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DJI Mavic Mini Drone Review

Reading Time: 10 minutes
An image of the DJI Mavic Mini Fly More Combo
DJI Mavic Mini – Fly More Combo

Release Date: November 11th 2019 | Drone provided free for review purposes

The DJI Mavic Mini carry case is very nice.

When the Mavic Mini released over a year ago, there were so many YouTube videos about this incredible new Drone that was light enough not to require a license, it became a popular product to review. Currently, any Drone in the UK that is 250 grams or more, must be registered with the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority). You would also need to pass a theory test for a flyer ID and an operator ID. 

The Mavic Mini is amazingly 1 gram lighter, weighing in at an impressive 249 grams.

The small DJI Mavic Mini Drone folded up
The DJI Mavic Mini folds away so small.

However, being 249g’s doesn’t change how you should fly. There are laws about flying close to peoples homes, getting permission from residents/landowners if you plan to film etc. 

But if you need to read more, check out the link here to the CAA registration page (https://register-Drones.caa.co.uk/registration-requirements)

So with the new Mavic Mini 2 on it’s way out, is the Mini 1 still a viable purchase?

We took it for a test drive, and as this is our first Drone review and my first time flying a drone, I’ve gone less for a video/technical review and more a novice style approach.

Those Tech Specs

The Mavic Mini weighs in at an impressive 249g. Each battery has a maximum 30 minute flight time. The Drone can transmit up to 4km (about 2.5 miles) in HD video transmission. It has an incredible 2.7K video-camera (on a 3-axis gimbal) and shoots 12MP images. 

The press unit we received was the Fly More Combo, so along with the Drone, we also got a few extra pieces;

  • 1 Drone
  • 1 Remote Controller
  • 3 Batteries (2 more than usual – £45 each)
  • 3 Pairs of Spare Propellers (2 more than usual)
  • Micro USB Charging Cable (x2) (1 more than usual)
  • Gimbal Protector (when packaging and transporting)
  • RC Cables to Mirco USB, USB-C & Lightning
  • Spare Control Sticks
  • Spare Screws (x18) (12 more than usual)
  • 1 Screwdriver
  • 360′ Propellor Guards (Extra)
  • Two-Way Charging Hub (Extra – charges the three batteries together)
  • 18W DJI USB Charger (Extra)
  • Carrying Bag (Extra – Very Handy for transport)

So for the current price difference of £90, which is the two batteries, you get extra stuff! The only thing you don’t get is a microSD card. Thankfully DJI sent one of those over as part of the review kit.

Now I’ve had this Drone for a while. However, 2020 has been challenging to get to places that you can fly without permission, are away from homes, or even out of your local area (local and regional lockdowns). Plus the pressures of travelling and finding beautiful locations worthy of this review in between my 9-5 job have been tricky. So hopefully, we’ve got some great stuff to share.

 

Getting Started

I recognised that when flying a Drone for the first time, you’re probably not going to have any ideas what to do with it. I sure didn’t! 

So I went online and looked at some areas that were recommended for flying, mainly without requiring permission.

So thank you to https://Dronescene.co.uk the website I used for this.

I also wanted to go somewhere with some visible differences of light and shadows, but also with some enclosed areas and open areas to test handling, especially as it’s always windy or wet here!

To start, the Drone has three modes, Position, Sport or CineSmooth.

Position is the default mode, giving you your basic GPS and obstacle sensors, hovers in place for some impeccable stable-shooting, and all whilst staying safe. I barely used this mode though.

Sport is what you’d expect; it’s designed for fast flying and manoeuvrability. So no quick shooting in this mode, but boy does this thing shift. Just be mindful you need a nice open safe space for this, as the Drone will go like a rocket. I used this after shooting my main videos and shots, as it would also drain the battery much quicker than usual.

CineSmooth is the mode I used the most. The Drone is limited to a smoother speed and pace, with more fluidity of rotation, and the camera being less janky. This mode gives you the best options for shooting cinema-style fly-overs without losing quality.

