DJI released details about their new Mavic drone today.  Here’s a quick list of the features that we know so far:

  • Foldable frame and transmitter make for a very easy to transport system.
  • 4k/30fps camera stabilized with a 3-axis gimbal.
  • GPS and software support for automated flying (follow me, ActiveTrack, etc.).
  • 27 min (!) battery time.
  • Up to 40mph in sport mode.
  • Option for DJI FPV goggle setup with two 1920×1080 screens.

All for the cool price of $1,000

Honestly, it is an amazing list of features.  The biggest thing that jumps out at us is the claimed 27 minutes of flight time.  We would love to see more details come out on how DJI was able to achieve this.  Similarly, the Mavic is surprisingly compact.  It could easily be carried in or strapped to a backpack.  This is obviously a big step forward from the Phantom series that pretty much needed its own case to transport anywhere.

November 8, 2016 Update – Yikes – GoPro just announced a recall of the Karma drone due to power loss during operation.  More details can be found here.

 

Mavic vs Karma

Many people are going to want to see a comparison between the DJI Mavic and GoPro’s Karma.  Both drones are surprisingly similar, but with a few key differences.

7.8l x 3.3w x 3.3h14.4l x 8.8w x 3.5h

DJI Mavic

GoPro Karma

Price (base) $750 (no remote) $800 (no camera)
Price (features) $1000 with remote $1000 (with Session), $1100 (with Hero 5)
Size open (inches) DJI TBD release, but likely smaller than the Karma 12l x 16.2w x 4.6h
Size folded (inches)
Max speed 40 MPH 35 MPH
Battery duration Up to 27 min Up to 20 min
Gimbal 3 axis gimbal 3 axis gimbal
Camera 4K on board camera, 30fps Compatible with GoPro Hero 5,4 and Session 5
Transmitter Phone / phone plugged into transmitter 720p, 5in screen, 4hr battery
Other Accessories DJI FPV goggles Karma case, Karma grip handle
Other Features Obstacle avoidance sensors, follow me / active track software Removable stabilizer can be used with other GoPro products.

 

Here are the two promotional videos released by DJI and GoPro on the features of their drones:

DJI Promotional Video:

 

GoPro Promotional Video:

 

Right now, the Mavic looks like the front runner if we are just talking drone specs.  With a longer flight time, more compact design, and a lower price point across the board, it will definitely be giving GoPro some heavy competition.

dji-active-track-mavic

DJI’s ActiveTrack software

However, if you are already using GoPro cameras, and the functionality of a removable gimbal is useful for other shots, the Karma may be worth looking at.  The GoPro grip + stabilizer definitely adds to the complete package of being able to shoot in the air and on the ground with full stabilization.  To get that from DJI, you would need to pick up an Osmo which will run you $300+ and doesn’t include a camera in the base model.

One thing that we have left out is the software side.  Both GoPro and DJI are making some bold claims in terms of features like “follow me”, live video streaming, etc.  We will have to wait to see how well these features work when they are released to the public.  That said – features such as active tracking, and the ability to more or less have the drone fly itself opens the door to a lot of interesting ways you can film a subject.

 

Is it worth it?

The main question that I had after seeing the press release video was if the Mavic, and in turn the Karma, was worth it.  Both options round out at around $1000 assuming you purchase a ‘complete’ package.  This is not exactly a cheap purchase for most consumers!  I guess the only way to answer the question of if one of these drones is worth it to you is to look at a few use cases – mainly what do you want to do with one of these high end GPS drones?

However, before we jump into it, we always like to recommend new pilots start small before they drop big money on a new drone.   Check out our article on selecting a micro quadcopter as well as our training series.  Simply put – if you are a casual user just getting into drones, picking up a $20-40 micro quad from Amazon and seeing if you like flying is a much smarter way to get off the ground.

 

Action sports / amateur photography

dji-portable-mavic-propwashed

The Mavic looks insanely easy to take anywhere.

Hands down this is where the Mavic is set to dominate in the drone market.  The incredibly compact size and simple controls look perfect for any snowboarder, biker, skater, etc. to take with them wherever they go.  The software functionality (if meeting the promised features) look incredibly simple and almost require zero actual control from the transmitter.  Features such as “follow me” and subject tracking make it look like you don’t even need a pilot – just tell the camera who or what to follow, and let it rip.  This is huge for those that don’t want to spend the hours learning to fly and want to just focus on doing what they want to film.

