This is the question of the day, with the release of the new DJI Mavic Mini earlier this month. Fortunately, some of us have already gotten our hands on the drone by DJI and are happy to share our experiences, so you can decide if the Mavic Mini is a good fit for YOUR drone arsenal.
Check out this unapologetically lengthy unboxing and test flight video to get the FULL SCOPE on what the DJI Mavic Mini comes with, the setup process to get in the air, and how it handles itself.
Unboxing the DJI Mavic Mini
After you get through the dozens of small plastic bags that contain your DJI Goodies, you can see the Mavic Mini comes with all the tools you need to get up and going, except for a mobile device. I highly recommend the $500 Bundle Package, as for an additional $100 you get 3 sets of spare propellers, the 360° Propeller Guards, an additional micro usb cable, a fantastic tiny carrying case, 2 additional batteries, and a charger that can hold all 3 batteries at once.
The first thought that came to mind when I held the DJI Mavic Mini for the first time (no battery in yet) was how LIGHT it was. It was lighter than a small apple, no joke! And the battery doesn’t add much more weight.
It is worth noting that the charger, with all 3 batteries and controller plugged in at once, will only charge one battery at a time. But it is nice to be able to set everything in and leave it, come back 4 to 6 hours later and know everything is charged up.
Also keep in mind that the default bundle you purchase may NOT include a memory card. The DJI website lets you add this on easily of course, but it is a bit surprising the default package for both do not include at least some low level storage card.
However, overall for the price, this box is packed to the rim with goodness. But that really isn’t the question here today, the question is how does it handle itself in the air.
And of course I had to perform a WEIGHT test to see if it truly holds up to the sales pitch of weighing 249g. My scale in the test video clearly is unbalanced, as a 2nd scale verified the weight of 249g. One thing to note is that this does not include the 360° Propeller Guards, which will easily put you over 300g.
Why is 249g important? One Answer: FAA Regulations. For commercial and recreational pilots, the FAA has set all sorts of hurdles for getting into the air legally. I personally have gotten the Remote Pilots License just so I can use my drone for commercial use. However even that places many restrictions.
The idea here for 249g is that the FAA only regulars drones that weigh 250g and more. This drone intentionally falls outside that criteria. Don’t get me wrong here - PLEASE use common sense and fly safely. Don’t fly at night, don’t fly over crowds, keep your drone in line of sight, etc… However, you don’t have to worry about registration and that is certainly a plus.
Getting into the Air
As you can see in my video above, getting up in the air after unboxing is not a quick process by any means. The batteries in my case came completely empty and so you will want to get those charging right away.
The second pivotal step is to get the new DJI Fly App. This is their NEW App and the only one that works with the DJI Mavic Mini. I have an Android and iPad and can tell you that for both devices, I searched DJI Fly in the Play Store and iOS Store and did not find the App…
But fear NOT, you can get it nonetheless with some digging. I found my way to the DJI site and they provide direct links to the Play Store and iOS Store for the new App:
Get your app, create or log into your account, and get your drone turned on! In my case, there was already an update available and required so that is your second hurdle from getting up in the air. But once your update is done, you are all set to go up on the air! The app will prompt you to update once you connect the controller and turn both the controller and drone on.
The Test Flight Results
Hurdle #3 for those in a northern climate - the weather! Now I “know” people will say you can fly drones at colder temperatures, but I am a bit paranoid and prefer to follow instructions (at least while the drone is new - talk to me in a few years and the sunk cost of the drone may have me changing my mind by then).
On unboxing day, temperatures were at 25° F here, and so a bit too cold for the “instructed” minimum of 32° F. Luckily that was an unusually cold day, and the following day was around 34° F. We set out to downtown Fort Wayne to the new Promenade Park. A perfect setting for a test flight!
Enter Hurdle #4 - The greatest weakness of the DJI Mavic Mini - Wifi Connectivity. Unlike the bigger drones in the DJI Arsenal like the Phantom 4, the DJI Mavic Mini relies on wifi.
My first two test flights failed downtown, as there were wifi connectivity issues. However, I had a successful test flight outside of town. My overall impressions after getting some distance with it was that it is extremely stable and responsive. I didn’t notice any issues with the screen lagging or the drone responding to my directions. I want to say it feels like it doesn’t have the speed of the Phantom 4, but it is hard to say just from that one test flight.
You also get a selection of three different flight modes: Position (P) for basic operations, Sport (S) mode to go a bit faster, and CineSmooth © mode which makes movements a bit slower to make cinematic filming easier.
I was pleasantly surprised with the 4 smart features available: Dronie, Rocket, Circle, and Helix. My impressions before getting the drone were that it would not have any smart features and so having these 4 is fantastic. Yes, other DJI drones have more smart features, but I honestly find that I don’t use most of them for commercial use except Circle.
The best camera is the one that’s with you. - Chase Jarvis
Obviously this tiny drone can’t compare to the power behind a drone like the DJI Phantom 4 (my current primary drone). However, to be completely honest, it does NOT fall too short from the Phantom 4. You still have a few great smart features, 2.7K HD Videos, and 12MP aerial photos.
It is very strong and stable in the wind and the batteries advertised as lasting about 30 minutes (compared to the Phantom 4 having 28 minutes advertised). More importantly, the size allows you to carry it around with ease to any location. I find myself hiking and travelling a lot, and in those situations the DJI Phantom 4 Backpack just doesn’t make the cut.
But the compact size of the DJI Mavic Mini case makes taking it anywhere you want a non-obstacle. And for THAT reason, alone with weighing 249g, I think this is a worthy companion for any drone photographer or videographer.