DJI’s New Air 3 Drone Just Hit the Market: How Does It Stack Up?

DJI’s latest product offering – the Air 3 – has finally arrived on the consumer market.  Now, industry analysts are trying to decide whether the company’s highly-touted UAV – which, in fact, closely resembles at least two other popular DJI drones– was actually worth the wait.

On balance, the answer seems to be yes.

DJI clearly intended the Air 3 to be something of a middle range option between its Mavic Pro 3 geared to professional drone flyers and the far less expensive but also less well-equipped Mini Pro 3, which is actually geared to recreational users. The Mavic Pro 3 runs for nearly $2,200 – too steep for your average weekend hobbyist, especially a newbie.   The Mini Pro 3, by contrast, is just $750, about a third of the price.  But make no mistake:  It’s also far less powerful and sophisticated than its better equipped and more expensive big brother.

What are some of the differences?  For one thing, the Mavic Pro 3 comes with three high-powered cameras; A Hasselbad and two Tele Cameras, with much wider angle lenses than the Mini’s single Hasselbad.  The Pro 3’s cameras are also much better able to film in a variety of environments despite obstacle interference, and the drone itself also has twice the battery capacity, allowing for longer flights.  And you can store lots of photos on the Pro 3 – 8 GB’s worth; you simply can’t on the Mini Pro 3 because it lacks any storage capacity at all

The one small advantage of the Mini 3, perhaps, is its shorter battery charging time, especially when using an enhanced charger.  But let’s be clear:  Despite its name, the Mini Pro 3 is not just a less expensive, stripped down version of the Pro 3.  In fact, it’s not in the same league at all: a professional drone operator with more sophisticated filming and storage needs probably wouldn’t have much time for it.

The Air 3 does seem to represent a nice compromise between these two disparately priced and equipped DJI drone options; in a sense, it makes good on the unfulfilled promise of the Mini 3.  For one thing, it’s priced closer to the Mini – $1,100 – and yet it retains some of the more advanced features of the Pro 3, including two of the same high-powered wide-angle zoom cameras, plus the 8GB photo storage capacity.

In fact, the Air 3 actually surpasses the Pro 3 in several areas: a longer flight range (32 km to 28 km), a longer transmission distance (20 km to 15 km) and a shorter charging time (80 minutes to 96 minutes).  So, on its face, this is quite the bargain, in fact.

What do industry reviewers say?  Seth Kurkowski, who recently tested the Air 3 for Drone DJ, called it the perfect ”mass market” drone – and potentially, the DJI’s “flagship.” That’s quite a compliment given the positive reception – and strong consumer demand – for so many other DJI drones, including both the Pro 3 and Mini Pro 3.  Kurkowski took due note of the Air 3’s 70 mm zoom camera capacities which largely match those on the Pro 3.  And make no mistake: the  images from these drone cameras are far superior to those obtained from the Mini Pro 3’s single less powerful camera.

The Air 3’s advanced  omnidirectional “sense-and-avoid” technology also matches that of the Pro 3.   You can fly these drones around trees and buildings and behind walls, avoiding collisions with ease, and continuing to film at longer distances, even in the face of interference.  The Mini Pro 3 will likely do just fine, but these more advanced models do offer the user more protection – and more security – while flying.  Which also means you’re less likely to have to repair or replace one, which can prove costly.

Are there naysayers?  Not really – in part, because the Air 3 just came out but also because it has exceeded design expectations.  The original plan called for the Air 3 to have only one camera, just like the Mini Pro 3.  So reviewers like Kurkowski are already pleasantly surprised.  The Air 3 really does seem to be a poorer man’s version of the Pro 3.

But there is one possible concern: Could the Air 3, coming so closely after the release of  DJI’s Air 2, be something of a redundant model?  The Air 2 was developed in response to customer reviews of DJI’s Air 1; in fact, it was released on the market only last year.  So, why is another Air series drone even needed, especially so soon?

The short answer is: it may not be, not in a strict technical sense.  But that’s never kept DJI from continually upgrading its series offerings, if only to preserve its market dominance.  But also look at the specs more closely: the Air 2 represents only a slight upgrade compared to the Mini Pro 3.  The Air 3 takes that upgrade much further, making it a model closer to the Pro 3.

The upshot?  If you’re on a tight budget, and extremely price conscious anyway. you might decide to stick with relatively inexpensive models like the Mini Pro 3 or the Air 2.  They’re a great way for a new drone hobbyist to take the plunge and get started without making a huge upfront investment.

But if you’re truly ambitious, take the next step and purchase an Air 3.  After a while, you might find there’s  a demand for your services not just from friends, but from organizations in your community.

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