As soon as I looked at what I’d captured, I was itching to get out again and fly.

And these shots were taken in Wisconsin in March — as you may imagine, not the most beautiful or scenic of locales. The Mavic would be even more useful in more picturesque places, which I hope to test soon.

Note: A version oft this review appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Drone360 magazine.
Featured image: Leah Froats