The setup is easy to use. You download the DJI Fly app from your phones App Store, screw the control sticks in, plug your device into the remote controller using the supplied cables and power them both up. Your smartphone sits landscape in the cradle under the thumb-sticks and provides your Drone visuals, including quick touch actions for the controls, like switching flight modes, for example.

The HUD also offers flight telemetry measurements, local map information, auto take-off and landing functions, camera switching (video, still or quick shots) and so much more, like flight data, battery and signal strength; it’s a lot on screen. 

At this point, I just wanted to fly and see if I could create some magic moments.

The Mavic Mini in the palm of a hand
Tiny Tiny Drone.

Let’s Fly

I unfold the wings, place the Drone down, start the controller and sync the Drone, wait I forgot the gimbal protector! 

I check around me, nobody close, I initiate auto take-off, and the magic happens. It whirs up like a giant wasp, and you feel something exciting, it’s your first time doing something like this, the possibilities are endless; so what do I do now?

I send it barrelling backwards, whoops, the wrong way, forwards I go, and I move left rather than rotating! These controls will take some getting used to. I try some fancy flying, its janky and I feel overwhelmed with this tiny monster. So I slow down, and get used to the sticks, I fly left and right, climb high and swing down, I’m getting the hang of this, and it’s beautiful.

I am in awe of how incredible this Drone is, but also how loud it is. The giant wasp wasn’t a metaphor; it was true to life. A hillwalker passes, marvels at this thing buzzing in the sky, and comments on the noise, I respond with a nod and smile, and he strides on, his dog barking at what is probably magic to him.

I land the Drone and figure I need to capture some footage that isn’t just of me going up and down.

Now this first video is my first day out with the Drone, and I didn’t change any of the camera/video functions, I let the Drones sensors do all the work and kept it on Auto, something most people would do with their first Drone.

First Thoughts

I was ever so impressed with the Mavic Mini, and it handled well; it was controllable in CineSmooth and delivered some impressive footage. As a first time flyer, I felt amazed by some of the stuff I was capturing. I used all three batteries, consumed entirely within the couple of hours I was out, and I did multiple takes of a few different angles to try and find the right shot. 

After I had gotten roughly what I planned, I switched it to Sport Mode, and this is where it got interesting. 

I zoomed across the beach and flew high into the air, swinging around and down like a bird of prey, I then started to notice people watching the Drone. They looked on as if they’d not seen one in real life. Considering the small gathering I gave them a bit of an air show, I swopped down closer and then high above them, like a turntable they spin their heads as it performed so admirably on show. 

I wasn’t the only one impressed that day.

The final battery told me it was low, and I hit the return home function. The Drone flew up higher than normal and then back to me automatically, I didn’t have to do anything. Now it didn’t “exactly” land in the same spot, but it wasn’t far out. 

Yes, I’m sold already, and it’s only my first few hours with it.

A coastal shot taken via the drone
Shot using Auto settings,

Second and Third Flights

Full of positivity on the return home and a successful first run, I start planning a couple more flights in my head. The drive home is excellent, and the possibilities are boundless.

However local lockdown restrictions come into place, and I’m stuck at home or working from home, with the occasional trip into the office. I had to postpone plans to go out.

Then when the lockdowns ended, so did the great weather. With battering rainstorms and strong winds, I daren’t take the Drone out, it gets buffered enough in small wind currents, and I’m sure it’s not waterproof.

Once the weather settled (and with free-time), I decided to go to an abandoned quarry. As I drove there and parked up, it was haunting, to say the least, I walked a partial distance and found a great spot to fly. I placed the Drone down, and I got these weird error messages. ESC beeping, what’s ESC? 

I restart the Drone, look online for ESC error. Let’s check the list; batteries are fresh, as I haven’t flown yet, the wind is nominal, propellors look ok, undamaged, no crashes so far, always boxed up safely. So I restart the Drone with a different battery, same ESC error message, but this time with GPS issues, unavailable GPS. 

Scratching my head, I manage to get the Drone to take off, but it’s not flying correctly, I try and film some footage, but I land the Drone annoyingly and hike back to the car.

I drive away from the Quarry and towards an old castle, it’s another 30 minutes in the wrong direction, but possible the quarry mines and the metals caused some serious interference, plus the hike back to the Quarry wasn’t on my to-do list.

