Drone footage of Vietnam will be built out as the trip progresses........

DJI's new Mavic Pro drone folds up and fits in the palm of your hand

The unit is extremely small and portable but still packs all the high-end features DJI drones are known for.




Over the last year, the clearest trend in the drone industry has been a move toward units that are smaller and more portable. Yuneec introduced a drone with foldable arms, and last week GoPro did the same. During its presentation for the new Karma drone, GoPro repeatedly emphasized how easy the unit was to slip into a backpack and bring anywhere. The Mavic Pro, DJI’s latest offering, follows this same trend. Unveiled today, it is about half the size and weight of DJI’s flagship unit, the Phantom. But it’s much slimmer, because the props holding the rotors fold in over the body, making the whole profile small enough to fit into a backpack or even a purse. Hell, I almost jammed it into the back pocket of some ordinary pants.

The amazing thing about the Mavic Pro is that, while it shrinks the physical form factor of a DJI drone down significantly, it doesn’t sacrifice any of the advanced features that make the Phantom series so popular. You still get sensors on the front and bottom, providing you with obstacle avoidance, subject tracking, autonomous landing, and stability indoors without GPS. The camera uses the same sensor as the Phantom 4, shooting 4K video at 30 fps and full 1080p HD at 96 fps. It has a 12-megapixel camera with support for Adobe DNG RAW. The field of view is a little smaller, shrinking from 94 degrees down to 78. You also don’t lose much in terms of flight performance: the Mavic Pro claims to offer 27 minutes of battery life on a single charge and has a top speed of 40 miles per hour — just shy of the 45 mph you get on the much larger, more powerful Phantom 4.


Incredibly, despite its smaller size, the Mavic Pro actually has a few areas where it is now more powerful and intelligent than DJI’s larger drones. DJI says it can stream live video from up to 4.3 miles away, compared with a maximum range of 3.1 miles on the Phantom 4. The new system also promises to live stream 1080p video to services like YouTube, Periscope, and Facebook, compared to the 720p video on the latest Phantom.




The unit also adds a couple new tricks in its computer vision system. It still works for avoiding obstacles and tracking subjects, but now it also comes with gesture control. Fly the unit out in front of you and put down the remote. Wave your hands to get the drone’s attention. Throw your arms up in a big Y and it will focus on you. Make a frame in front of your face with your hands and it will start the timer for an aerial selfie. This system didn’t work during our hands-on demo, but DJI says it will be ready when the product ships. The drone isn’the only thing that DJI shrunk down for this latest offering. The remote has also been miniaturized. It’s now roughly the size of an NES controller, with a small screen that provides basic telemetry: height, speed, distance, and orientation. You can fly with just that or clip your phone in to add the live camera view and advanced flight mode options.

mavic drone remote

This is also the first DJI drone you can fly without a remote at all. There have been lots of drones on the market that offered this functionality, going all the way back to the original Parrot A.R. drone released at CES 2010. DJI has always stayed away from that approach, preferring the more reliable connection and precise flight that comes with a dedicated radio controller. But with all the computer vision technology onboard, DJI can now deliver a pretty robust experience without a remote. With the Mavic Pro, like the Phantom 4, you can now take off, fly, return to home, and land, all by simply tapping on the screen. In "tap-to-fly" mode the drone will always move forward, and will automatically sense and avoid obstacles.