If you’re new to drones, here are 10 rules you need to know before flying
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — When you fly a drone off the end of this historic Pier, some 1800 feet long, you want two things – no crashing please, and to record the flight with all the rich colors you see with your eyes.
So when the new DJI Mavic 2 Pro takes off from the edge of the Pier, without bothering any of the local fishing enthusiasts, soars off without a hitch and returns safely, without hitting anything you’re a happy camper.
And that was before we get a chance to examine the footage, which turns out is way more impressive than what we saw with the previous edition of the Mavic Pro.
Newsflash: This is a drone with a camera-size sensor and lens on it, that flies on command. Wow!
The Mavic 2 is the update to the original Mavic Pro drone, which broke ground in 2016 as the first somewhat affordable, quality drone that was also compact enough to fit into a backpack.
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The original sold for around $1,000, and featured a camera sensor the size of a smartphone. Image quality was really good, in great light.
The new edition has the same sensor as the one found on a high-end camera like the Sony RX100 or RX10, a full, 1-inch 20 megapixel image sensor, which is 75 percent larger than before. And then, also, there’s this massive lens made by the legendary camera manufacturer Hasselblad.
In other words, the Mavic 2 is a photographer’s dream.
It’s also at least a third more expensive, starting at $1,499. I say starting, because you can’t walk out of the store with just the drone. You’ll need extra batteries as well, and they are $139 a piece. DJI says the battery lasts around 30 minutes, which may work for the company, but in my real world tests, it’s been more like 20 minutes.
And if you go out to some awesome location with your drone, and start flying it over cliffs, mountains and oceans – face it, you’re going to be there awhile. You don’t want just 20 minutes of flight time.
Beyond the photography, there’s also obstacle avoidance. You fly a drone, at least at first, and you will crash. It’s part of the learning curve.
But the new Mavic 2 has better avoidance technology than the previous edition. It will ring to warn you and swerve out of the way of obstacles, which is cool. It has more sensors built into the zoom to help stay out of the way.
But you’re buying this drone primarily for image quality. Flying is fun, but not if you can’t impress your friends with the footage. The quality is super impressive, the best I’ve seen on a drone. The 4K images really pop.
If you buy it, take some time to learn the flying modes DJI has with the app. My favorite is Rocket, which starts by flying over you and then soaring upwards, like a rocket ship, until the software gives you a complete, circular image that appears to be taken from outer space.
Meanwhile, DJI also introduced a less expensive, $1,249 upgrade, the Mavic 2 Zoom, with the same size 12-megapixel image sensor as the previous Mavic, but with a twist – there’s also a zoom lens.
Make that, a so-called zoom lens, similar to the zoom on Apple iPhone Plus and the X models. You go from wide angle to portrait mode, 28mm to 48mm, so it’s pretty minimal.
The feature is nice, but let’s face it. If I’m flying over a Hawaiian coast, or a hiking trail, I’m pretty high up, and that’s the point. I want the big, sweeping wide shot. The little zoom won’t get me very close at all. I’d rather have the 75 percent larger image sensor and shoot in 4K on the Pro 2, where I can always zoom in while editing, without image degradation.
Remember, if you’re new to flying drones, you need to obey the basic laws set out by the Federal Aviation Administration: Don’t fly over 400 feet, over people’s heads, moving cars, at night, or ahem, over your neighbor’s backyards.
Many cities have their own drone rules as well, so be sure to check before you start soaring your new toy into the skies.
Have questions about drones? We’re here to help. Look for me on Twitter, where I’m @jeffersongraham.
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