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DJI Mavic Air 2 prototype

Anticipation is building for the release of what a source close to DJI calls “probably the best drone of the year.” We won’t know until we see it, but we do know a fair bit about the features this drone will have. Based on what we’re hearing, this will indeed be a very successful product.

DJI has been burning the midnight oil. In 2020, it seemed like the company was releasing products nonstop. In fact, there was such a flurry of announcements that we decided to catalog every release that year. One of the standouts from 2020 was undoubtedly the Mavic Air 2. Its combination of size, performance, camera, and flight time made it an instant hit with many pilots.

And now it’s getting a significant upgrade.

New features of DJI Air 2S

Given the fact this is not called a DJI Air 3, this will not be a radical redesign from the original Mavic Air 2. Instead, it will be a drone that offers many of the same features, along with some significant improvements. And two of the biggest changes are actually pretty big news.

The Mavic Air 2 was – and is – a great drone

A source close to the project tells us, as we reported here, that the new DJI Air 2S will feature compatibility with the V2 Goggles. That’s going to appeal to a lot of pilots, particularly those who might already own the goggles. For those who don’t but want them, they’re a somewhat pricey add-on ($569, once they’re in stock), and will open up a whole new experience.

Will the Air 2S be an FPV drone?

Based on what we just wrote, yes. But let’s be clear here about what FPV means. As most of you know, it means First Person View, so that the pilot has the option of seeing and controlling the aircraft based on what the aircraft is seeing. Of course, you could argue that even using a phone or tablet connected to a controller is First Person View, because you’re also being guided by what the drone’s camera is seeing.

But true First Person View, in our minds, is when you’re controlling the drone in flight while wearing goggles. However, a lot of people equate FPV with acrobatic piloting and zipping through bandos. Let’s be clear: The DJI Air 2S will not be an acrobatic drone capable of flips and rolls etc. It will fly like the Mavic Air 2, except you’ll have the option of piloting this from the goggles, or having an observer wear the goggles while the pilot flies using a regular app and controller.

If you’re looking for an acrobatic drone, this won’t be the one for you. But if you’re after a long-range FPV experience, this will be a great contender.

Will the DJI Air 2S work with the Motion Controller?

According to our source, and which we also reported in that earlier referenced story, yes. For many pilots, this will be a huge bonus. Although DJI’s $199 Motion Controller has only been on the market since early March, it’s been getting a lot of buzz from people who’ve tried it (including us). It’s a super-intuitive way to fly, especially if you’re out for pleasure or cinematography, and not trying to do some close-up inspection work.

Yup. You’ll be able to fly the Air 2S with this…

So two big bonuses right there: Compatibility with the V2 Goggles and the motion controller.

What will the Air 2S look like?

We can’t say for sure, but we have posted previously about a leaked image that was clearly based on the Mavic Air 2. We were told this was one of several prototypes.

DJI Mavic Air 2 prototype
Is this what the DJI Air 2S will look like? Some sources say yes…

Camera upgrade?

It’s previously been suggested, by well-known leaker @OsitaLV, that the Air 2S will ship with an improved sensor. While he admits he’s speculating, he’s pretty specific. In fact, he suggests the drone will ship with an IMX686 sensor, capable 64 MP photos, and 4K, 60fps video.

DJI Mini 2
DJI bumped the camera with the Mini 2; we expect the same with the Air 2S

The sensor in the Mavic Air 2 was no slouch, but DJI does tend to improve cameras with each outing. The Mini 2 offers significant improvements for stills and video over the original Mavic Mini, for example. So we would anticipate – actually, we’d expect – the Air 2S to offer an improved camera sensor over its predecessor. It simply wouldn’t make sense to ship with the same camera.

If you’d like to check out the full specs on the existing Mavic Air 2, you can find them here.

AirSense ADS-B detection

The original Mavic Air 2 shipped, at least in North America, with what DJI calls AirSense. It’s essentially a system for detecting nearby manned aircraft equipped with an ADS-B transponder. This wasn’t a feature available in other parts of the world, due apparently to some chip shortages.

However, we do see this feature baked into the DJI FPV Combo, which will alert the pilot if an ADS-B equipped aircraft is nearby. This is such a great safety feature, especially for a device that can be flown with goggles. We say that because, while that goggle view is primo, it does prevent the pilot from being fully aware of the surrounding airspace. If you’re alerted there’s a manned aircraft nearby, simply bring the drone down. (Well done on this, DJI.)

The DJI FPV Combo is equipped with ADS-B detection…

The laws in North America state that a visual observer needs to be with the pilot on FPV flights, monitoring the airspace and for general situational awareness. The reality, as we know, is that many people are either unaware of this rule or will ignore it. Given that DJI has ensured AirSense is in its first FPV drone, you can be almost certain it will include it with this FPV-capable model.

What will the range be?

Well, the Mavic Air 2 can stay in the air under optimal conditions for a pretty amazing 34 minutes. With OcuSync 2.0 its video transmission range (1080p, 30 fps) is 10 kilometers. We can’t imagine really pushing that range significantly farther with existing battery technology, but given that the FPV combo shipped with OcuSync 3.0, which has lower latency, we’d anticipate this would be included with the Air 2S.

How much will it cost?

Dunno. But if we take the Mavic Mini/Mini 2 evolution as a recent benchmark, DJI will quite reasonably charge more for a drone that can do more. The Mavic Air 2 is $799 so it’s going to be more than that. How much more, we can’t say. But this is a significant upgrade in features.

For those not interested in the new features, keep your eye out. It’s quite possible DJI will discount the Mavic Air 2 somewhat on the release of the Air 2S.

When will the Air 2S be released?

We can’t say for certain. But those FCC filings generally drop a month or two before a product hits the market. Given that, along with the fact that a source told us earlier that the Air 2S was already in production, we’re anticipating a release at some point in April.

If you’ve been considering the DJI FPV Combo but aren’t sure that acrobatic flying is for you, it’s probably worth waiting – especially if the idea of longer-range scenic cruising appeals.