Rick Smith is back. The career engineer, known for his meticulous tear-downs and no-nonsense reviews that have made Drone Valley such a success, is reviewing and scoring DJI’s Mavic Pro as part of his “TDC Scored” partnership with The Digital Circuit. Rick flies each drone he tests extensively, then assigns marks according to its various components and features. The final score is out of 100 – and there are different scoring criteria depending on the price point of the drones. Obviously, we couldn’t compare an entry-level hobby quad directly against a high-end system.
Over time, we’ll build a database we believe will become the Gold Standard for drone scores in everything from the toy/beginner categories right through to professional models like the Inspire 2.
The first time around, Rick did an amazingly thorough review of the prosumer DJI Phantom 4 Pro. So thorough, in fact, that his review clocked in at close to 40 minutes! We discussed the pros and cons of breaking up the reviews into smaller chunks and decided to do exactly that. This means we’ll be able to tap into Rick’s expertise on a more frequent basis. (He also imparts so much information, quite frankly, that smaller bites might be easier for viewers to process.)
In this extensive Part 1 review, Rick takes a look at the “Quad” itself. What does that mean? Well, let’s have a look. There are 10 categories in all, each worth four points.
Rick has flown his Mavic Pro for some six months now (though not continuously!), and has been incredibly impressed with the range. He offers more complete observations in the video, but clearly feels you can’t beat this machine for the price. It flies well beyond Visual Line of Sight, which means the signal is strong enough to avoid much of the noise that floats through our airwaves and could interfere with less robust quads.
FLIGHT TIME: 4/4
Not much more to add here. It’s a very efficient machine, with DJI-designed and built motors. The body itself also has some aerodynamic qualities, and Rick is a big fan of the intelligent batteries, which contain their own circuit boards that ensure even charging of the cells (and discharging as well).
BUILD QUALITY 3/4
Though Rick is very impressed by the build quality, he notes that the limited ground clearance can potentially cause a few problems. Landing in tall grass, for example, is likely to wrap a bit of foliage around those props – and he has some concerns about the camera protection (or lack thereof) due to the low clearance. Rick also notes that taking off from a dusty environment could lead to dust entering an intake fan, which might not be great over time.
Overall, he’s a huge fan of the build, especially given this was a first-generation effort. But he felt a small deduction was required in this department.
What can you say? With its folding form factor, Rick notes you could stick this thing in the pocket of a pair of baggy pants. Plus, the remote is a totally new and very compact design. And really, if you’re doing some travelling, what other drone so easily fits in a glove box or small shoulder bag? This was, and is, a revolutionary piece of engineering.
Again, the Mavic Pro’s low weight gives it high marks in Rick’s mind. He points out it weighs about the same as an iPad pro, and about half the weight of many other popular drones in this price point.
Rick (and others) have noted that the Mavic Pro is a rock.
Exceptionally stable in even high winds, the Mavic barely deviates from its point in 3D space. That’s pretty remarkable, and garners full marks for the category.
OBSTACLE AVOIDANCE: 3/4
Here, Rick points out that the Mavic Pro’s obstacle avoidance system, though good, is somewhat limited. The forward-facing stereo cameras do an excellent job and essentially create a 3D map of the area during flight – but there are no sensors on the sides or rear of the quad. The downward-facing vision system does, however, provide warning of uneven terrain – a bonus.
RETURN TO HOME: 4/4
Rick is a big fan of the intelligent RTH abilities of the Mavic Pro. It can be set to recognize the controller as the home point (great if you happen to be walking while flying), but can also return precisely to the original take-off point. The downward-facing cameras snap images on take-off, and then compare that location as it settles in to land. Works great on a landing pad or clearly identifiable terrain; not as accurate on grass or areas with few distinguishing features.
Once again, Rick gives high marks to the connectivity of the Mavic Pro. OcuSync scans for the best connectivity at liftoff, scans for the strongest channel in flight, and has very little lag. Rick says telemetry information lag is a mere 5ms, with 130ms lag for HD video.
Though similar to stability, it’s not exactly the same. The Mavic Pro, using both the GPS and GLONASS systems, knows precisely where it is in space. It’s almost like it’s locked there – unless you direct it to move. As an engineer, Rick knows that demands some pretty sophisticated electronics and algorithms.
So there you have Part One, with the Mavic Pro scoring a total of 38 of a possible 40 points on the Quad section. Coming up next?
Controller: 20 possible marks
Camera: 20 possible marks
Software: 20 possible marks
Bonus Section: Here, Rick will be allowed to add bonus marks if he feels the product has some particularly outstanding features in terms of Safety, Range, Gimbal or Price. One mark is permitted for each.
Stay tuned: We’ll be looking for part two, The Controller, in about a week’s time.
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