#016 – The DJI Mavic Pro: A Viable Commercial Drone Platform

In Podcast by Ian Smith



DJI has announced their Mavic Pro drone, the smallest and most powerful drone they’ve ever created. The new Mavic Pro drone platform has specs and pricing that best the popular Phantom 4 and newly announced GoPro Karma which make it a promising candidate for commercial drone operations. Ian dissects the announcement, features, and viability of using the Mavic Pro for drone inspection and mapping missions.

DJI announced the Mavic Pro drone on Tuesday, September 27th, 2016 at 08:30AM Pacific with Michael Perry of DJI as the usual frontman. The tagline for this product is “The world’s first personal drone.”

INITIAL REACTIONS:

  • More portable than the GoPro Karma drone
    • 1/3 the size of a sheet of paper, roughly the size and weight of a large water bottle
  • More features than the Phantom 4 and GoPro Karma at a lower price
    • $749 for just the drone (integrated camera and a battery)
    • $999 for the drone, a battery, and includes the transmitter
      • You definitely want the transmitter version since it includes Lightbridge with new Ocusync technology
    • $1,299 for a bundle of the drone, 2 batteries, spare props, the transmitter, a car charger, a charging hub, and a backpack
  • 27 minute flight time and 24 minute hover time is great
    • 1.64 lbs (743g) total weight
    • 16,404 feet (5,000m) service ceiling
    • 3S LiPo 3,830 mAh capacity
  • The 3-axis gimbal is truly a treat—an impressive engineering feat
  • GLONASS GPS is the acceptable industry-standard at this point
  • 4 vision sensors exist on the Mavic (2 on the bottom and 2 are front-facing) with 49 foot range of obstacle detection
  • The motors supposedly have a new transmission system
  • The 12MP camera is the same sensor as the Phantom 4 but has a slightly smaller FOV
  • 560,000,000 million images and photos were captured from DJI platforms in the past 12 months which is a 200% increase (3x) over the same period a year prior
  • The transmitter (must-buy) gives a 1080p video stream and 720p from up to 4.3 miles (7 km) due to Ocusync technology
    • Will allow “docking” of mobile devices for use of DJI GO app
      • Up to 8.5mm in thickness and 160mm in length (iPad mini is too big but can be used standalone)
      • USB type-C, micro USB, lightning connector
  • Removable windscreen was not addressed but should be used for camera protection and wind resistance for the gimbal at high speeds
    • Not waterproof!
  • Terrain following mode and vision system has a library of object recognition (cars, bikes, boats, dogs, humans) for computer vision tracking
  • Gesture-based drone control is huge (selfies with a hand gesture)—amazing to see DJI taking advantage of computer vision
  • Full SDK support is a must and is fully-compatible with the Mavic Pro
  • Come chat with me at the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas on October 31st—we’re a media sponsor!
  • Well-done GoPro Karma/Nick Woodman jab by Michael Perry and crew
  • iJustine “Now I have a drone in my purse” and the marketing video filled with gals are great signs for DJI reaching out to the female demographic who—believe it or not—may be interested in using drones too
  • GoPro stock down up to 6.12% during the DJI Mavic Pro live stream
  • DJI GO can now do some image and video editing with some automated smart features to sync your music to your cuts
    • No evidence yet of a cloud storage offering similar to GoPro’s Plus
  • Geofencing is included which is great for compliant commercial drone operators

Drone technology is shrinking. This is great but it does not diminish the utility of larger platforms that need to have lift capacity to haul larger sensors or payloads. The DJI Mavic Pro is the smallest, most powerful commercially-viable drone on the market. It’s a home run from DJI who continue to push the limits of “prosumer” drones. Look for the Mavic Pro conducting small-scale inspection operations and drone mapping missions in a sky near you.

The battle of David and Goliath is shaping up—DJI is definitely Goliath—but at this time, they won’t be taken down by David.



THIS EPISODE’S FULL AUDIO TRANSCRIPTION WAS ACCOMPLISHED BY (A PRETTY SMART) A.I.:

[00:00:15] Ladies and gentlemen we’ve got quite a treat today. DJI just announced officially the mavic pro drone. This is a small foldable drone very very similar in the exact same weight class nearly as the GoPro karma drone which was just released last week. And we’ve got some exclusive analysis on this bad boy really going to go ahead and try to relate this to commercial operations. It does seem like a very very viable commercial platform. So let’s just go ahead and jump into it. So at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time today DJI took to the stage Michael Perry of DJI who’s the familiar face that usually does all the announcement events for the company and announce the maverick pro So this drone was leaked previously all over the Internet. It was very very good timing because it was leaked right during the go pro karma announcement. And so lots of the speculation has been flying around. Let’s see what’s actually true here. We’ll start with the specs of the aircraft so the aircraft is very small. I mean on the on the actual presentation Michael compared it to the size of a bottle of water. And even I just mean who don’t really know anything about but I know the name. I actually said now I have a drone in my purse so they’re really targeting all kinds of different demographics. The the actual drone was touted as they’re the world’s first personal drone quote unquote. [1:37.1]

