There’s no doubt that recent innovations have made drones like the DJI Mavic Air and Spark far easier to fly than earlier models but you still need to understand how to use the controls get it to fly where you want it to go and to capture the images or video that you’re aiming for. Our guide will put you on the right course.
Setting-up the Controller
You can fly the Mavic Air using just the DJI Go 4 app on your phone but it comes supplied with a controller that makes it easier and I’d recommend using it. The first step is to charge the controller so it’s ready for action.
DJI supplies three cables with the controller that allow it to be connected to your smartphone. You’ll need to unfold the phone clamp to make sure that the correct cable is fitted and swap it if necessary.
Once the clamp is open you’ll spot the control sticks that are stowed against the controller body, retrieve them and screw them onto the controller.
Now ease your phone into the clamp ensuring that the cable connection slots into the phone’s charging port.
Next, power-up the controller by pressing the power button once and then making a long press. Do the same with the smart battery on the drone to bring it to life.
Connect the Controller and the Drone
On your first flight you’ll need to connect the controller and the Mavic Air via WiFi.
To connect for the first time, launch the DJI Go 4 app on your phone and tap ‘Enter Device’ followed by ‘Enter Camera View’. Then tap the icon in the top right of the screen and select the icon for the Remote Control.
Next, tap ‘Linking Remote Controller’ at the bottom of the phone screen, followed by OK. When the controller starts to beep, press and hold the flashing function button on the rear of the drone until you hear a beep. When the beeping stops and the red light on the remote controller has turned green, the drone is connected to the controller.
Once you’ve been through the process, you should find that the drone and controller connect automatically in the future.
Now you’re ready to fly.
To start the motors, push the control stick diagonally down and towards each other. To takeoff either tap the Auto Takeoff icon on your phone or gently push the left control stick upwards.
In Auto Takeoff mode the drone will launch to about 1.2m and then hover waiting for you to take control. To take it higher, push the left stick up – gently.
If you’re going to fly the drone directly overhead, tip the controller antennae foward so they are parallel with the ground. If the drone is further away, flip them up so they are perpendicular to the ground.
Once the Mavic Air is airborne you manoeuvre it using the sticks on the controller. In the default settings, the left stick is used to control height and rotation while the right stick controls the horizontal direction of movement.
Push the left stick up to gain height, or down to lower the drone. Pushing that stick to the left will rotate the drone left (anti-clockwise) while pushing it right rotates it right (clockwise).
Pushing the right stick forward moves the drone forward while pulling it back reverses the craft. Pushing the right stick left or right moves the drone in that direction but it stays in the same orientation so it moves a sideways.
To land the craft, simply tap the Auto Land icon or push the left stick down until the Mavic Air touches down. It should power-off the motors automatically.
If the drone won’t land it’s probably because its object avoidance system is detecting something that it feels could be a risk. Long grass can be an issue, for example. To get around the problem, either identify an area of short grass or hardstanding, or use a landing mat.
Controlling the Mavic Air Camera in Flight
The Mavic Air’s camera is mounted on a gimbal that does a great job of smoothing out any wobble or buffeting by the breeze. Its angle can also be adjusted to frame the subject. However, unlike some drones, you can’t move the Mavic Air’s camera horizontally using the gimbal, only vertically.
As the drone rises, for example, you may want to tilt the camera down, but if you want to shoot something towards the left of the scene, you’ll have to manoeuvre the craft in that direction.
On the left side of the front of the controller is a jog wheel that is used to tilt the camera. Rolling this to the left lowers the camera angle while rolling it right raises it.
The button immediately above this wheel is used to start and stop video recording. There’s a button on the other side of the controller for shooting stills.
We’ll update this post soon to include the Quickshots options and camera settings.