Really sorry to have to tell you this, but you’re going to have to sell your new drone and buy the brand new DJI Air 2S instead. Yes, we'd be irritated too had we just bought its predecessor – the DJI Mavic Air 2 – or indeed any consumer drone in the current DJI roster. In short, this is simply so much better than the ’S’ moniker suggests (see how it compares to its predecessor in this DJI Air 2S vs DJI Mavic Air 2 faceoff). In fact, not only is it more trailblazing than any other DJI drone to date, for my money it's the best drone around today, and a worthy winner of a T3 Award 2021.
The DJI Air 2S is available to buy now (it launched April 2021) and joins the lineup shortly after the DJI FPV, which launched early March 2021. The standard bundle has an RRP of GBP £899 / USD $999 / AU$1,699. Here’s our review of the DJI Mavic Air 2S and why you really should buy one.
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DJI Air 2S review: design
At 595 grams, the Air 2S weighs just 25g more than the Mavic Air 2 and when folded its shell is just 3mm taller. In fact the only visible difference is the addition of a new camera and two upward-facing sensors. One minor design complaint is that, like many of DJI's drones, it's only available in one colour: a dull grey.
However, dig below the surface and there’s a whole lot more going on. In fact there’s enough new tech under the shell to make any prospective buyer salivate – and anyone who just bought a Mavic 2 Pro froth at the mouth.
DJI Air 2S review: in-flight features
The Air 2S is laden with so much advanced technology that I’m not sure where to begin, but I’ll start with those two upward-facing sensors on top of the shell. These two little eyes are new additions to the drone’s obstacle avoidance armoury so instead of just forward, rearward and downward facing sensors, it can now also detect obstacles above. This gives the Air 2S unmatchable poise when it comes to navigating through trees and buildings, especially when the drone’s used with the newly upgraded ActiveTrack 4.0 function, DJI’s version of the ‘follow me’ principal. In fact, the ActiveTrack 4.0 feature is now so well dialled that it will pretty much predict in which direction you – or any other moving subject – is likely to go, even if you try and dart out of frame.
The uprated Spotlight 2.0 is another cracking feature that helps produce incredible cinematic shots while you control the flight path of the drone. Using your phone and the DJI Fly app, simply draw a square around the object – moving or static – and the camera will lock onto it like a fighter pilot while the you take care of the flight controls.
However, that’s just the half of it because for the very first time, DJI has unleashed the most advanced and intelligent autonomous flight feature this writer has yet seen. It’s called MasterShots and it may become your best friend because the drone literally flies around you on its own while taking 10 completely different video sequences of yourself from a variety of angles. It then stitches these scenes together to produce a complete cinematic video replete with music – which you can then immediately share online. This means you can complete in minutes what normally takes many hours of trial and error – and without so much as lifting a finger.
OcuSync is DJI’s proprietary image transmission technology and is renowned for its near faultless 1080p live feed. This model comes with OcuSync 3.0 which effectively allows the pilot to fly the drone up to 12km (7.45 miles) away and still see the image from its camera. Of course, this is strictly illegal in the world of authority which states that drones must be flown ‘line of sight’. But hey, it's nice to know it can do it.
Airsense is another slice of handy safety tech that features in some of DJI's other drones. In short, the DJI Fly app receives ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) flight location information from planes and helicopters in the area and it even displays those them on a map. Of course, if you’re sticking to the rule of law, you shouldn’t be flying above 400 feet in the first place. Nevertheless, even if you are flying legally, this is still a very worthwhile feature to have on board, especially for those rare instances when police, rescue and medical helicopters need to fly below the 400 feet threshold.
DJI Air 2S review: camera performance
This is what the fuss is really about and one of the main reasons why the DJI Air 2S represents the current pinnacle of drone design. Like its bigger, heavier and more expensive stablemate, the Mavic 2 Pro, the new Air 2S’s new camera now comes equipped with a Sony one-inch CMOS sensor that produces outrageously sharp 20MP images (in RAW, JPEG and HDR) and broadcast-quality video.
Unlike the Pro model, this one can shoot at a staggering resolution of 5.4K at 30 frames per second. Moreover, it will also shoot 4K Ultra HD at up to 60fps and 1080p at up to 120fps. As if that’s not enough to whet the appetite, the camera also has a digital zoom function and is capable of shooting HDR, Hyperlapse and automatic Panorama. These are stats not even the Mavic 2 Pro or Mavic 2 Zoom can compete with.
DJI Air 2S review: Flight performance
You never have to worry about putting a DJI drone in the air for the first time because all the models currently on sale fly with such confidence-inspiring reliability. This model is no different – the controls are as butter-smooth as ever and the controller feels reassuringly chunky in the hand. This is one of the quietest models, too, which means you can fly it around without attracting too much attention. Top speed in Sport mode is around 42mph (the same as the Mavic Air 2) and battery time is a paltry three minutes shorter (31 minutes).
There really isn’t much more to add about this drone’s performance. Like all DJI drones, it does exactly what you want it to do – it flies brilliantly well even in strong winds, comes back to its take-off point automatically if requested and it gives you plenty of warning if the battery is nearing depletion.
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DJI Air 2S review: Standard and Fly More Combo
The DJI Air 2S is available in two configurations. The sub-grand stand-alone option comprises the drone, hand controller, single battery and charger, plus spare props and spare screw-in joysticks. The more expensive Fly More Combo also includes two extra batteries, a charging hub, four ND camera filters and a nicely designed shoulder bag.
DJI Air 2S review: Do I need a licence to fly it?
You will absolutely need to have a Flyer ID and Operator ID from the CAA to fly this drone and possibly even an Open A2 Certificate of Competency if you want the freedom to fly in more areas and even use the Air 2S for commercial reasons, like property and wedding filming. You can find out all about the registration process in our handy guide to UK drone regulations.
Find out more about CAA drone regulations.
DJI Air 2S review: verdict
Now to the most important part of our DJI Air 2S review: should you buy one? Yes. The DJI Air 2S is everything a camera drone should be – compact, light, quiet and blessed with the most incredible onboard tech, including a camera that shoots unbelievably sharp images and video. It’s so good in so many areas that you wonder how DJI’s tech bods could possibly improve on it. But they will.