[00:01:52] So this drone is meant to be with you wherever you’re at. Ladies you can stick it in your purse guys you can stick it in your man bag briefcase whatever. You could even throw it in your pocket. So it looks you know very portable. It looks smaller than the GoPro karma smaller than the Phantom. It’s about half the size and it actually has almost more features. Actually it has more features than the phantom 4 which is very shocking so I’m as I’m kind of watching the event today really looking at myself and wondering you know why would I buy a phantom for right now and what’s going to happen to that line. So looking at specs again we’ve got a 27 minute flight time on the maverick Pro which is quite impressive 24 minute hover time because whenever you’re hovering you’re not as efficient and you’re wasting a little bit more energy than when you’re actually in forward or any type of flight with the wind going over the airfoils creating more lift and making this system more stable and efficient. It’s got a four K stabilized camera on an actual mini three axis gimbal which is shocking. [1:10.6]

[00:03:03] I mean they have done quite an engineering feat in shrinking all of this technology in such a small package. The drone also has a dual glow GPS satellite connectivity so close NASA’s kind of like the industry standard is the same thing that the phantom 4 has. Obviously it’s not RC GPS. But it’s still quite good. It has an onboard 24 high performance computing corps that’s used primarily for the vision system so it has four vision sensors that allows you to do a lot of those easy indoor flying spots. It’s got to Vision sensors on the bottom two cameras and two on the front. It actually has the sonar sensor as well. Those sensors actually can detect the obstacles from 49 feet away. So I don’t know what the specifics back on the phantom 4 is as far as the range of detection but 49 feet is quite good especially if you’re traveling at higher speeds. DJI claims that it has a new transmission system for the motors which is slightly interesting and looking at the camera again because that’s very very much the most important part. Here it is the same sensor it seems as the Phantom for but it just has slightly less field of view so you’re not going to be able to see as much in one frame of the camera. It has a seventy eight point eight degree field of view versus the phantom 4S 94 degree field of view the costs. That’s pretty darn interesting. Is starting at $749 bucks. So if you’ll recall GoPro’s Karma is $799. [1:41.2]

[00:04:44] But with the camera that you have to buy a hero five black or something like that it goes significantly more than that. So there’s a few bundles with the maverick pro you can get the 749 dollar aircraft by itself without the RC transmitter. So you can just use your phone actually and use the Wi-Fi connection from your phone and use the DJI go app to control the drone. So if you want to be even more portable then you can go ahead and do that option although you will sacrifice range and a few other features. We’ll get to that in a second. But you can also buy the package for nine hundred ninety nine bucks with the RC transmitter so that comes with light bridge and some really cool improvements there. There’s also a bundle I can’t even access the store right now actually because it seems like the site is down. But the big bundle comes with a case comes with a couple of batteries extra propellers a car charger and a charging hub and that’s thirteen hundred bucks. [1:02.7]

[00:05:47] One of the cool features about the batteries are that you can actually use them as as Michael Perry mentioned on stage during the announcement to charge your mobile devices. So that is pretty cool. DJI does offer DJI care. They say that ten thousand customers over the past six months have used that. And another cool stat that we got from this live presentation and announcement was that in the last 12 months an estimated 560 million photos and videos were taken with DJI platforms. And that’s pretty ridiculous. It sounds like a lot but if you look at the next stat which is a 200 percent increase over the same period a year ago. So that is a 3x increase which is pretty pretty amazing. So going back to the actual hardware here. Capability the 4K camera 12 megapixels mini 3x this gimbal vision systems on board new transmission system the actual vision systems in order to allow for easier landings really set themselves apart. They record a short video of where it took off from. So as the drone takes off it has a short video stored onboard. And then it uses the store to video when it comes back to land to get centimeter precision for landing capabilities which is very very nice. There is a four point three mile range. [1:33.9]

