DJI-Mavic-3-leaked image

DJI just killed the Mavic 2+…but it re-spawned as the Mavic 3

In a newly-leaked image, we can see that DJI is close to releasing a new Mavic 3 Pro drone. The Mavic 3 Pro will replace the Mavic 2 Pro. We all thought DJI’s next upgrade would be called the Mavic 2 Pro+. DJI gave plenty of hints that the Mavic 2 Pro+ and Mavic 2 Zoom+ were coming in early 2020.

So why the name switch from 2+ to 3? One word: Skydio.

Is the Mavic 3 going to be a bigger leap forward than the Mavic 2 Pro+ was going to be? No, it won’t. Here’s why.

Note: The Mavic 3 Image was leaked to DroneDJ (we hope it wasn’t faked!)

The Mavic 3 – DJI needs attention

Since the release of the Phantom 3 series of drones, DJI has been killing the competition in the consumer and prosumer drone market. The leading competitors Parrot, Yuneec, and Autel have all failed to produce a compelling enough product to touch DJI’s commanding lead. That was all true until October 2019 when Skydio announced the $999 Skydio 2.

The Phantom is dead, the Mavic 2 Pro is disappointing

DJI seems to have forgotten many of its key customers. In the midst of their internal scandals, they made a serious error in skimping on the Mavic 2’s image processor. As a result, the camera’s 4K video recording capability doesn’t live up to the Hasselblad name.

Phantom 4 Multispectral
DJI has steered production towards enterprise drones like the Phantom 4 Multispectral

Simultaneously, DJI abandoned their Phantom lineup. The Phantom 5 was on course to be launched in 2019 but was ditched earlier this year. While we never learned why the Phantom was abandoned, we suspect it is because DJI realized people didn’t like seeing their props in video footage all the time. It could also be that DJI seems intent on repurposing their Phantom production line to support far more expensive commercial drones like the Phantom 4 RTK and Phantom 4 Multispectral.

Where does that leave drone enthusiasts like me? Wanting more.

What is the Mavic 3?

The leaked image of the Mavic 3 seems to confirm my suspicions – it is a Mavic 2! So what will the Mavic 3 do differently? We know for sure that DJI will upgrade the image processor on the Mavic 3 and it will probably be the best drone on the market for 4K video recording at 60 frames per second. If DJI can pull it off, they will also give us a better bitrate than the Mavic 2, which is currently limited to 100 MB per second.

DJI will undoubtedly also add a flight mode or two in order keep things interesting and include the yet-unrealeased Active Track 3.0. Like all drones that will be sold in 2020 that are over 250 grams, the Mavic 3 will have ADS-B receivers built-in as part of their new AirSense system. Finally, DJI will likely announce an upgraded APAS system to try and make up for lost ground against Skydio.

Can the Mavic 3 catch the Skydio 2?

Skydio 2 in flight
The Skydio 2 can do things the Mavic 3 won’t be able to

Several people have told me that they think DJI can quickly catch up to the obstacle avoidance capabilities of the Skydio 2. Let me tell you what I think – not a chance! Not quickly anyway. DJI has been working on obstacle avoidance for longer than any other drone maker, yet Skydio has left DJI in the dust. It isn’t even close. If it was that easy to replicate then DJI would have done it by now. DJI is missing the cutting-edge image processing and algorithm experts. You can’t grow those guys and gals overnight.

She Skydio 2 will be cruising along for quite some time while the Mavic series is stopped in its path staring at an imaginary obstacle that it tried to avoid.

A Mavic 3 by any other name…

The Mavic 3 is a Mavic 2+ that is being rushed to market with a name that DJI hopes will sell better. DJI needs to gain prosumer market share before Skydio can ramp production. Skydio has already sold out of its new Skydio 2 without shipping a single unit.

Now DJI is scrambling to satisfy its enthusiastic followers. Unfortunately, the Mavic 3 Pro will again likely disappoint professionals who are looking for a Phantom 4 Pro replacement that has a global mechanical shutter. The Mavic 3 will have a great camera, but not one that satisfies the most discerning photographers. 

DJI Mavic 2 Pro Hasselblad camera
The camera of the DJI Mavic 2 Pro

Can DJI pull off a save here? Yes and no. Here is what the Mavic 3 will bring to the table:

  • The Mavic 3 Pro will be the best drone under $2000 for photography
  • The Mavic 3 Pro will also be the best drone under $2000 for 4K video capture (in obstacle-free areas at least)
  • The Mavic 3 Zoom will be the best zoom camera drone under $2000 and might still be the best choice for many professionals like real estate photographers

That’s a lot of bests. So what does DJI have to worry about, right? Time will tell. We will see if marginally better cameras from DJI can compete with the exciting new technology in the Skydio 2.

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