Drones are more complicated than they seem, luckily, they are easy to operate. It would seem that DJI has figured out a few key things about us as humans – we like technology, we like photography, we like drones, we love those awesome aerial videos and we do not want to practice to become great.
Instant gratification is in the palm of your hand with the DJI Mavic 2 drones, DJI Mavic Air, DJI Spark and the older Mavic Pro with the self-piloted flight features called Quickshot. Four autonomous flight modes started it off by being just a tap away, two more have been added since, getting you those epic selfie drone videos without having to learn how to fly.
Looking for some help learning to fly? We’re building up our pilot training material as we go, but we can get you started with the basics for now. If you are flying for pay, or any other form of compensation, you must operate under a different set of rules and possess a commercial drone license. We call it the Part 107, it’s not too hard to get, but it will take some time to learn all the rules. We want to help you learn the rules and get your commercial license, check out our drone pilot training material.
Updates of note:
- August 2018: The new DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro introduce a hyperlapse mode, as well as a dolly zoom mode for the Zoom model.
- Along with the announcement of the new DJI Mavic Air, DJI has two new flight modes for Quickshot. At least these modes are available on the Mavic Air, we’re not sure if they will make it to the Spark or Mavic Pro.
- There is a new flight mode for the DJI Spark, it’s an extension of the Panoramic shot option called Sphere. Admitting that this is not, technically, part of the Quickshot suite of flight modes, it offers the same level of autonomy.
- Quickshot now available on DJI Mavic Pro. As I had hoped all along, DJI has added the Quickshot self-flying functions to the bigger ans stronger Mavic Pro. This is exciting news for all Mavic pilots out there, folks like me that want the best features for their favorite drone. Be sure to grab the latest firmware update for your drone and, more important, install the latest version of the DJI GO 4 app for your mobile device.
Now that you know you can use the camera features on your Mavic Pro, and the new Quickshot modes on your Mavic Air, read on to see just what modes we’re talking about.
Do you want to learn more before you buy a DJI Spark compact drone? Well of course you do.
Quickshot has four distinct moves, at least now, there is nothing stopping the team from adding more modes in future software updates. Rocket, Dronie, Circle and Helix are the names of the modes, automating popular flight techniques that make for popular drone video. When you are all done recording Quickshot has a super easy editing tool that will automatically create short, shareable video clips, including music.
DJI is taking something fun away from us hobbyist pilots, taking away the need to perfect your flying skill in order to capture great footage. However, Quickshot is the very definition of what technology should be, automating tasks that are difficult or awkward for humans to do. We’re not here to choose sides on this debate today, let’s look at what Quickshot can do and go from there.
From a relatively low hover with the camera facing straight down, the drone simply flies straight up. This is absolutely the easiest mode to perform manually, at least with a quality drone. The resulting video offers a great sense of environment, slowly revealing the area around the subject.
Offering the same idea, focusing on a subject and pulling away to reveal the world around it. In this case, you are supposed to be the subject, ‘Dronie’ playing on the word ‘selfie,’ of course, the Spark is a great addition to our Selfie drones list, after all. The drone starts near you, facing horizontally at you, it then flies backward and slowly upward. You remain the center of the frame, but the world is revealed around you, including the horizon and sky this time.
A familiar mode to anyone that’s watched a Bad Boys movie. Keeping the subject in the center of the frame, the camera slowly circles around, hence the name. This is a very difficult flight to perform manually, balancing just the right amount of yaw with the right amount of ‘strafing’ sideways.
Where the other modes thus far benefit from a starting point close to you and/or the ground, Circle can be successfully performed from most starting points. Whether you are going for that epic close up with the camera circling you, or from afar so that you are but a speck in your environment, Circle will look great.
Ready for something a little more complex? Helix, in a way, combines above flight modes into one impressive movement. Think of Helix as an upgraded Dronie, start close to yourself, the drone will back away from you, slowly rising upward, but it also begins to circle you. This is as close to that epic Hollywood helicopter shot as you’ll get.
Let’s see some of that in action:
Update: new modes and a new drone
With the announcement of the new DJI Mavic Air in January 2018, DJI launched two new modes for Quickshot. These modes are only available on the Mavic Air at this time, but they may make it to the Spark and Mavic Pro, eventually. In addition to these two, there is a new Smart Capture mode that allows you to fly from the ground, up and out to about 19 feet away, the drone captures some shots, then bring it back in for a landing, all by hand gestures, no remote required.
The Mavic Air has a new software trick it uses to capture a 32MP panoramic image, it can turn this image into what looks like was captured by a 360 degree camera. Combining this sphere with a a swoop into yourself, the resulting video is really slick. Stay tuned to the site for coverage of how this works, we’ll have our review unit soon.
As the name implies, Boomerang is an extension of the Circle flight mode above. Instead of just circling you, however, it starts close, works its way out and brings it back in. Seriously, if you’ve seen how a boomerang flies, you have a pretty good idea how Boomerang works in the Quickshot flight mode.
Let’s see those in action through this video:
DJI has equipped the Spark, as with nearly all of their drones, with forward facing object detection sensors. Plainly put, most of these new automated modes have the drone flying backward, it will not stop itself from backing into a tree or wall. Keep your controller at the ready, and an eye on the machine, just in case.
Also, please note that under normal rules, the Spark is heavy enough that it needs to be registered with the FAA. Registration was in limbo for a while, but the rules to follow while you fly were still in effect! You still cannot fly over top of people, near airports and stuff like that.
Editing and sharing your video
Quickshot makes your final product super simple. For each Quickshot flight you take, the app will produce a ten second video, including fun music. All you have to do is click Share, and your friends and family on your favorite social network will get to enjoy your production.
DJI Mavic Air
The DJI Spark may have been the first machine with Quickshots, but the Mavic Air is one of the best implementations of the flight features. The Mavic Air folds down to be extremely compact for travel, but offers some of the best flight capabilities for a consumer drone. Granted, the newer Mavic 2 series offer even better modes, but as a full flight package for hobby pilots, we can think of no better drone today.
As I say, most seasoned pilots have practiced to perform these flight modes manually. It is the work from these pilots, like the ones from the New York Drone Film Festival last year, that DJI is emulating, and for good reason.
We are very excited for what Quickshot and the Spark could mean for the drone industry. Putting a powerful, convenient and easy to use flying camera into the hands of many new users may trigger a new craze. Gone may be the days of $1000+ to get a great camera drone, perhaps $500 and under can be the new standard.
What do you say, are you more inclined to shoot aerial video knowing you can get the perfect footage and produced video with ease?