The DJI Mavic Air 2 is almost ready for take-off, according the latest leaks and rumors. But why might DJI be releasing a drone during a global pandemic that is keeping many of us at home, let alone able to head out with a new drone? The idea isn't quite as counter-intuitive as it seems, according to industry analysts.
Recent leaks suggest the DJI Mavic Air 2 will be a mid-range drone that succeeds the original Mavic Air from 2018, and could well be launched at DJI's event on April 27 at 9:30pm EDT / 2:30am BST / 11:30am AEST. But why doesn't DJI simply postpone the announcement to take place at a more drone-friendly time? Partly because it needs the boost now, according to one analyst.
"DJI is eager to get its latest design out into the public," says William Stofega, Program Director of Mobile Device Technology and Trends at IDC. "It has suffered somewhat due to the U.S-China trade dispute, with some models being pulled from their online store. There is nothing like a new product announcement to bring attention to a company’s products," he added.
Another possible reason is some hot new competition from rivals. "Nobody knows exactly how long Covid-19 will be with us and a drone that is not on the market cannot be sold. So why wait?' said Lukas Schroth, Senior Market Analyst at Drone Industry Insights. "Another reason may be the remake of Skydio’s first drone, which is now also targeting the commercial market and was launched at the end of last year: the Skydio 2," he added.
Right now, Skydio is only shipping its drones within the US and Canada, but "hopes to expand to other countries soon", according to its website. This makes it a big enough rival to push DJI into clearing the Mavic Air 2 for take-off, according to Lukas Schroth. "In its price and weight class, the Skydio 2 is currently looking for its peers and, despite Covid-19, sells very well. Since we expect a competitive model for the Skydio 2, why should DJI now wait for the market launch?" he said.
It's not just market and economic gusts that are pushing DJI towards sticking to its Mavic Air 2 launch plan, either. While it might seem like a strange time to launch a product that is synonymous with travel photography and video, it's not impossible to fly drones right now within our pandemic-related restrictions.
"Consumer drones tend to sell best during the summer time and this launch was most likely on the product release schedule well before the pandemic hit,' said Kevin Sartori, co-founder of drone software provider Auterion. "While there are stay-at-home restrictions in many parts of the world, hobbyists are still able to fly their drones over their properties within line of sight, unless they reside in areas of restricted airspace," he observed.
Restrictions are naturally much tighter for those who don't own a large amount of private land, while police in some countries have conversely seen drone laws relaxed to help them enforce social distancing rules. The UK's CAA (Civil Aviation Authority), for example, recently issued new guidelines that allow police officers to fly closer to members of the public than usual and at higher altitudes too.
The DJI Mavic Air 2, though, is unlikely to be the kind of drone used for these more dystopian measures. Instead, it's shaping up to be another beginner-friendly model for hobbyists who fancy adding a new dimension to their photos and filmmaking. In this sense, it could well end up being a model that many people stick on their watchlist rather than in their basket, at least while today's global restrictions remain.
A new flight path?
But what does the likely DJI Mavic Air 2 launch tell us about DJI, and drones in general, in 2020? One slightly curious aspect of DJI's launch event on 27 April is its start time.
The event kicks off at 9.30pm EDT / 2.30am BST / 11.30am AEST, which is unusual for DJI. For example, its Mavic Mini launch started at 9.00am EDT / 1.00pm GMT / 11.00pm AEST. Could this suggest that events like the US Department of the Interior's decision to ground its entire drone fleet for national security reasons are having an effect on DJI's consumer launches?
IDC's William Stofega doesn't think so. "I don’t think the U.S. criticisms will hinder the launch of their new drone. DJI released a study and designed a fix to prevent the transmission of data outside of its intended recipients. Still, it is difficult to say if a security risk does exist or has already been exploited,' he said.
The bigger factor behind the Mavic Air 2's potential launch is that DJI is still so dominant in the drones space it doesn't need to stick to traditional launch timings. "The bottom line is that the company has no real competitors, and their designs, manufacturing processes, and technology are first class,' William Stofega added. "DJI’s purchase of Hasselblad cameras gives it a capability that its competitors can’t match. It also owns the drone market with almost 75% share, which gives the company tremendous leverage in pricing," he concluded.
So there we have it – while it might feel like a strange time to launch a new consumer drone, with many countries in lockdown due to the global pandemic, analysts believe that DJI's dominance, plus a little bit of spicy competition from the likes of Skydio, are the reasons behind it apparently pushing ahead with what appears to be a Mavic Air 2 launch on April 27.
Of course, this is also great news for tech fans looking for a bit of gadget distraction during these unsettling times. We'll be bringing you all of the official news from DJI's launch, but in the meantime you can indulge yourself in our DJI Mavic Air 2: release date, news and features round-up.