You may notice that our site does not have many ads and all of our content is free. Instead, if you make purchases through certain links that we provide, we may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). We appreciate your support. You can learn more here.If you make purchases through certain links that we provide, we may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). We appreciate your support. Learn more here.
DJI won’t let up. And no one in the drone space can come even close to matching them. When they announced the DJI Mavic Pro, it basically killed any chance GoPro had at succeeding as a drone maker. And the DJI Spark was pretty much the knife in the heart. The Mavic Air, which was announced on January 23rd, is essentially the best of what the Pro and Spark had to offer… and then some. Here’s how the Mavic Air compares to the Mavic Pro and Spark. You can also use the following links to jump straight to the other sections of this post.
The Mavic Air is listed on the DJI website at $799, or $999 if you want the Fly More combo. The Mavic Pro, on the other hand, has an MSRP of $999 [check price on Amazon]. Neither of these prices are something to sneeze at, but the Air is significantly cheaper and that’s certainly something to consider.
2. Mavic Air is actually smaller than Mavic Pro & DJI Spark
Of all three drones, the Mavic Air gets the smallest. Like the Pro, it folds down into a convenient, compact size for carrying around. However, the Air is more convenient and more compact, folding down to the especially manageable size of 168×83×49 mm (L×W×H). That’s like carrying around a fat smartphone — except it’s a drone and it’s capable of capturing awesome footage. Even the remote is foldable and has detachable control sticks so you can pack it all up without feeling like you’re hauling around unwieldy equipment.
Look at the size difference!
And then there’s the Spark, which doesn’t actually fold down at all since it’s already a mini drone. So, in terms of portability, the Air takes the win.
3. Mavic Air features protected 3-axis gimbal
The Mavic Air’s camera is on a 3-axis gimbal with dampeners to achieve a steady shot. And while the Mavic Pro also has a 3-axis gimbal, on the Mavic Air, the gimbal is protected, meaning it’s actually housed inside the body of the drone.
Gimbal is now protected inside the body of the drone.
With the Spark, there’s actually a 2-axis gimbal, which is far less effective with reducing shake. While it’s not a major step forward, the protected 3-axis gimbal is a clever addition that makes the Mavic Air just that much more appealing (and durable).
4. DJI Mavic Air won’t overheat as easily
The Mavic Air is designed to stay cool. It has rear vents to efficiently dissipate heat so that the drone doesn’t overheat on the job. And that’s good because if you’re out breaking a sweat to get a great shot of yourself running up a mountain, you don’t want your drone wimping out before you do. The Mavic Pro and Spark were both plagued by overheating issues. The Spark, in particular, would regularly shut down on us due to heat issues. DJI promises much more efficient heat regulation with the Mavic Air.
5. New sensors and better obstacle avoidance tech on Mavic Air
The Mavic Air uses advanced VIO technology, which basically refers to DJI’s FlightAutonomy 2.o. Let’s break that down – This drone has an impressive sensor system that includes the following: a primary gimbal camera (that we talked about earlier), forward, backward, and downward dual-vision sensors (they simultaneously take continuous video from multiple angles), downward infrared sensing system (characterizes surroundings based on infrared radiation), IMU redundancies (ask someone smarter than me to simplify that one for you), and a group of computing cores (they turn instructions into actions – feel free to GTS).
Below is a GIF that shows the Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems (APAS) in work. Essentially what this system does is allow the Mavic Air automatically (without assistance from the operator) avoids certain obstacles and keeps flying. Part one is the Air avoiding Dillon, our Production Manager, and part two is the Air avoiding a car and then Dillon once again. What a neat system.
Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems (APAS) on Mavic Air.
All together, the sensor system on the Air takes in the drone’s surroundings to better it’s flight performance. I’m sure you could crash it if you tried (we have not…yet), but the important thing is that you’re unlikely to crash it without trying. We’ve found that the APAS works beautifully with large objects—such as offensive linemen and cars—however, it won’t always accurately avoid smaller objects, such as twigs. Still, really nice to have ASAP on the Air.
The Mavic Pro does have front and underbelly obstacle avoidance sensors, but it does not have rear sensors. The Spark only has one forward-facing sensor and that’s its camera.
6. Same camera & sensor, but 120 fps slow-mo on DJI Mavic Air Drone
The camera and sensor are the same as on the Mavic Pro, but the Mavic Air captures 120 frames per second (fps) in full HD 1080p. That means you can achieve epic slow-motion videos. And who wouldn’t want to watch you kayak through rapids at a video speed slow enough to really appreciate your maneuvering abilities. Here’s an example from DJI to prove how cool you’ll look (this is a gif, the actual video footage is better quality – we promise).
