The Dji Mini 3 Sacrifices Crash Prevention and Becomes $260 Less Expensive: Everything from gas to groceries seems to be steadily increasing in price, but DJI is the only firm that appears to be directly confronting inflation by launching cheaper versions of its most popular drones. Before the DJI Mini 3, which lacks the Pro version’s finest feature—automatic obstacle avoidance—there was the DJI Mavic 3 Classic, a cheaper version without the telephoto lens of the original Mavic 3.
The release of the DJI Mini 3 Pro in May of this year was a culmination of DJI’s years of experience in the drone industry. The drone collapses into a size small enough to fit in a coat pocket, but it still packs some impressive features, such as a 4K 60fps camera with a 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor that can shoot in portrait or landscape mode, a wireless video transmission range of 12 kilometres, longer flight times, and something called “Tri-Directional Obstacle Sensing.” Not only could the DJI Mini 3 Pro accomplish all of that, but it only weighed 249 grammes, meaning that hobbyist pilots could use it for fun without having to register it with the FAA.
The DJI Mini 3 Pro’s high price tag of $669 (without the controller) was a major drawback. The Mini 3 Pro was a pricey option for those who didn’t want to register their drone with the FAA, but the new DJI Mini 3 brings the price down to a more reasonable level by eliminating the “Pro” label and shaving off around $260.
The new DJI Mini 3 differs from the original Pro version in several key ways, most notably in the absence of optical sensors directly above the gyro-stabilized camera and the addition of a pair of support legs under the two front rotors.
The camera and sensor are the same as the Pro version, and it can still record 4K/60fps video with the camera in landscape mode or rotated 90 degrees, but losing the “Tri-Directional Obstacle Sensing” is a big deal since it was like having some extra insurance that your drone would return safely, even for inexperienced pilots. The Mini 3’s wireless video transmission range is considerably shorter than that of the Mavic Mini 2, falling from 12 kilometres to 10 kilometres.
One positive result of the DJI Mini 3’s decision to forego obstacle avoidance is that it can fly for up to 38 minutes on a single charge, compared to only 34 minutes on the DJI Mini Pro with the same battery. Although the Pro’s maximum flying time is 47 minutes, the bigger Intelligent Flight Battery Plus increases it to 51 minutes, but at the penalty of increasing the drone’s weight to above 250 grammes, making it illegal to fly without FAA registration.
When it debuts early next year, the new DJI Mini 3 will start at $409, but that’s largely irrelevant if you’re already an experienced DJI drone pilot with all the necessary equipment. The Mini 3 with the older DJI RC-N1 remote costs $499 for beginners, or $639 with the newer DJI RC controller, which has its own built-in touchscreen. Streaming footage from the drone must be previewed on a smartphone.
If you’re comfortable behind the controls, the DJI Mini 3’s lower price point is appealing. However, if this is your first time flying a drone, you should think long and hard about upgrading to the DJI Mini 3 Pro so that you can take advantage of its obstacle-avoidance features.