Back in January 2015 I ordered a Zano. A mini drone that the makers claimed was capable of some amazing feats. I had visions of taking it to Morocco and filming myself as I rode some of the old Dakar routes. Unfortunately it wasn’t ready in time. I then envisaged taking it on my trip around South America and being able to view some of the most fabulous sites on the continent from the air. Unfortunately it still wasn’t ready.
I returned to the UK in February 2016, and finally the Zano had arrived. However, nearly 6 months in South America with dodgy wifi meant that I hadn’t been keeping update with things back i the UK. Torquing Group, the makers of Zano went bust, and the Zano itself didn’t fly.That was false start number one. Fortunately, I was able to get my money back from my credit card provider.
False start number two came in the form of the Hexo+. I’d seen it feature on BBC’s Click, and at the time it looked promising. I drone purpose build for filming action. Controlled via bluetooth from a mobile phone, and capable of flying at speeds in excess of 40mph. Perfect. Well not quite. The batteries would only last 10 minutes, the software was buggy, and its sheer size meant that I was practically unusable from a motorcycle. In fact I only took it outside on three occasions, and one of those was to sell it.
False start number three almost came in the form of GoPro’s Karma. The mysterious device had been heavily hyped prior to launch, and the launch video itself was impressive. So much so my holdings in GoPro jumped over 25%. Yes Karma is still a it large for carrying on a motorcycle, but more manageable than anything else. The main drawbacks were the lack of a follow me function, and the release date was still a good month and a half off.
Enter the Mavic Pro
I literally knew nothing about this drone. I think DJI completely blind-sided everyone with it’s announcement. Within two weeks of the announcement of the Karma, DJI killed it off before it even had a chance. In the Mavic we finally had a drone that overland travellers and ADV riders had been waiting for. Something small, portable, and reasonably robust, that could be thrown into a pannier, or tail pack. Add to that the 27 min battery life, and 7km range, and 4k video recording and DJI was on to a winner.
Immediately I ordered one, and at the same time sold my shares in GoPro. Skip forward a month and a half, and it finally arrived. Unfortunately in Europe it’s the middle of winter, so there are limited opportunities to test it out on the bike, but I have been able to test it around local parks and fields, and my experience so far has been entirely positive.
Yes it has a few short comings, 1080p at 60fps is rubbish. 4k video is compressed into a tiny 65Mbps, follow me doesn’t work on some android devices, and the active track has a maximum speed of around 20mph, but no show stoppers. The biggest problem with the Mavic is availability. At the time of writing, some orders dating back to October still haven’t been fulfilled, and many customers will be lucky to get theirs before Christmas.
This popularity, also means that I only have the one battery at present. I think for a motorcycle tour I’d want at least two, possibly three, especially when out in the desert of elsewhere. That being said, the 12v charger with bring a depleted battery up to full in around 45 minutes, so that’s not too bad.
Here’s a short clip I made in my local area. This was shot at 2.7k which seems to be the best setting on the Mavic, and used the Art colour mode. One feature that sets the Mavic Pro, and some of the other drones apart from the competition, it the downward facing vision system and forward sensors. You can see the latter come into play in the video, as it thinks about whether or not the branches of the trees represent an obstacle. These features are particularly useful for motorcyclists when using the drone in ‘follow me’ mode.
This is the device I wish I had on my aforementioned adventures. I suppose I’ll just have to create new ones. Bring on 2017.