[00:07:21] If you get the transmit or version with this drone which I highly recommend if you’re doing commercial operations 4.3 miles equates to seven kilometers and that ups the ante from the Phantom for 720p live video transmission with DJI’s new OcuSync Tech up to 1080p video from seven kilometers or 4.3 miles away literally ridiculous light bridge as mentioned in the previous episode is one of the best features that DJI has and it’s something that we take for granted. And when you’re comparing that to the cobra karma there’s just there’s no comparison. You literally can’t do it. One thing to note there is that little removable windscreen it seems so it looks like a little bubble on the front of the drone. I’m assuming that’s for protecting the camera when you’re doing some racing or if you want to keep the gimbal the three axis gimbal bit more steady. Whenever you’re flying at higher speeds it does not seem to offer any type of weather resistance or water or dust and dust ingress resistance of course. But there’s no you know specific waterproofing here. Another new feature is the terrain follow mode. So the drone will actually hug the terrain. So if you want it to fly 10 feet above the terrain while you’re doing something up the side of a mountain the drone will stay 10 feet above and kind of follow you around like that. So the speaking of the vision system again apologize all over the place here. But they have they have put their library of of computer vision cars boats bite’s bikes and pets and humans of course that it will actually track automatically. So a really cool thing. [1:43.2]

[00:09:05] And similar to I think the GoPro you can talk to it now but with this with DJI’s gesture control you can actually use hand gestures and instead of looking down at the transmitter you know everyone’s little drone or little drones selfie has a picture of them with the transmitter in their hand or them looking down at the transmitter and trying to fly and take the picture at the same time. Gone are those days you can use a series of hand gestures to tell the drone to focus on you and follow you or make a kind of like a picture frame symbol with your hands and then the drone will wait three seconds and then take a selfie of you which is pretty darn cool. And then you can share that super easily you know to Facebook or Twitter or whatever because it’s all on your phone and you’ve got your phone connected. That brings me over to the SDK support which is another crazy crazy feature that I have that no one else does. And something that really sets it off again. Businesses are literally built around this SDK to work on DJI drones. So having that capability in there is almost the nail in the coffin for the karma as far as commercial operations go. Going into some more a little a few of the more boring specs here the whole package actually is 1.6 four pounds which is 743 grams which is ridiculously tiny the maximum service ceiling which is worth noting is sixteen thousand four hundred and four feet which equates to 5000 meters. So basically this doesn’t mean you should be flying 16000 feet above ground. Far from it. But it just means that if you’re in a high altitude area up in the mountains then you know you can you can use this drone effectively up to 5000 meters or 16000 feet above sea level sensor again. [1:52.4]

[00:10:57] Twelve point seven megapixels so roughly 12 megapixels batteries or three cell Leipold with 38 hundred and thirty million. Our capacity so 3.8 amp our capacity supported mobile device size. I did some comparisons. It can support any any device in the transmitter so the little mountable transmitter which is different than the standard DJI transmitter can support a device up to eight point five millimeters in thickness and 160 millimeters in length. So the fab blitz the phones like the Nexus 6 p or the iPhone 7 plus will fit in there but the I pad Mini will not so that will be a little too much. That’s one one edge for the Phantom and for that its got going. Of course you know you can just use your mobile device so presumably you could just use an iPad Mini without the transmitter itself. U.S. b port types it’s nice to see us B type C on their supported micro USP and it supports the lightning connector. [1:02.8]

[00:12:02] All right. Just a quick 30 second interruption here. Everyone I want to talk really quickly about the commercial UAV Expo the commercial you avi Expo’s an annual commercial drone conference held in Las Vegas this year. It’s from October 31st to November 2nd at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. So after having been to literally every single relevant drone conference last year on both sides of the Atlantic in 2015 the commercial UAV Expo stood out to me as my favorite because of its intense focus on commercial drone operations. Some drone conferences can feel like the old boys club with the same people attending every year saying nearly the same things. But that commercial UAV Expo sets themselves apart by gathering the highest quality commercial drone end users. The leaders who are actually out there using drones in their business and bring them together to demonstrate keynotes presentations and breakout sessions. The UAV Expo’s focus from start to finish on commercial operations so not really any hobby talk. They’re super happy I’ll be there again this year and this time as a sponsor because the podcast is actually a media partner of the UAV Expo. So I hope to see you out at the commercially UAV Expo in Vegas. It’s going to be a great time leveling up our commercial drone knowledge. Together you can learn more or register to attend at Expo UAV dot com. Back to the show. So we’ll get into some more deeper analysis here so some of the observations that I found there was a really nice somewhat clever go jab. [1:40.1]

[00:13:43] There was a backpack during the announcement sitting on the podium on the stage with Michael Perry as he set the scene and he was about to announce the magic throne and he pointed to the backpack and said Yeah I could fit in that backpack. But it’s actually not in the backpack. And he did a clever little pulled the drone out of his back pocket maneuver. So if you remember CEO Nick Woodman of GoPro going crazy that the drone fit in a tiny backpack. I thought that was a little kind of clever go pro jab there. The technology here is just really miniaturizing it’s going much towards mobile phone kind of computing how everything was getting smaller. [39.3]

