Star Drone Maker DJI Reveals the Mavic Air, a Leap Forward in Drone Technology

DJI's Mavic Air makes drone control as smooth as other drone companies want you to think it is.
Jordan MacAvoy

Dà-Jiāng Innovations, a Chinese tech company, has released a phenomenal aerial drone that has blown up technology news. The DJI Mavic Air has completely changed the way consumers will look at the drone marketplace forever. 

The $800 flyer offers a ton of exclusive features that once cost the military millions of dollars to produce.

The drone sports a 32-megapixel camera, which is so much better than previous drone cameras that it's unbelievable. In fact, a 36.3-megapixel camera from Nikon still runs about $215, nearly three times as much as this remote-controlled machine.

It's hard to understand exactly what 32-megapixels means when it comes to picture quality. But the iPhone 8 has a 12-megapixel camera, and picture quality does not scale linearly. So you can imagine that a 32-megapixel image is probably pretty good for a camera mounted on an object that can fly steadily enough to capture clean images.

And that really is the amazing part -- high fidelity images are not hard to come by. iPhone X cameras have incredible high-density quality; new digital cameras can go all the way up to 400 megapixels. But the DJI Mavic can hold the camera much steadier than you can with your hands. In order to get the precision it keeps, you would have to use a tripod -- and tripods don't usually extend to 40 feet in the air.

The Mavic is a huge breakthrough in drone technology. Drones have been, for about two decades, a hobbyist activity. Once upon a time, you had to dedicate years of education to understand how drones worked and how to pilot them in order to be even remotely capable of doing something interesting with them. But the fact that marketable drones have become this cheap and accessible denotes a huge change in how consumers see them. Once it was a fully impractical hobby; now, it's an accessible activity that can be used to enhance your everyday life.

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Drone technology has taken a hard left turn in recent years. Once upon a time, "drone" was a scary word. Drones were used as weapons, objects that dropped bombs or spied on civilians without their knowledge or consent. Paranoia around the subject mounted and ideas about whether or not it was acceptable to shoot down drones that you thought were spying on you cropped up in public conversation spaces.

But despite those concerns, drone technology began to develop solutions to real-world problems as well. Amazon Prime Air recognizes one of the most futuristic applications of the technology possible: immediate delivery of things that you need, directly to your doorstep, as soon as you need it. This technology is the absolute pinnacle of human innovation -- nothing in the history of mechanical development has ever created such a windfall of convenience.

And drone technology can be used to save lives, as well. All that limits the power of autonomous and semi-autonomous technology is our very imagination. And that's why the DJI Mavic is so impressive: it takes a slice of speculative fiction and makes it into an almost unbelievable reality. 

The drone is not only super functional but also apparently extremely fun to pilot. According to TechCrunch, it took a little bit of time to learn how to fly the drone properly, but once they were able to get it off the ground, the controls worked as well as you could possibly expect them to. The controls respond to your body as you flick and gesture about, making it a lot more interactive than pushing down on joysticks.

And this technology feasts on its target market's ideals: the future should be simple, intuitive, and powerful. Objects should respond intelligently as you look and move your hands and wave your body, otherwise, they are failing at fulfilling the absolute basic function they are designed to -- the convenience of human consumption.

DJI has introduced a wealth of cool new features into the drone technology market. One of those features is an "electronic license plate" for their toys: a signature that allows the owner to maintain sole control over the flying object even if its frequency is intercepted. Digital license plates will become ever more necessary as drone technology expands because radio frequencies that are used to remote control devices are easy to spoof and even easier to get caught up in errant radio waves, obstructing the object's intended flight path. Signatures will improve security as well as usability for these drones and ensure that their pilots maintain perfect control throughout their flight. 

Another cool new feature DJI is responsible for is the FPV experience. The Mavic has such sophisticated cameras and sensors that it allows for a perfect first-person perspective tour of the space that it's in; not only does the fidelity of the camera give you the impression that you're really there, the stability of the drone doesn't make you feel like you're in a horrible wobbly nightmarish rollercoaster. Stability is a huge factor in the reliability of FPV technology; head bobbing causes users great distress and nausea even when their simulated environment isn't actually moving that much. So for DJI's first-person perspective technology to have improved on existing digital methods, they have to have created a device that reliably acts as stable as your head would while you are walking. 

And the FPV experience is powerful enough to be used in a racing environment, proving that it can be absolutely useful in a quick stroll around a public park, or through a mountain pass. It allows users to fulfill fantasies about traveling through the air (and possibly, like many other new underwater drones, under the ocean as well!) It truly is a breakthrough in affordable, usable, and accessible drone tech that will define the direction the industry goes in the future.

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