The flagship DJI Mavic 3 Pro prosumer drone was installed last year without the company’s tracking software (along with a bunch of other stuff we’ve come to know and love about DJI products). Earlier this year, DJI released tracking-enabling firmware called Active Track 5.0. Naturally, we took it for a few tests and compared it to the king of tracker drones, the Skydio 2.
Our favorite ski resort, Bromley Mountain, let me take the Skydio 2 drone down the mountain last year, so I thought a good comparison would be doing the same run with the Mavic 3. The Last Day snowboard of the year, despite the late-day mud, I took a few runs.
Unfortunately, while the Skydio, its beacon well in hand, followed me on the first try without error, the Mavic 3 lost me on my first two attempts. Luckily, on a slightly deviated third run up the mountainside, she was able to stay on top of me. You can see that run below – after an initial loss at the top. He did nine-tenths of the mountain on that run unbeaten. I didn’t go to the park, and the Mavic didn’t have to negotiate the trees and the chairlift which the Skydio surprisingly managed to do.
Also, keep in mind that I’m not “sending it” in any of the videos – I’m just going downhill at a casual speed. You can see in the video below, about halfway through, I’m gaining a lot of speed for a flat area, and the Skydio is starting to lose ground. To avoid losing its subject, the Skydio goes higher to keep me in frame.
Here is the Mavic 3 with Active Track 5.0, April 2022, at Bromley Mountain:
Compare that to a year ago. Take a look at the Skydio 2 in April 2021 which did this in one take:
Some Notes on DJI Mavic 3 Pro Active Track 5.0 vs Skydio 2
- We saw a great comparison between the Skydio 2 and the Mavic Air 2S. It wasn’t close to tracking.
- Both drones record in beautiful 4K, although overall I’d give the Mavic 3 the edge for its full color gamut. It’s the $4,000 Cine Mavic model recording Apple ProRes against a $1,000 Skydio – not apples to apples so to speak.
- Observers have told me that the Skydio cinematography is better. I tend to agree, but that’s very subjective.
- 2022 was a bit muddier at Bromley than 2021, which gives the Skydio a slight advantage in tracking ease, but I think that’s pointless with the beacon.
- Additionally, the Mavic is more portable with its foldable arms and has a considerably longer flight time on battery power of over 40 minutes compared to the Skydio’s 27 minutes.
- Mavic also has a higher top speed. The Skydio feels firmer and feels like it could handle a crash better, but I don’t have any data to back that up.
- If drone tracking is the main component of your drone use, Skydio’s tracking is still much better than DJI’s Active Track 5.0. But this difference closes.
- Active Track 5.0 is the first time I’ve been able to get DJI’s drones to track me reliably. Previously with the Mavic Air 2, the DJI drone would lose me during a mid-speed bike ride down a street, for example, and put it in the “gimmick” category. It wasn’t even worth discussing as a pro feature.
- Both drones allow you to follow ahead or behind, or back and forth. Skydio’s beacon/controller really changes the game here, though, allowing you to switch perspectives on the fly, whereas with DJI you’re forced to make a decision on a screen – something that’s very difficult to do in stock.
So the big takeaway here is that while still not as good at tracking as Skydio, DJI has taken a huge leap forward with its tracking technology with the DJI Mavic 3 and Active Track 5.0. DJI does not offer a beacon, which not only hinders its tracking ability, but also does not allow you to fly the drone well without watching and navigating a touchscreen controller, which is very important for tracking. a solo drone.
But the DJI Active Track 5.0 can now be used professionally – in my opinion.
I also had the chance to use the Mavic 3 Active Track 5.0 on a recent GMC HummerEV drive. Again, he got lost several times. It had to be “found” and Active Track 5.0 had to be re-enabled. However, this followed for a particularly long shot as seen in the video below:
Compare the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo or the Audi GT with the Skydio 2, and you’ll notice the gap is closing between these two popular prosumer drones.
Personally, I’ll stick with the Skydio 2. But for those who opt for the Mavic 3’s longer flight time, portability, and better camera options, Active Track is now a pro-level tool in the growing DJI toolbox.
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