[00:14:23] Now we see a lot of mobile phones getting larger. And so there really is a place for every kind of drone. I mean drones and phones have different and use cases so with drones Sometimes you need to carry a larger camera or a sensor or a payload. So larger drones will still of course have their spot in this world of commercial drones they deejay I said it was designed to be I believe one third the size of a A4 piece of paper which is roughly size and weight of of a water bottle a bigger water bottle. So the DJI goggles while very interesting were super big clunky and white monstrosity looking things almost I don’t know battery life for any other specs on them. I’m sure they’re great but I’m not like super stoked on those although those could be good for inspection. I mean who knows. Getting that shared user experience with TV goggles on to operators could be pretty nice. So DJI is definitely going after everybody with this drone as evidenced by I just seen going on stage. The female demographic was represented. Now I have a drone in my purse she said. And also the whole personal drone and marketing video is filled with gals which was nice to see for once. So that was pretty nice. And go pro stock too. To kind of touch on that a little bit. GoPro stock was actually I checked out my phone during the event it knocked down. Up to six point one two percent during the livestream. So Wall Street’s paying attention to what DJI is doing. [1:35.7]

[00:15:59] Even DJI even though DJI is a private company it has effect on GoPro stocks so that’s worth noting there. The DJI Go app can also now do some editing and sharing videos instantly. So I believe this is new it’s the smart edit feature and it will automatically sync your video and cut it up so that the included music tracks on the DJI Go app can actually just be perfectly inline with your video and all the cuts will actually be associated with the music tracks so that’s pretty cool. Makes it a lot easier to share Of course you’ve got Facebook live with that partnership and they’ve got live to YouTube periscope etc.. The geospatial environment online this is just another reason why DJI is leading the pack. This is what the geo fencing is from DJI so it’ll warn the operator with geo fencing about where they shouldn’t fly. [56.3]

[00:16:55] So if there’s wildfire’s or no fly zones or you’re around an airport or within an airport zone it will tell you or it’ll stop the drone from taking off. This [10.1]

[00:17:05] is great for enterprise this is great for all kinds of commercial operations where you don’t want to be breaking the law and you want to always be safe. So that’s another check in his direction. We mentioned the STK support which is huge. The price is great. I think the 999 buck price point for commercial operations that still nothing that’s less than the P4 you’re getting. Arguably a better drone. I don’t see any reason to not not really like that price point compared to the other competition out there. This is literally the smallest most powerful drone that exists on the market. So can’t wait to get my hands on one for commercial operations. So going back to the image sensor for photogram a tree for example the sensor actually has a smaller field of use so what that means is that if you’re trying to do a mapping mission which you will be able to do with this drone given the included SDK support so using your drone mapping app of choice you can go ahead and execute a lawnmower flight pattern and take all the nadir imagery directly below your drone. What it means with the smaller field of view however is that it won’t be able to cover the same area of a phantom for in comparison one to one. So since the phantom 4 has a larger field of view it can capture more of the ground. If you’re if you’re talking about nature imagery in one image and in a set of images then the maverick pro will so you’ll have to fly for the same area to map slightly longer. [1:37.8]

[00:18:44] You might have to go a little bit higher in order to compensate for that. But the battery life is supposedly I believe a little bit better than the P4. I’ve never gotten more than 24 minutes from a phantom four so it’ll be nice to see if this 27 minute estimate holds up. There you have it I mean you’ll be able to do all kinds of photogram metric stuff with this drone inspection workflow. You can do aerial video and photography. I mean I’m just very impressed with what DJI has put out here. It’s at a perfect time. I’m curious what the future will hold. I believe inspire two would probably be coming soon maybe before the holidays and a month or two. And yeah we’ll have to wait and see for that. So I’ll be posting up some additional insights as they come in. This is just going to be a really really interesting piece of hardware that I think is going to have a big effect on the drone industry. So we’re going to be seeing a lot more aerial photos and videos on YouTube and Facebook and everywhere. We’ll have to deal with that. But from a commercial perspective this thing goes toe to toe with anything else out there that DJI has and often bests much much platforms. [1:13.8]

[00:19:58] I imagine that cost nearly 10 times as more so DJI continuing to crush it. GoPro the battle of David and Goliath is shaping up. [10.7]

[00:20:09] And now I believe I know the answer to the question DJI is definitely Goliath but at this time I don’t know if he’ll be taken down by David. Thanks for listening.

Share the love

Want more?

Subscribe to Commercial Drones FM on iTunes


Recent drone podcasts and blog posts: