I've never owned a drone. I've tested and crashed a few, but I have never found a compelling enough reason to pay $1,000 for one. I just haven't been able to convince myself I'd use the flying camera enough to justify the investment, even if I took stunning photos and videos for Instagram.
So when DJI announced the Mavic Mini, a small drone that weighs a mere 249 grams, my interest was piqued. With a starting price of $399, a carrying case and the controller, the Mini looked to be the first drone I could fathom spending money on. Actually, if I were to buy the Mini, I would opt for the $499 Fly More Combo, which includes three batteries, a propeller cage, a carrying case and extra propellers for the inevitable crash.
I'm not alone in seeing its appeal — there's a 10-15 business day wait when ordering direct from DJI, which is about the same when ordering from Apple.
I've been testing the Mavic Mini, and even though I'm not quite ready to give it a more official review, I have initial impressions about the little drone that could.
It weighs 249 grams, which is just under the Federal Aviation Administration's 250-gram weight limit that requires you to register a drone before flying. You still need to abide by the FAA's regulations, such as flying below 400 feet.
Its overall footprint is smaller than Google's Pixel 4 XL, excluding height. It's small enough to fit in the palm of my hand when the propellers are folded in.
The Mavic Mini, battery charging kit and controller fit into the Fly More Combo's case, which itself takes up very little space. It's not small enough to fit in my backpack, but the Mini and controller would be a breeze to throw in a bag and take on a hike.
Battery life has been great
DJI states a full battery will provide 30 minutes of flight, and I'm sure that's close to what I've been getting. I haven't timed an entire flight, but I plan to let the Mini hover from a full charge until it lands on its own for a better time estimate.
I know I've reached over 20 minutes of flight time on multiple occasions, which is just insane to me. It almost gets to a point where after flying around for a bit, I run out of ideas as to what to do next — that's a good problem to have, though.
Photo and video quality are pretty good
I've taken a few videos and photos during flights (the controller has buttons that make it easy to complete either task), and so far I have been impressed with the quality. The Mini can capture video at up to 2.7K, which is what I have it set on, and it's crisp and clear.
Photos, such as the photo of an incoming storm, have looked great. I can see why people get into capturing their surroundings with a drone. Seeing my house from 300 feet above is mesmerizing.
No obstacle avoidance is a bummer
The Mini is small and affordable, and adding things like sensors to avoid large objects would add to its overall size and price, so it's understandable. There is a sensor on the bottom of the Mini that helps with landing, but that's it.
Going the distance
The Mavic Mini has a maximum distance of 4 kilometers or 2.5 miles. I tried to test this claim from my house, but at around 1,000 feet, I started to lose signal and had to bring the Mini back. I believe the amount of interference from nearby homes was the blame. I plan on testing distance in an open area very soon.
Confusing warnings and messages
One aspect of being a new drone pilot is understanding the various warnings prior to taking off and during a flight, and DJI's airspace warnings prior to taking off. I often see a warning about aircraft power being insufficient, but have yet to have any issues with the Mini suddenly stopping and dropping out of the sky.
I have seen a couple of airspace warnings when flying at my house, and I eventually figured out that I need to get FAA clearance to fly (it's an easy process and takes just a few seconds).
I wish, however, that the DJI app was clearer about what these warnings mean.
I plan on spending a lot more time flying the Mavic Mini, fully testing battery life and distance, and hopefully taking better photos with its camera. I'll have a full review soon.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.