For the record, the Mavic Pro could shoots 1080p up to 96 fps, so the 120fps on the Air is quite a bump up in slow motion capabilities.
7. Higher recording bit rate means clearer video with Mavic Air
The Air now records footage at a higher bit rate of 100Mbps compared to 60Mbps and 24Mbps on the Mavic Pro and Spark, respectively. This means, while the recording rates are basically the same for the two Mavics, the footage will actually have more detail and be clearer on the Air. You will prefer the footage you see from the Mavic Air.
8. ActiveTrack upgraded on Mavic Air Quadcopter Drone
ActiveTrack is one of the updated features on the Mavic Air. It can sense sense up to 16 selectable subjects at once and then you get to choose which to track. You can actually track two subjects at once now, and ActiveTrack’s precision and scenario applications lets you track subjects on the move. So even if your selected target is biking down a mountain or diving off a cliff, the Air can keep track.
If you aren’t well versed on ActiveTrack, here’s what it looks like from the viewpoint of the drone operator.
ActiveTrack on DJI Mavic Air.
9. Mavic Air 4K drone features internal storage
In addition to a MicroSD slot, the Air has 8 GB of internal storage, so you can save pictures and video footage right on the drone. Exporting your content is super easy via the USB 3.0 Type-C port. Previous drones only had the option of using a MicroSD card, and while that works just fine, it’s nice to have the option of on-board storage.
10. New preset recording modes introduced on Mavic Air
DJI is showing off two new preset recording modes on the Air. The first, and our favorite, is called Asteroid. You can see this in the GIF below (it’s hard to explain). The second is Boomerang, which has an orbital effect, but the drone zooms in and out as it rotates around its subject.
Astroid – Preset Recording Mode – Mavic Air.
11. Mavic Air gets gesture controls — even better than on Spark
The Mavic Air is capable of gesture control, which means you can direct the drone with just a wave of your hand. The Spark also has this feature, but it works better on the Air. It may not be the most useful feature, but it’s still cool and pretty fun to use.
The Mavic Pro was truly the first good consumer-level drone. Not only did it fold up, but also it shot footage up to 4K30 and had decent battery life. It shocked the drone world and was a wildly popular quadcopter. In fact, we still use our Mavic Pro nearly ever week. It even has a few advantages over the newer, sleeker Mavic Air that you might consider when looking for a new drone.
DJI Mavic Pro shoots full cinematic 4K — not on Mavic Air or Spark
Of the three drones, the Mavic Pro is the most capable of shooting movie-quality footage. Unlike the Air or the Spark, the Pro shoots is full cinematic 4K at 24 fps. This may not make much of a difference if you’re just shooting footage to document your climbing trip at Smith Rock, but if you’re using a drone to shoot for a short film or something in that family, you’ll be happy to have that 4K quality vs simply UHD1. Also, for the record, the Pro and Air both shoot 4K (3840×2160) at 24/25/30 fps, it’s just that you get full Cinematic 4K with the Pro. Check out this short video from DJI, featuring the Mavic Pro.
Mavic Pro has bigger battery than on Mavic Air & Spark Drones
The battery capacity of the Pro beats both the Mavic Air and the Spark. The Pro gets up to 27 minutes of fly time (very maximum), while the Air gets up to 21 minutes and the Spark maxes out at 16 minutes. But regardless of which of these drones you choose, you’ll want to get a couple of extra batteries to keep on hand. Average battery life for the Air will be more like 18 minutes. For the Pro and the Spark, you’re looking more like 22 minutes and 13 minutes, respectively.
While the Spark is really no competition for the other two drones, at under $500, it’s still a heck of a drone. It’s perfect for first-timers and anyone that wants… well, a tiny drone. Here are the areas where it gets the edge over the Mavics.
DJI Spark is cheaper (way cheaper) than DJI Mavic Air & Mavic Pro
The Spark’sbiggest advantage over its DJI competition is its price. With an MSRP of $499 [check price on Amazon], it’s way cheaper than both the Mavic Air and the Mavic Pro [check price on Amazon]. However, prices on these drones change all the time and we see deals on them pretty often, so it’s definitely worth checking our deals site before you make a decision. We’ve seen the Spark as low as $350 and the Mavic Pro as low as $800.
DJI Spark is actually still smaller than Mavic Air & Pro
While the Mavic Air does fold down to be the most compact of all three drones, if we’re looking at size during operation, the Spark is smallest. It is, after all, a mini drone. Check out the Spark’s intro video from DJI.
DJI Spark is less dangerous… kind of
Because the Spark is the smallest (during operation), it has the smallest blades, which lowers the chances of any blade mishaps or serious collisions. This isn’t a very consequential advantage, but we figure there’s no harm in mentioning it.