I have always been on the fence about drones, it seems a bit like so many areas have blanket bans on drones, and that they get such a bad rap (i.e. people unhappy about drones being flown near them or their houses) that I wondered just how practical it would be to fly a drone. Because of this I had decided that I would probably not purchase a drone, but given a family member recently got the DJI Mavic Air 2 I thought it would be a great opportunity to borrow it and take it for a spin to see what it was all about.
So before I get into my experiences, lets discuss the drone itself:
- The DJi Mavic Air 2 is a small drone which weighs in at 570 grams,unfolded the drone dimensions are 183×253×77 mm (Length×Width×Height) whilst when folded it has dimensions of 180×97×74 mm (Length×Width×Height).
- It has a maximum flight time (without wind) of 34 minutes, and has a maximum ascend speed of 4 m/s, the maximum descent speed varies depending on the mode but ranges from 3 – 5 m/s. The drone has multiple modes (Sport, Normal and Tripod) which change the way the drone operates, the speed and the functions that are enabled. In spots mode the drone has a maximum flight speed (horizontal) of 19 m/s, in normal mode of 12 m/s and in tripod mode of 5 m/s.
- The Drone has forward and backwards visision sensors, and downward sensors and is equipped with the Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems (APAS) 3.0 obstacle avoidance system.
- The drone is supplied with a remote which supports mobile devices of a maximum size of 180×86×10 mm (Height×Width×Thickness) via a short USB-C to lightning, Micro USB or USB-C cable.
- In terms of imaging, the drone has a 1/2″ CMOS sensor which has an effective resolution of 12 MP or 48 MP. The effective field of view is 84 degrees, and the focal length is the equivalent to 24 mm, aperture is f/2.8 and the focus range is 1 m to infinity.
- The sensor is on a three (3) axis gimbal, which can tilt from -135 Degrees through to 45 degrees, it can roll from -45 degrees to 45 degrees and can pan from -100 degrees to 100 degrees. The controllable range of the gimbal is tilting from -90 to 0 degrees.
- Images can be captured in JPEG or DNG (RAW) and can be saved to the 8 GB internal memory in the drone, or to an external Micro SD card (up to 256 GB supported).
- There are a number of different photo modes from Smart Photo, Panorama, Single Captures, Spheres and more.
- Video capture is supported, being saved in MP4/MOV (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, H.265/HEVC)
- Supported color profiles in video capture are D-Cinelike or normal.
Whilst there are many functions on the drone, and it is best utilized for videography I tend to focus more on photography so this post largely examines the drone from a photography perspective. In terms of photography there are a few modes of interest, one is taking ‘normal' photos, another is taking higher resolution (48MP photos), and the last function and the one I am most excited about is called “Photosphere”. Within the photosphere mode, you can take a number of automatic photos, one takes a 360 degree image by rotating the drone, and tilting the gymbal to capture individual photos which get stitched by the app, but there are also different configurations (i.e. a 180 degree image).
Assuming wind conditions are good, I have found the photosphere mode to be the most exciting thing about the drone (to me), it allows me to quickly launch the drone, capture a 360 degree image (with only a small bit not captured above the drone) showing an incredible perspective and a great amount of detail. Whilst the app does stitch the images, I tend to tell the drone to capture in a RAW format (as this has a greater resolution and more detail), and then I use a tool like PTGUI to stitch the images manually on my computer which leaves me with a higher resolution image.
I have included an example photosphere image (that I captured) below which was processed using the above concepts:
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