The DJI Mavic 3 Pro flagship prosumer drone shipped installed last year without the company’s tracking software (as well as a bunch of other stuff we’ve come to know and love about DJI products). Earlier this year, DJI released firmware that enabled tracking called Active Track 5.0. Naturally, we took it for some testing and compared it to the king of tracker drones, the Skydio 2.
Our favorite ski resort, Bromley Mountain, let me take the Skydio 2 drone down the mountain last year, so I figured a good comparison would be doing that same run with the Mavic 3. On the last snowboarding day of the year, despite the end-of-day mud, I took a few runs.
Unfortunately, while the Skydio, its beacon firmly in hand, followed me down the first time without any errors, the Mavic 3 lost me on my first two tries. Fortunately, on a slightly deviated third run across the side of the mountain, it was able to stay on me. You can see that run below – after an initial loss at the top. It did nine-tenths of the mountain on this run without a loss. I didn’t go to the park, and the Mavic didn’t have to negotiate the trees and chairlift that the Skydio amazingly was able to do.
Also, keep in mind I’m not “sending it” in either video – just going down at a casual speed. You can see in the video below, at about half way through, I gain a lot speed for a flat area, and the Skydio starts losing ground. As a measure to avoid losing its subject, the Skydio goes higher to keep me in the frame.
Here’s the Mavic 3 with Active Track 5.0, April 2022, at Bromley Mountain:
Compare that to a year ago. Take a look at the Skydio 2 in April 2021 which did this in one take:
Some notes on DJI Mavic 3 Pro Active Track 5.0 vs. Skydio 2
- We’ve seen a great comparison of the Skydio 2 vs. the Mavic Air 2S. It wasn’t close on tracking.
- Both drones record in beautiful 4K, though overall, I’d give the advantage to the Mavic 3 for its full range of color. This is the $4,000 Cine Mavic model recording Apple ProRes vs. a $1,000 Skydio – not apples to apples so to speak.
- Observers have told me the Skydio cinematography is better. I tend to agree, but that’s highly subjective.
- 2022 was a little muddier at Bromley than 2021, so that’s giving the Skydio a slight advantage in ease of following but one I think is moot with the beacon.
- Additionally, the Mavic is more portable with its foldable arms and has a dramatically longer flight time on battery of over 40 minutes vs. the Skydio’s 27 minutes.
- Mavic also has a higher top speed. The Skydio does feel firmer and it does feel like it could take a crash better, but I have no data to back that up.
- If drone following is the main component of your drone use, Skydio’s following is still a lot better than DJI’s Active Track 5.0. But that difference is closing.
- Active Track 5.0 is the first time I’ve been able to get DJI’s drones to follow me reliably. Previously with the Mavic Air 2, the DJI drone would lose me on a medium speed bike ride on a street, for instance, and I would put it in the “gimmick” category. It wasn’t even worth discussing as a professional feature.
- Both drones allow you to follow in front or back, or on either sides. Skydio’s beacon/controller really changes the game here, however, allowing you to change perspective on the fly, while with DJI you are forced to make a decision on a screen – something that is very hard to do while in action.
So the big takeaway here is that, while still not nearly as good at following as Skydio, DJI has taken a huge step forward with its follow technology with the DJI Mavic 3 and Active Track 5.0. DJI doesn’t offer a beacon, which not only hinders its follow capability but also doesn’t allow you to fly the drone well without looking at and navigating a touch screen controller, something super important for solo drone following.
But DJI’s Active Track 5.0 can now be used professionally – according to me.
I also had a chance to use the Mavic 3 Active Track 5.0 on a recent drive of the GMC HummerEV. Again, it did get lost a few times. It had to be “found” and Active Track 5.0 had to be enabled again. However, it did follow for an especially long shot as seen in the video below:
I am personally going to stick with the Skydio 2. But for those who opt for the longer flight time, portability, and better camera options of the Mavic 3, the Active Track follow is now a professional level tool in the growing DJI toolkit.