Coronavirus: DJI Mavic Air 2 jettisons drone safety feature in Europe

BBC Technology 28 Apr 2020 01:48
By Leo Kelion Technology desk editor
Mavic Air 2Image copyright DJI

DJI has launched its first consumer drone to warn of nearby planes and helicopters via its controller.

The inclusion of the safety feature follows multiple reports of near-misses with other aircraft.

However, the firm says supply chain problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic mean it is only equipping the Mavic Air 2 with the ability in North America at this point.

Buyers in Europe and elsewhere will be offered a version lacking the facility.

DJI also said that logistics problems caused by the virus meant that it had been forced into a staggered launch.

Consumers in the firm's home country of China will be able to buy the drone immediately. But while the firm has started taking orders elsewhere, it does not expect to begin deliveries until mid-May.

Image copyright DJI

In May 2019, it promised to add its AirSense system to all future consumer drones weighing more than 250g (0.6lb).

Compliant planes and helicopters use this to broadcast their flight path, speed and altitude.

In the new drone's case, the control screen will display the location of nearby aircraft. If they start to approach, the device will show messages, make sounds and vibrate in the hand to warn of potential danger, prompting the pilot to change paths.

In other respects, DJI has said the two versions are identical.

The £769 Mavic Air 2 is advertised as offering up to 34 minutes of flight time - about a 60% improvement on the original model, which went on sale in January 2018.

Like the original Mavic Air, the new model folds up when not in use. But it is 33% heavier and noticeably larger, weighing 570g (1.3lb) and measuring 18cm x 9.7cm x 8.4mm (7.1in x 3.8in x 3.3in).

Despite the launch issues posed by Covid-19, the pandemic may play to DJI's advantage.

Its own website highlights that local police in Turin, Italy have used models to monitor people's movements at day and night to check they were complying with lockdown rules.

Furthermore, the company has suggested its drones could be used to move medical supplies between different communities to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

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