The DJI Air 3 is one of the key drones we expect to see in 2023.
If you’re new to drones, the DJI naming system can be confusing. However, the latest models clear up the confusion to some extent.
You have the Mavic drones at the top, the Air models in the middle, and the Minis at the bottom – the ones we think most people buy. They are relatively inexpensive. The mid-range children’s Air range has been the least popular lately. Perhaps it’s time for the DJI Air 3 to arrive.
But what can or should it offer? We delved into DJI’s wider range of drones and the technology available to manufacturers today to discover the features we wanted, and the features that are the most viable additions to the drone due out later this year. But let’s start with some release date and cost estimates.
DJI Air 3 price and availability
DJI Air 3 will be a continuation of DJI Air 2S. This drone launched in April 2021 and has itself been the successor to the DJI Air 2 since April 2020. This suggests that the DJI Air 3 could arrive around April 2023. It’s no surprise that a 2022 release was skipped given the component shortages and myriad other issues facing manufacturers right now.
However, a photo of the release schedule recently posted by DealsDrone suggests the Air 3 could be released a bit later in May 2023. It also suggests April will bring the DJI Inspire 3 instead. Inspire is DJI’s range of pro-cinema drones – the Inspire 2 has been released multiple years ago, in 2016.
We may also see an increase in the cost of the Air series, given that there isn’t a massive 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) AU$1,119).
New Micro Four Thirds Sensor
The DJI Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro saw relatively large sensors incorporated into DJI’s smallest drones. Is a 1-inch sensor enough when much cheaper models already have 1/1.3-inch systems?
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 doesn’t have many newer successors, with the exception of the Sony IMX989 which was “built for smartphones”.
The Sony IMX472 Micro Four-Thirds chip is best suited to the task and could be the same sensor used in the DJI Mavic 3 Classic. It seems that this information is currently not available.
A larger sensor means better low-light performance, higher dynamic range, and less noise. Sony’s IMX472 chip is a 20 megapixel MFT sensor with 3.3 micron pixels that was announced in 2021. It is much newer than the sensor in the Air 2S. It also has several eyebrow lifting options.
Enhanced 4K (or 5K) 120 fps video
One of these skills is the 120 fps read mode at 12-bit color depth, using the full 5280 x 3956 pixels of the matrix. Will the Air 3 have the suggested 120fps 5K mode? It would be nice. However, it would be clearly better than the brand new Mavic 3 Classic, which offers 120fps in 4K and 5.1K at 50fps.
Still, when you delve into the Sony IMX472 documentation, you’ll find that the drone can capture 120fps at 5K more easily than 4K. There’s no native drive mode suitable for 4K capture, which – unless we’re software engineers – can certainly cause a headache or two for DJI.
Extended transmission range
Improving the transmission standards for DJI Air 3 does not see us in this situation. The Air 2S uses Ocusync 3.0, and the Air 3 is certainly due to the Ocusync 3.0+ hit.
This will give you extra range if you live in the right country – basically the US – up to 9.32 miles / 15 km. It also unlocks a 1080p, 60fps image preview when viewing live footage with the DJI Screen Remote.
With the lower bandwidth of O3.0, the DJI Air 2S gets a 1080p, 30fps image view up to 12km.
Faster loading times
Drone fans always need spare batteries. But in our experience, fast charging really reduces the volume of a battery headache.
The DJI Air 2S battery can be charged with a maximum of 38W, while the newer Mavic models support 65W. Faster charging can potentially reduce the Air 3’s charging time from around 95 minutes to an hour or less.
Improved flight time
DJI has managed to achieve quite an impressive increase in flight time with drones under 250g in the last 12 months.
Upgrading from Mini 2 to Mini 3 takes you from 31 minutes of flight time to 38 minutes. That’s a 22% increase over just a 9% increase in battery capacity. And that suggests there are quite significant performance savings to be found inside.
We’d love to see a similarly healthy leap from the DJI Air 2S to the Air 3. A reasonable, if perhaps a bit overly optimistic, goal would be 40 minutes. While 36 minutes seems more likely, it is, after all, a “what we want” list.
Better obstacle sensors
DJI Air 2S has forward, backward, downward, and upward sensors. However, something the Air system never had was a true omni-directional sensing system – additional left and right “side” sensors – that the DJI Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Classic offer.
Such object detection allows for more dynamic forms of motion automation. And having it on a wider range of drones like the DJI Air 3 would mean DJI could justify putting more work into developing such modes.
There’s still plenty of room for the Mavic 3 Classic to keep its edge here as well. Cameras with the DJI Air 2S sensor have a much narrower field of view than the Mavic. And where the Mavic uses binoculars, a system of two cameras in each direction, the Air 2S uses a time-of-flight sensor to judge its distance from the ground.
We don’t think the DJI Air 3’s left/right object detection is an unreasonable expectation, although it won’t be that much of an improvement unless there are new or improved automation modes.
We’ve put forward both optimistic and realistic expectations for the future DJI Air 3, let’s see if DJI plays it safe or pushes the boat out. Either way, this is the last model in the lineup to be updated, and its new name will complete DJI’s distinct lineup of drones for 2023.