DJI Air 3: what we want to see

DJI Air 3: what we want to see

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 can be confusing. However, the latest models go some way to clearing up the confusion.

You have Mavic drones on top, Air models in the middle, and then Minis on the bottom — the ones we think most people buy. They are relatively affordable. The middle child Air group has been getting the least love lately. Perhaps it is time for the DJI Air 3 to appear on the scene.

But what can it offer, or what should it offer? We dug into the broader array of DJI drones and technology available to manufacturers today to uncover what features we want, and which ones are the most feasible additions to a drone due this year. But let’s start with some estimates on the release date and cost.

DJI Air 3 price and availability

DJI Air 3 will be the follow up to DJI Air 2S. This drone was launched in April 2021 and was itself the successor to the DJI Air 2 from April 2020. This suggests that the DJI Air Air 3 may arrive in April 2023. It is not surprising that the 2022 release was missed due to the lack of components and a myriad of issues other facing manufacturers these days.

However, a release schedule image recently posted by DealsDrone suggests that The Air 3 may be released a little later, in May 2023. It also indicates that April will introduce the DJI Inspire 3 instead. The Inspire is DJI’s line of cinematography drones – the Inspire 2 was released years ago, in 2016.

We could also see the Air series cost more considering there isn’t a huge 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 $ 1,119).

(Image credit: DJI)

New Micro Four Thirds sensor

The DJI Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro have seen reasonably large sensors introduced to DJI’s smallest drones. Will a 1-inch sensor be enough when the much cheaper models already have 1/1.3-inch chips?

We say no. The next step is the MFT sensor – as seen on the DJI Mavic 3 Classic. The Sony IMX383 chip used in the Air 2S is also five years old, and there aren’t many newer successors except the Sony IMX989, which is “built for smartphones”.

The Micro Four-Thirds Sony IMX472 chip is best suited for the job, and may be the sensor used in the DJI Mavic 3 Classic. This information does not appear to be available at this time.

A larger sensor means better low-light performance, higher dynamic range, and lower noise. Sony’s IMX472 chip is a 20MP MFT sensor with 3.3-micron pixels, announced in 2021. It’s much newer than the sensor in the Air 2S. It also has some lovely eyebrow-raising abilities.

Enhanced video at 120fps in 4K (or 5K)

One such skill is a 120fps readout mode with 12-bit color depth, using the sensor’s full 5280 x 3956 pixels. Will the Air 3 have a 120fps 5K mode that would suggest? That would be nice. However, it will be clearly better than the Mavic 3 Classic which delivers 120fps at 4K and 5.1K at 50fps.

However, when you dig into the documentation for the Sony IMX472, you find that it might be easier for the drone to capture 120fps at 5K than at 4K. It doesn’t have a proper native engine mode for 4K capture, which — as far as we’re software engineers — can certainly cause DJI a headache or two.

A mockup of the DJI Air 3 on a pink background

(Image credit: DJI)

Extended transmission range

An upgrade in transmission standards for the DJI Air 3 doesn’t quite make us out on such an end. The Air 2S uses Ocusync 3.0, and the Air 3 is sure to bump up to Ocusync 3.0+.

This will give you an additional range if you live in the correct country – mainly the US – of up to 9.32 miles / 15 km. It also unlocks a preview image at 1080p and 60fps when reviewing live footage using a DJI remote control with monitor.

DJI Air 2S gets 1080p preview image at 30fps at up to 12km thanks to O3.0’s low bandwidth.

Faster shipping times

Drone propellers always need spare batteries. But fast charging really reduces the amount of battery hassle in our experience.

The DJI Air 2S battery can be charged at a maximum of 38 watts, while newer Mavic models support 65 watts. Faster charging can reduce the Air 3’s charging time from about 95 minutes to an hour or even less.

Flight time optimization

DJI has been able to achieve some impressive increases in time of flight with its 250g drones over the past 12 months.

Upgrading from Mini 2 to Mini 3 takes you from 31 minutes of flying time to 38 minutes. That’s a 22% increase, from just a 9% increase in battery capacity. This points to some very important efficiency savings to be found within.

We’d like to see a similarly healthy increase in the jump from DJI Air 2S to Air 3. A reasonable, if slightly over-optimistic, target would be 40 minutes. While 36 minutes seems more bearable, this is our “what we want” list after all.

A mockup of the DJI Air 3 on a blue background

(Image credit: DJI)

The best obstacle sensors

DJI Air 2S has front, back, down and up sensors. However, something the Air never had was the true multi-directional sensor system — additional left and right side sensors — offered by the DJI Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Classic.

This object sensing allows for more dynamic forms of motion automation. And its presence in a larger range of drones, such as the DJI Air 3, means DJI could justify putting more work into developing such modes.

There’s still plenty of room for the Mavic 3 Classic to retain control here, too. The DJI Air 2S’ sensor cameras have a much narrower field of view than Mavic’s. And where the Mavic uses a binocular and two-camera system in each direction, the Air 2S uses time of flight sensor to judge distance from the ground.

We think the DJI Air 3’s left/right object sensing isn’t an unreasonable expectation, though it wouldn’t feel that much of an upgrade unless there were new or upgraded automation modes.

We’ve set optimistic and realistic expectations for the future DJI Air 3, let’s see if DJI plays it safe or pushes the boat. Either way, this is the final model in the range that will be refreshed and its new name will complement DJI’s signature lineup of drones by 2023.

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