Controls and flight modes

The Mavic Air 2 operates using the newer DJI Fly app. Since its initial release ahead of the Mavic Mini, DJI Fly has received numerous updates and sports a slick interface. In a nod to new users, video tutorials and detailed instructions pop up whenever a new feature is selected for the first time.

DJI has altered the app to display how many minutes and seconds of battery life is left before the aircraft needs to land instead of the original battery symbol. You'll be notified if you left the gimbal cover on and a prompt appears asking if you've secured the propellers properly.

The DJI Fly app has received numerous updates since being introduced alongside the Mavic Mini. It's now more capable and provides video tutorials and instructions for new users.

Photo and video menus are located on the right-hand-side of the app. Photo mode is accessed by selecting the top icon, above the digital shutter button, and features Single, 48MP, SmartPhoto, and auto exposure bracketing (AEB) options along with the ability to select Auto or Manual Mode.

The QuickShots menu, located to the left, provides access to DJI's autonomous flight tricks, and includes Dronie, Circle, Helix, Rocket Asteroid and Boomerang. Most of these are easy to execute.

ISO 100 | 1/13 sec | F2.8

The original Mavic Air was designed to give consumers the power to create stunning visual effects without having to spend a great deal of time learning how to maneuver a drone. The Mavic Air 2 goes a step further and introduces FocusTrack, something DJI refers to as the most advanced tracking feature on a drone to date. It offers up three capture modes:

  • Active Track 3.0: the third iteration of this feature allows you to select a subject to automatically follow. Its algorithms and mapping technology have been improved. DJI claims that this provides pilots improved subject tracking and obstacle avoidance, with the ability to relocate a subject if it disappears behind an object.
  • Point of Interest 3.0: the mode that puts you on a pre-planned automated flight path around a designated subject improves its surface recognition to enhance tracking.
  • Spotlight 2.0: this feature is typically found in DJI's professional-level Inspire series. It allows you to keep a subject locked in the center of the frame while the drone is moving.

FocusTrack will be available in mid-May, when the Mavic Air 2 starts shipping. I plan to test it and will update the review at that time.

The HyperLapse feature creates time-lapse style videos. DJI expects to release one of the drone's headline features—8K HyperLapse—in mid-May.

HyperLapse allows you to create a time-lapse video while the drone is moving (the headline feature, 8K HyperLapse, will be available in mid-May as well). Pilots can choose between four flight modes while using HyperLapse: Free movement, Circle, CourseLock, and WayPoints. The HyperLapse menu allows you to select the time interval between shots.

The feature that makes automated effects easier to achieve is Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) 3.0. When used, the Mavic Air 2 will instantly create an alternate path around an obstacle, in any direction, to avoid a collision. However, this only works when shooting footage up to 4K/30p, and above that frame rate the feature shuts off.

DJI representatives told us the updated version of APAS allows much smoother transitions and far less hesitation when directly approaching an object than previous iterations, and in my testing I found this to be an accurate assessment.

The newest version of DJI's Advanced Pilot Assistance System, APAS 3.0, goes around objects more smoothly, and with less hesitation, than previous iterations.

DJI's proprietary OcuSync 2.0 technology has been upgraded to deliver an HD feed from a maximum distance of 10 kilometers (about 6.2 miles). It supports both 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz frequency bands and anti-interference technology blocks unwanted signals so the video feed remains clear.

This is a big improvement from the original Mavic Air, which used a Wi-Fi transmission system. However, despite being upgraded to OcuSync 2.0, I found the drone lost signal at shorter distances than my Mavic 2 Pro. That being said, the drones and software provided to reviewers are still in beta, so it's possible this will improve when the final product ships.

What's it like to fly?

The Mavic Air 2 is a joy to fly. Its size, combined with a host of advanced built-in features, made me much more confident behind the sticks – especially when maneuvering between tight spaces. Compared to the Mavic 2 Pro, I felt more at ease attempting more advanced shots. It also held up very well in winds that were approaching 20 miles per hour.

Its size, combined with a host of advanced built-in features, made me much more confident behind the sticks.

My only real issue with the Mavic Air 2 is the redesigned controller. While it's wise to move the smartphone mount to the top for improved visibility, the process of attaching attaching it is cumbersome. I needed to pull the top part of the mount up with considerable strength and hope the phone would fit in before it clamped down. DJI should have emulated parts of the device holder from its Phantom 4 series remotes. I'd also like to see room made for a tablet.

I also appreciated the ability to toggle between Tripod, Normal, and Sport modes more easily. However, when flying in Tripod mode, I found the controller wheel was slightly sticky and this made smooth transitions a bit difficult when tilting the camera up and down during filming.

Who's it for?

Besides first-time drone buyers, those flying the original Mavic Air or even a Mavic Mini would be wise to give this model a look as the camera quality, special effects, and safety features are significantly better. It's easy to create impressive video and video effects with minimal effort, and image quality is noticeably improved thanks to the smart photo features.

It's easy to create impressive video and video effects with minimal effort, and image quality is noticeably improved thanks to the smart photo features.

While it might make sense for most people to upgrade to the Mavic Air 2, especially given that it's practically half the price of the Mavic 2 Pro, those who appreciate more sophisticated features may want to hold off despite the fact that many features are on par with, and in some cases superior, to higher end models. For example, its ability to record 4K/60p at 120 Mbps outclasses both the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom models.

However, the Mavic 2 Pro still has a larger sensor, as well as Hasselblad's Natural Color Solution, which are important factors to many photographers. It also includes 10-bit video with DJI's D-Log gamma profile. And, while the Mavic 2 Zoom's 1/2.3" sensor is smaller than the one found on the Air 2, its namesake feature – zooming – is still unique.

When it comes to size, the Mavic Air 2 (left) falls between the Mavic 2 Pro (right) and Mini (not pictured).

The Mavic Air 2 is ideal for consumers who want to capture special effects and don't want to think too much about making manual adjustments to photo or video settings. In fact, more seasoned professionals might be annoyed with the slick commercial look and feel of the DJI Fly app. I had the histogram activated and noticed quite a few blown out areas, and not just skies, in the Auto settings. SmartPhotos can not be taken in Manual mode, something that may bother purists who want total control over the process of creating imagery.

Final thoughts

The Mavic Air 2 is fun to fly and its smaller size, compared to the Mavic 2 series, makes it convenient to carry around and fly through tighter spaces. New and casual flyers are going to love this drone, especially since the Fly app was designed to walk them through each feature with detailed instructions and timely prompts. Professionals and serious enthusiasts who want more advanced features may want to stick with other models unless the idea of having a drone around for experimental, casual purposes seems appealing.

I overwhelmingly recommend the Fly More combo. Even though the Mavic Air 2 boasts a much longer battery life than its predecessor, you'll want those two extra batteries with you when you're out shooting, along with a set of ND filters for shooting video. The included charger can hold 3 batteries at once and comes with a carrying case. At less than $200 more than the basic package, it certainly delivers value.

One final note for early buyers: the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced complexities in global shipping. Therefore, units with ADS-B will only be available in North America for now, and other parts of the world, including Europe, later this summer.

What we like:

  • Ideal weight for carrying around
  • Great photo/video quality
  • 4K/60p and HD/240p video
  • 30+ minute flight time
  • Handles wind well
  • Quieter than some smaller models
  • Good value for the price

What we don't:

  • Remote is clunky, attaching a device is difficult
  • No obstacle avoidance system of top of the drone