DJI Air 3: What we want to see
The DJI Air 3 is one of the major drones we expect to see in 2023.
If you’re new to drones, DJI’s naming system might confuse you. However, the latest model clears up the confusion to some extent.
The top is the Mavic drone, the middle is the Air model, and the bottom is the Minis – which we think most people will buy. They are relatively affordable. The middle child, the Air line, has gotten the least love of late. Maybe it’s time for DJI Air 3 to appear in people’s field of vision.
But what can or should it offer? We took a deep dive into the wider range of DJI drones and the technology available to the manufacturer today to discover the features we want, as well as the most viable additions to drones this year. But let’s start with some estimates for release date and cost.
DJI Air 3 Price and Availability
The DJI Air 3 will be the successor to the DJI Air 2S. Launched in April 2021, the drone is itself a successor to the DJI Air 2 from April 2020. This suggests that the DJI Air 3 could arrive around April 2023. Given component shortages and the myriad of other issues facing manufacturers these days, it’s no surprise to miss out on a 2022 launch.
However, a recent image of the release schedule published by DealsDrone suggests that the Air 3 could launch a bit later, in May 2023. It also suggests that April will bring the DJI Inspire 3. Inspire is DJI’s line of professional cinematography drones – the Inspire 2 was released many years ago, back in 2016.
Given the small price gap between the mid-range Air 2S (from $999/£899/AU$1,699) and the “affordable” DJI Mini 3 Pro (from $759/£709/AU$1,699), we might also see The cost of the Air range is up $1,119).
New Micro Four Thirds Sensor
The DJI Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro bring sizable sensors to DJI’s smallest drones. Is a 1″ sensor enough when cheaper models already have 1/1.3″ chips?
We say no. The next step is the MFT sensor – as seen in the DJI Mavic 3 Classic. The Sony IMX383 chip used in the Air 2S is also five years old, and apart from the Sony IMX989 “built for smartphones,” there aren’t many newer successors.
A Micro Four Thirds Sony IMX472 chip is best for the job, and it’s probably the same sensor used in the DJI Mavic 3 Classic. This information does not appear to be available at this time.
A bigger sensor would mean better low-light performance, higher dynamic range, and less noise. Sony’s IMX472 chip, a 20-megapixel MFT sensor with 3.3-micron pixels, is due out in 2021. It’s much newer than the sensor in the Air 2S. It also has some amazing features.
Improved 120fps 4K (or 5K) video
One of those skills is a 120fps readout mode with 12-bit color depth, using the sensor’s full 5280 x 3956 pixels. Does the Air 3 have a 120fps 5K mode as this suggests? That’s fine. However, it’s significantly better than the recently launched Mavic 3 Classic, which offers 120fps 4K and 5.1K 50fps.
Still, when you dig into the documentation for the Sony IMX472, you’ll see that it’s probably easier for the drone to capture 120fps at 5K than at 4K. It doesn’t have a native drive mode for 4K capture, and while we’re not software engineers, it’s sure to give DJI a headache or two.
Extended transmission range
The upgrade to the DJI Air 3’s transmission standard didn’t get us out of this predicament. Air 2S uses Ocusync 3.0, and Air 3 will definitely be upgraded to Ocusync 3.0+.
If you live in the right country (essentially the US), this will give you an extra range of up to 9.32 miles/15 kilometers. It also unlocks a 1080p, 60fps preview image when viewing footage live using the DJI Remote with Screen.
Due to the low bandwidth of O3.0, DJI Air 2S can only obtain 1080p, 30fps preview images at a distance of up to 12 kilometers.
faster charging time
Drone enthusiasts will always need spare batteries. But in our experience, fast charging does reduce battery headaches.
The DJI Air 2S’ battery can charge up to 38W, while the newer Mavic model supports 65W. Faster charging could cut the Air 3’s charging time from about 95 minutes to closer to an hour, or even less.
Improved flight time
Over the past 12 months, DJI has seen a pretty impressive increase in the flight time of its sub-250g drones.
Upgrading from the Mini 2 to the Mini 3 cut flight time from 31 minutes to 38 minutes. The battery capacity increased by just 9%, a 22% increase. This suggests some very significant efficiency savings can be found inside.
We’d like to see a similarly healthy jump from the DJI Air 2S to the Air 3. A reasonable goal is 40 minutes, but that might be a little too optimistic. While 36 minutes seems more likely, it’s a “what we want” list after all.
Better Obstacle Sensors
DJI Air 2S has forward, backward, down and up sensors. What the Air system never had, however, is the true omnidirectional sensing system offered by the DJI Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Classic — additional left and right “landscape” sensors.
This object sensing allows for more dynamic forms of motion automation. Using it on a wider range of drones, like the DJI Air 3, means DJI can justify putting more work into the development of such models.
There’s still plenty of room for the Mavic 3 Classic to maintain its edge here. The DJI Air 2S’ sensor camera has a much narrower field of view than the Mavic’s. The Mavic uses a binocular dual-camera system in each direction, while the Air 2S uses time-of-flight sensors to judge distance to the ground.
We don’t think left/right object sensing on the DJI Air 3 is an unreasonable expectation, although barring new or upgraded automation modes, it doesn’t feel like much of an upgrade.
With our optimistic and realistic expectations for the future DJI Air 3, let’s see if DJI plays it safe or pushes the envelope. Either way, it’s the final model to be updated in the series, and its new name will complete a series of different DJI drones for 2023.