The market leader in easy-to-fly drones and aerial photography systems, DJI, has recently released Mavic 2 Pro – DJI’s flagship consumer drone built for pros and enthusiasts. Compact, but powerful Mavic 2 embodies all of DJI’s advanced, signature technologies and is able to redefine what is possible for the world of aerial photography. We decided to test Mavic 2 capabilities and review all the pros and cons of the most powerful consumer drone one can buy at this time.
DJI’s new super-portable Mavic 2 is an impressive upgrade from the previous model. Now, you get to choose whether you want a gorgeous Hasselblad-developed Pro lens or a fully integrated 2x optical zoom on your Mavic, also the battery life is greatly improved up to 31 minutes of flight time. For photogrammetry, this can mean that high-quality mapping is now more portable than ever. But is it really that advanced? We’ve now been comparing DJI Mavic and Phantom 4Pro with Mavic 2 Pro and it’s about the time to give you our first thoughts.
What’s new with Mavic 2? It mostly comes down to the camera quality and the smarter modes for capturing video and photos. The new Mavic 2 Pro has a brand new camera which is more similar to the bigger Phantom 4 Pro while maintaining the size of a Mavic. There is a widespread opinion that larger cameras with big lenses are the best choice for aerial photography. When talking about DJI Mavic 2 Pro, the camera is way more advanced than the previous model.
The received photos in the raw format were later processed with Adobe Lightroom using the exact same adjustments for all images. Let’s take a look at these photos.
When talking about the resolution and volume, as the photos are stacked and compared to match the actual size, it is obvious that DJI Mavic 2 photos are closer to DJI Phantom 4 Pro. This clearly illustrates the difference between 20 megapixel Phantom 4 Pro/Mavic 2 Pro and the 12 megapixels Mavic 1 Pro.
To compare each drones’ capability while making a photogrammetric scan, almost identical ones were made of the same object within a time frame of an hour. Identical camera settings were used:
The wide open aperture of 2.8
Shutter speed of 1/800 to minimize motion blur
The minimum sensitivity of ISO 100 to minimize noise.
Manual focus to avoid misfocusing and lens microvariations.
120m flying altitude.
RAW images for best quality and post-processing.
Photo quality (zoom in/zoom out)
To compare the quality and resolution of the photos, let‘s zoom them on the same scale. Now it is obvious that with DJI Mavic 1 Pro, there is more noise that slightly distorts the quality of 3D model reconstruction in the case of photogrammetry. While image quality is key in photogrammetry quality differences between these drones might not be the deciding factor when choosing an aerial platform for scanning. This update is also useful for pro photographers that seek high resolution.
Noise is usually only a matter of discretion, but there are times when discretion is very important. New Mavic 2 Pro has excellent noise characteristics out of the box. Drone “buzz” is of lower frequency and it is noticeably quieter. Phantom 4 Pro is extremely loud out of the box and buying new low noise propellers are a necessity if any form of discretion is to be achieved. Meanwhile, the Mavic 1 Pro achieves excellent results with new propellers but is kind of annoying with stock ones.
The battery life of Mavic 2 Pro is way more capacious and allows to fly longer routes. Mavic 2 Pro and Phantom 4 Pro have noticeably larger batteries which mean that the scanned area can be larger. Fewer batteries mean less complications during scanning and lower cost of accessories. Previously, drone flight was up to 15 minutes, but now it can fly for about half an hour. But how it will affect the process of photogrammetry? With more advanced battery life one can fly the large areas, particularly it is useful for the user who does not want to carry a heavy drone equipment.
Portability is a huge convenience factor and can sometimes affect scan that might not be even possible with a large kit. Whole phantom 4 Pro kit is much less portable than either of the Mavics’ kits.
Although there are many benefits of the Mavic 2 Pro, some problems may occur – the user may encounter certain malfunctions, such as wind resistance. Being a lightweight, Mavic 2 Pro uses a lot of battery to withstand the wind. This often means that, even though the battery life has increased, the drone will not always be the best choice for large open areas. Wind resistance is a sum factor of drones’ motor power, weight, and aerodynamics. The more power the motors have and the heavier the drones are, the more it is resistant to wind. Motor power can be determined by drones maximum speed:
Mavic 1 Pro speed: 65 kph weight: 734 grams;
Mavic 2 Pro speed: 72 kph weight 907 grams;
Phantom 4 Pro speed: 72 kph weight 1388 grams;
By comparing the results, we can clearly see that Phantom 4 Pro clearly is the winner here. It also seems “sharper” – Phantom 4 accelerates and brakes faster.
Since the Mavic 2 Pro is freshly released, it was not fit to fly in its autopilot mode, since none of the drone‘s track planners on the market supported Mavic 2 Pro. This meant that with Mavic 2 Pro, photographs were shot only manually using an auto-flight track plan that was used by other UAVs, trying to bring it as close as possible to the other drones in the market.
The impact for photogrammetry
Nowadays drones are used not only for aerial photography but more often becomes a photogrammetric tool for accurate measurements of the object. Let‘s see how the new Mavic 2 updates impact the process of photogrammetry.
Firstly, the point clouds are generated from the photos. The point clouds are the cornerstones of reproducing 3D object patterns. Most often, it is said that the more points, the better 3D model is reproduced. So, let’s compare what we’ve got.
Flights were made on a sunny afternoon with weak winds while flying manually. Ideally, a flight planner would have been used alongside the exact same plan but at the time of the testing, no flight planner compatible with the new Mavic 2 Pro was available. In the end, object coverage turned out similar and the same amount of 36 pictures were taken keeping the 80 percent overlap between the images.
A scanned object in question is a flyover road with green spaces between. Using the Pixprocessing software dense point clouds were generated using the same settings – mainly medium density. But the number of points did vary. Below dense point clouds side by side with the camera positions above.
Mavic 1 Pro – 1.61 million points.
Phantom 4 Pro – 1.61 million points.
Mavic 2 Pro – 1.7 million points.
It is perfectly normal for dense point cloud points to fluctuate 5 – 10% between reconstructions. Picture resolution seems to minimally influence the quality of reconstruction. With these point clouds, Pixprocessing offers an estimated GSD (ground sampling distance) of 20cm for the digital elevation map (2.5D surface of the area) and 5cm for the orthophoto image.
The resolution might not be that important for the amount of generated points because often software rescales images for optimal sizes before extracting needed information for 3D reconstruction. Therefore, resolution and overall image quality influences the quality of the reconstruction itself. IE, less “fuzziness” and noise which will affect the final look and accuracy.
The Mavic 2 Pro is the first product from the company to sport a Hasselblad-branded camera since DJI bought a massive chunk of the legendary Swedish camera maker. The camera has a 20-megapixel 1-inch sensor like the one found on the Phantom 4 Pro.
With a few tweaks here and there, Mavic 2 Pro is a good choice for those who seek powerful but yet compact drone. Mavic 2 Pro has a better camera, more wind resistance, less noise and a longer flight time while maintaining roughly the same portability. With a starting price of $1,249, it’s not the cheapest on the market, but in terms of class, the Mavic products continue to be unmatched.
More information about the Pixprocessing software: https://pixprocessing.com/pixprocessing/