DJI's New Mavic Air 2 Is a Sleeker, Longer-Flying Drone

Drone maker DJI announced an update to its popular Mavic Air quadcopter today. The Mavic Air 2 will cost $799 when it ships to US buyers in late May. That's the same price as the previous Mavic Air model, so the drone stays as DJI's mid-range option between its more capable Mavic 2 and its smaller, cheaper Mavic Mini. The Mavic Air 2 is still plenty small, but the new version has put on some weight. DJI says that testing and consumer surveys suggested that most people don't mind lugging a few extra grams in exchange for a considerable upgrade in flight time and, presumably, better handling in windy conditions. Even better, thanks to a new rotor design and other aerodynamic improvements, DJI is claiming the Mavic Air 2 can remain aloft for 34 minutes—a big jump from the 21 minutes of flight time on the original Mavic Air.
The Camera Eye

The camera has some new automated modes for capturing videos and photos with sharper detail and higher dynamic range.

Photograph: DJI
The big news in this update is the new larger imaging sensor on the drone's camera. The Mavic Air 2's camera ships with a half-inch sensor, up from the 1 2/3-inch sensor found in the previous model. That should mean better resolution and sharper images, especially because the output specs haven't changed much. The new camera is still outputting 12-megapixel stills, but now has a bigger sensor to fill that frame with more detail. There's also a new composite image option that joins together multiple single shots into a large, 48-megapixel image.
On the video side, there's some exciting news. The Mavic Air 2 is DJI's first drone to offer 4K video at 60 frames per second and 120 Mbps—previous DJI drones topped out at 30 fps when shooting in full 4K resolution. There are also slow-motion modes that slow down footage to four times slower than real life (1080p at 120 fps), or eight-times slower (1080 at 240 fps). Combine those modes with the more realistic contrast you get with the HDR video standard, and you have considerably improved video capabilities in a sub-$1,000 drone.
More interesting in some ways is DJI's increasing forays into computational photography , which the company calls Smart Photo mode. Flip on Smart Photo and the Mavic Air 2 will do scene analysis, tap its machine intelligence algorithm and automatically choose between a variety of photo modes. There's a scene recognition mode where the Mavic Air 2 sets the camera up to best capture one of a variety of scenarios you're likely to encounter with drone photography, including blue skies, sunsets, snow, grass, and trees. In each case, exposure is adjusted to optimize tone and detail.