I arrive at the Castle and it’s closed, surrounded by scaffolding, construction workers and barriers I sigh and admit defeat. I’ve only a short amount of time left outside, and the weather is changing. 

Cliffs and sand shown by the drone
Shot just before launching into sport mode.

Final Call

I get the call the Mavic Mini has to be returned. I’m worried now as I only have one real good days worth of footage. I decided to go out and weather whatever storm comes my way. 

Back I head to the same Castle that the construction work should’ve finished on, but the gates are still closed, and the scaffolding remains up. I ask if I can fly the Drone above, they decline. I scratch my head and look once more at Dronescene; I’ve found a different castle and a river. Perfect.

I head nearby and park up. It’s muddy, and I’m not dressed for it, but I’m excited to fly one last time and get some more footage. I unpack the Drone, get it started and there’s that ESC error once more.  

I’m perplexed, and I have no idea what to do but change all the propellors. So I sit in the mud and unscrew them and replace them with the spares. It’s time-consuming and the screws are fiddly. But the blades are marked helpfully, so you don’t mix the rear and front ones. Twenty minutes later I’m done, I say a small prayer and I try again.

Yes! Replacing the blades does it. I’m flying high and around the Castle, reacquainting myself with the sticks I take a couple of test runs around the Castle.

I once again leave the camera on Auto and switch to CineSmooth mode.


Final Flight

I’ve got to say the Drone performs just as well here. I do encounter a few more issues, but more on them shortly. I’m lucky enough to be alone at the Castle, so I’m sliding around the walls, flying over the tops and performing admirably as a novice pilot.

This Drone is small, and on a couple of occasions, as I look down to the screen, I find myself losing sight of this Drone. I’m panicking and think where it is? A quick scan to my phone and I relocate it. A bright coloured shell would be handy when the white/black Drone blends in with the grey skies!

I can’t say it was perfect all the time. On a few occasions, I had either weak signal to the Drone camera or lost the video feed completely, and on one occasion might’ve even crashed into a wall. (However, it still performed excellent afterwards.)

Considering how close I was to the Drone, the antennas need to be directly aiming at the Drone, or it can cause issues with interference.

I also noticed that the longer videos took up a lot of space on the SD card supplied. I had to land and copy the files to my phone camera roll and start again. This wireless transfer method was slow and inconvenient, and also consumed battery on the Drone. More SD cards are needed when out and about. 

I also noticed at some points, a strong gust of wind would shift the Drone a fair one way or the other. At one point, I panicked as I was battling the wind to return home.

Return to LZ

My time with the Drone, although short in actual flight time, was incredible. There are so many things a novice can achieve with such an affordable first-time option. This Drone also boasts some remarkable features that a more professional videographer can work with. 

There are some pre-set Drone auto movements that can give you a powerful opening or cinematic shot. Moves like Dronie will focus on a subject and then fly away (upwards and backwards) for a perfect reveal shot. Helix, which offers a pretty snazzy upward spiral-style motion and loops around and around, is great for a nice 360 video of you, or your subject.

The Drone is also highly customisable, with options for pitch speed and movement. You can change how the sticks move the aircraft, or what modes you shoot in (4:3 or 16:9). You can include gridlines, alter the HZ (refresh rate) and even exposure levels.

Yet the joy of all those is you don’t have too, and you still get an incredible Drone experience.

The fact this is £349 for the Mavic Mini is incredible and makes a fantastic gift for anyone who would love a Drone.

I do have one extra thought. Flying a Drone is fun and can showcase the real beauty this world has to offer. You can capture memories and create show-stopping moments that your friends will love, but is this something you’d whip out and fly, or do you purposely have to plan? 

I found that I’d love to have it with me all the time, but then I also wouldn’t want to keep a £350 Drone in the boot of my car. Just in case.

Can I recommend the Mavic Mini? Absolutely! Is it worth spending an extra £70 on the Mavic Mini 2? Possibly, but that’s a decision only you can make.

Still from the second flight

Rapid Reviews Rating

You can purchase your own DJI Mavic Mini here. Check out our other tech reviews here.

You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.

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