DJI's new Mavic Air drone blends features from Mavic Pro and Spark

Drone-maker DJI officially announced today at an event in New York City that it'll be launching an new mid-range hobby drone that expertly spans the gap between its $999 Mavic Pro and $499 Spark models. Called the Mavic Air, the drone is slated to cost $799 and will be released January 28.

Like its predecessors, the Mavic Air is foldable and thus super portable, and "delivers higher performance, more intelligent features and greater creative possibilities than any other consumer drone" (according to the company's press release). It's also compact — about half the size and weight of the Mavic Pro — so it can be slipped into a bag or even a pocket with relative ease. Its size and shape make it perfect for explorers who want to capture their adventure at a high-quality level without having to lug around a bigger machine.

Imaging-wise, the Mavic Air leans a little more toward the capabilities of the Pro, boasting a built-in camera that can capture 4K video, 12-megapixel stills, and 32-megapixel panoramas. And, if you're a fan of the dramatic, you can also use it to shoot 1080p slow-motion video at 120 fps. Said camera is mounted on a recessed three-axis mechanical gimbal that's suspended from dampeners, reducing vibration that could both hurt the drone and muck up the steadiness of your shots. The Mavic Air also utilizes new HDR algorithms that preserve more highlight and low light details, allowing for crystal-clear capture no matter the weather or the time of day.

As for software, the Mavic Air features a new obstacle avoidance system that uses an increased number of sensors and optimized algorithms to construct a 3D map of its environment, helping it avoid and bypass obstacles automatically. In addition, the Mavic Air offers a handful of new shooting modes that even inexperienced drone pilots can take advantage of:

QuickShot intelligent video modes make creating professional videos fun and easy with predefined flight paths that automatically keep your subject in the frame. Use Rocket, Dronie, Circle, or Helix plus two new modes Asteroid and Boomerang, to effortlessly create videos that once required significant piloting skills and sophisticated editing software. Asteroid starts with a spherical image that zooms in as it descends toward the subject on the ground, while Boomerang circles the subject in an oval-shaped flight path with the video finishing at the start point.

The only thing about the new model that isn't really revamped is flight time — Mavic Air can only stay up in the air for a maximum 21 minutes, which is about six minutes less than the Mavic Pro. Still impressive for a drone of its size, but nothing mind-blowing. However, its newly designed omnidirectional antenna system helps increase signal coverage as compared to older models, delivering a maximum range of up to 2.5 miles with 720p real-time video transmission when flying with the remote controller. The Mavic Air's "Sport mode" also allows it to fly at speeds up to 42mph.

Roger Luo, President at DJI, shared his excitement for continuing the Mavic legacy with the Mavic Air in a statement:

When DJI introduced the Mavic Pro, it reinvented what a consumer drone could be: powerful, yet portable, accessible, but advanced. Today, with the introduction of Mavic Air, we have pushed these attributes to the next level to create our best consumer drone yet.

The Mavic Air will be available for $799 in three color options — Onyx Black, Arctic White and Flame Red — and will come with battery, remote controller, carrying case, two pairs of propeller guards and four pairs of propellers. For $200 more, however, you can get it in the Fly More Combo that includes the drone, three batteries, a remote controller, a travel bag, two pairs of propeller guards, six pairs of propellers, a battery to power bank adapter, and battery charging hub. If you're interested in purchasing the Mavic Air, you can preorder it now though DJI's website.

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Tory Foulk