On the other hand, if we are talking about the product ecosystem, GoPro has basically owned this market for the past decade.  Almost everyone that does any type of action sports has a GoPro, and many people might already have a compatible camera for the Karma.  The addition of the GoPro Grip to the Karma package, and the functionality of a removable stabilizer that can be used on both products may make the GoPro a more attractive complete package.  I could see athletes and amateur camera operators who have already invested in the latest from GoPro, and want stabilization in the air and on the ground, lean towards the Karma.

 

Professional photography / commercial use

commercial-use-mavic-dji

The Mavic could be useful at remote job sites.

This is much harder to call.  I think for a daily ‘take with you anywhere’ solution, both the Karma and the Mavic could have their uses – especially at remote job sites.  Locations where space may be at a premium, such as inside ships, work trucks, or backpacking between sites, may make these foldable drones a great asset.  However, for true professional photography and commercial use, I think the Mavic and the Karma won’t be making many waves.  It is unlikely either solution will be able to carry any sort of payload, and it seems that more and more commercial pilots are favoring 6-bladed+ setups for the added security against failure of a single prop/motor/etc.  Similarly, many professional photographers will strap on their own high end camera setups to drone rigs for the absolute best quality footage based on the subject and environment.

 

Casual use / budget restrictions / first time pilot

mavic-casual-beach

The Mavic is a steep price point for a toy.

If you are planning on picking up a drone as a new toy to take to the park or beach, the Mavic might be a little overkill.  For first time pilots looking to get a GPS drone, it might make more sense to go with a cheaper product with less features from the offerings of Yuneec or Parrot.  These can be had for hundreds of dollars less, and still have a great set of features.  Similarly, some basic camera drones that actually fly well can be had for under $100 on Amazon and other retailers.  While many of these won’t have the benefit of FPV flying, they can capture fun moments with the family from the sky without breaking the budget.  If you don’t already have a specific use for the Mavic (like action sports or photography listed above), you might want to shop around before buying the hottest new drone on the market.

 

Drone Racing

karma-racing-drone

I wouldn’t want to enter the Mavic in a race against a real racing drone!

I can’t see the Mavic being a competitor on the drone racing scene anytime soon.  Even with the smaller frame, and showcasing their 40 mph ‘sport mode,’ the Mavic won’t be able to compete with finely tuned racing quads.  Obviously acro mode is out of the question here, as is likely accessing any of the flight controller settings for customization. Similarly, you don’t want the latency of Lightbridge, nor do you want a stabilized camera.  Plus, do you really want to race a $1000 drone with proprietary parts that will be hard to replace and repair?  Part of drone racing is undertaking lots and lots of repairs from crashing while pushing yourself to improve.  Definitely something to think about before entering a Mavic in Drone Nationals 2017!

However, it does look like DJI has something up their sleeve when it comes to entering the racing market.  Details have slowly started to leak out about their “snail propulsion system” that look fascinating.  As we hear more we will keep you posted!  More information on that can be found here.

 

It’s going to be an interesting year for drone pilots

All in all, it’s going to be another interesting year coming up for drone pilots.  With big companies like GoPro jumping into the ring, and DJI pushing the bounds of ease-of-use technology, we as consumers and pilots win from this new competition.  The big potential downside?  Regulation and safety.  With drones increasingly becoming cheaper and more mainstream, we are going to see a lot more quads in the air, as well as a lot of pilots who have never flown before.  This increases the chance of more drone horror stories in the news, as well as the government taking increased scrutiny on the growing market.

If you have never flown before, and are thinking of purchasing your first drone, please do some research first!  This site is a great place to start, as we have created a curated list on everything you need to know about drones and quadcopters.  While our focus is more on the racing side, the information here should help new pilots get off the ground safely.  Similarly, strongly consider picking up a cheap quadcopter from Amazon and getting some practice in before making a larger drone purchase.    The controls will work very similarly when you transition, and should make you much more comfortable when you first fly your new $1000 investment.

Questions or comments?  Let us know what you think about the Mavic and Karma in the comment section below!

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