The DJI Air 3 is one of the key 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 the Mavic drones right at the top, the Air models in the middle and then the Minis at the bottom – the ones we think most people buy. They are relatively affordable. The middle child Air series has been getting the least love lately. Maybe it’s time for the DJI Air 3 to appear.
But what could, or should, it offer? We’ve delved into the wider range of DJI drones and the technology available to manufacturers today to reveal the features we want and the features that are the most feasible additions to a drone expected this year. But let’s start with some estimates on release date and cost.
DJI Air 3 price and availability
The DJI Air 3 will be a sequel to the 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 could arrive around April 2023. It is no surprise that a launch of 2022 was lost due to component shortages and the myriad of other issues facing manufacturers these days.
However, an image of the release schedule recently published by DealsDrone suggests that The Air 3 may launch a bit later, in May 2023. It also suggests that April will bring the DJI Inspire 3. Inspire is DJI’s range of drones for pre-cinema — the Inspire 2 was released years ago in 2016.
We may also see the Air line increase in cost, given that there isn’t a huge price gap between the mid-range Air 2S (from $999 / £899 / AU$1,699) and the “budget” DJI Mini 3 Pro (from $759 $ / £709 / AU$1,119).
New Micro Four Thirds sensor
The DJI Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro saw fairly large sensors introduced to DJI’s smaller drones. Will a 1 inch sensor be enough when much cheaper models already have 1/1.3 inch chips?
We say no. The next step is an 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 barring the Sony IMX989, which is “made for smartphones.”
The Micro Four-Thirds Sony IMX472 chip is better suited to the job and may be the same sensor used in the DJI Mavic 3 Classic. This information does not appear to be available at this time.
A larger sensor will mean 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 and was announced in 2021. It’s much newer than the sensor in the Air 2S. It also has some pretty eyebrow-raising features.
Enhanced 4K (or 5K) 120 fps video
One of those skills is the 120 fps readout mode at 12-bit color depth, using the sensor’s full 5280 x 3956 pixels. Will an Air 3 have the 5K 120fps mode that is suggested? That would be nice. However, it would be noticeably better than the fairly recent Mavic 3 Classic which offers 120fps 4K and 5.1K at 50fps.
However, when you dig into the Sony IMX472 documentation, you’ll find that it may be easier for the drone to record 120fps at 5K than 4K. It doesn’t have a native motion mode suitable for 4K shooting, which – although we’re not software engineers – could certainly cause DJI a headache or two.
Extended transmission range
An upgrade of the transmission standards for the DJI Air 3 does not make us go out to such an extent. The Air 2S uses Ocusync 3.0 and an Air 3 is definitely due for a bump up to Ocusync 3.0+.
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 preview image when watching live footage using a DJI remote with screen.
The DJI Air 2S only captures a 1080p, 30fps preview image up to 12km thanks to the lower bandwidth of the O3.0.
Faster charging times
Drone enthusiasts always need spare batteries. But fast charging really reduces the volume of battery headaches in our experience.
The DJI Air 2S battery can be charged with a maximum power of 38W, while the newer Mavic models support 65W. Faster charging could potentially reduce the Air 3’s charging time from around 95 minutes to closer to an hour, or even less.
Improved flight time
DJI has managed to achieve some pretty impressive increases in flight time on sub-250g drones over the past 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, from just a 9% increase in battery capacity. And that suggests there are some pretty significant performance savings inside.
We’d like to see a similarly healthy increase in the jump from the DJI Air 2S to the Air 3. A reasonable, if perhaps a little too optimistic, target would be 40 minutes. While 36 minutes seems more likely, this is ultimately 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 is a true omnidirectional sensing system – additional left and right “side” sensors – that the DJI Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Classic offer.
This object detection enables 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 more work developing such features.
There’s still plenty of room for the Mavic 3 Classic to keep the upper hand here, too. The DJI Air 2S’s sensor cameras have a much narrower field of view than the Mavic’s. And where the Mavic uses a diopter system, two cameras in each direction, the Air 2S uses a time-of-flight sensor to judge distance to the ground.
We think left/right object sensing on the DJI Air 3 isn’t an unreasonable expectation, although it won’t be that much of an upgrade unless there are new or upgraded automation features.
We’ve laid out both optimistic and realistic expectations on a future DJI Air 3, let’s see if DJI plays it safe or pushes the boat. Either way, it’s the last model in the line to be updated, and its new name will complement a separate line of DJI drones for 2023.