DJI Mavic 3 vs Skydio 2: Obstacle Avoidance Detailed Testing & Review
Tracking someone doing something autonomously by itself. And Ive got tons of history. Doing those sorts of tests on DJI drones, as well as Skydio drones and all sorts of other drones along the way. Ive pushed many a drones right to the limit trying to find out between good tracking … and hitting a tree and falling into the water.. Its just sort of what I do. The thing is doing that test with the Mavic 3 is a bit tricky., Not because the fact that I bought it myself and I dont want to kill it., Because that thats definitely not stopping me. Its. The fact that, while this has all these new obstacle avoidance sensors on it, eight sensors in total, just for avoiding obstacles, its lacking one particular thing Active Track.. This is something thats not coming to the drone until January 2022.. However, the good news is, they have launched the apas 5.0, which is the obstacle avoidance technology on this drone from the start. So i actually can compare how it avoids obstacles between the mavic 3 and the skydio2. Now, for those of you not familiar with skydio drone, its main goal in life is simply object, tracking and obstacle avoidance thats, what its really really good, at mainly from a sports tracking standpoint, at least in the consumer realm. On the flip side, of course, you have dji whos made tremendous drones from the aerial cinematography standpoint, but not always the best actor tracking and obstacle avoidance perspective, but with the mavic 3 theyve added a bunch of new sensors that they hope will go ahead and fix That issue, so if you look at the drone itself, you have two sensors.
On top, you have two sensors rearward facing two sensors forward facing and two sensors on the bottom uh, all those for obstacle volumes, theres, also some ground detection bits on the bottom here as well, but uh in terms of obstacle avoidance. You have eight total sensors there, as well as the front camera there on the skyo. You have three sensors on the top one, two three, as well as three sensors on the bottom, one, two, three plus the camera, and i wouldnt necessarily focus on the count of the number of obstacle void and sensors. They have its its, not the size, its. How you use it uh and as youll see thats, certainly true here as well now, as you can tell from the title of this video. This is all about obstacle, avoidance and tracking uh, its not going to cover all the other feature sets, but i can kind of give you like the gist of it. The scottie, as i said, is very, very good obstacle avoidance and very, very blah at everything else. Inversely, the dji drones in general historically are very, very good at cinematography and have been pretty bad at active tracking obstacle avoidance, so im mostly focusing this video entirely on that obstacle avoidance piece just to see how that handles. So the video is broken down into three chunks. You can use the youtube chapters along the bottom there to find the chunk you want uh. The very first chunk is showing this trying to fly into things and how it reacts to that in varying speeds and from varying angles.
So im, basically setting the baseline for whats going to happen in the next two chunks uh. The secondary chunk is im going to use obstacle avoidance, while tracking a subject manually to show you how that compares in the exact same setting the exact same section over and over again as the skydio drone, using its complete obstacle avoidance, as well as tracking capabilities. In the third section is a new advanced return to home feature of the mavic 3 thats, something that is in this first firmware its there today and its pretty darn cool and how it works. So those are three chunks were going to run through them with all real world footage shots on the grill production units so were going to start pretty basic here in this case im just telling it to go forward im, not telling it to go sideways or anything Else, im telling you to go forward and try to shoot the gap between these trees. You see its actually resisting at first and then it goes ahead and it pops on through – and this is kind of cool, because its basically saying hey im going to find that gap between this that i feel comfortable and go through that gap. Now i turn around, and this is where you see the difference in this case, im still telling you to go forward. Ive, never added the increase in altitude, and it goes above the trees instead to keep on going forward.
So its not going to go ahead and go through them this time it decides. Its best course of action is to go above it and ive only been pressing forward at this point now for this next test. Right here notice, the speed of the bottom about 10 kilometers an hour and notice. How close i am to the ground and the trees. The further i go away from the ground, the trees to the left there, the faster im allowed to go as i stay close to trees. It limited my speed to that 10 or so kilometers an hour and thats important here, as we build into the next section. Now, first i point the camera at this tree here and then i point it back at those trees over there now im going to go sideways into those trees and branches and watch how the drone automatically goes forward to avoid those trees, you can see the sensor Showing the trees behind me there and then it keeps that same track: heres another similar scenario, im just pressing forward and first its going ahead and just sliding along the left of the trees like if im sliding along a wall. I then turn the drone towards the right again not going up and it goes over the top of the trees. I then turn it one more time try to go into the trees here as im going forward its just simply rising above the trees at all times.
Its not letting me go through the trees, it just simply says its best course of action is to go above those trees, uh its pretty interesting. It does this in every scenario. It always decides one or two things will go over or around uh, no matter what you do, so you keep that stick facing forward its gon na stay over around every single time. Now so far, so good right, youre, like okay, were on board. This seems pretty easy, but lets step it up a notch. I want to put the drone in the bike path with me there. This bike path is roughly about a car width or actually car has driven down a couple times on about our testing and then about a meter or so beyond. That is the trees. Now, as you can see, the drone is sitting there. I am at full throttle forward full stick forward and its going a whopping 10 kilometers an hour, and what i found through a bunch of testing is essentially when you get below four meters from an object. It slows it down to about 12 kilometers an hour and then once you get down to three meters with an object in either direction, either up down left or right. You can see here its at about 10 kilometers an hour and thats the fastest. I can possibly go and just for context 10 kilometers an hour is basically a brisk walk, speed and ill show that in just a second as well now compare that with some footage.
I shot this past spring with a mavic air 2s. Now, in that case, there was actually less leaves in the trees, but everything else remains the same and youll see it was following along at full cycling. Speed no problem at all, meaning its tolerance for speed, while following me was much much higher than the mavic 3 appears to be at this point in time. Okay and a quick note, if you are finding this video, interesting or useful, go ahead and whack that, like button at the bottom there, it really does help with this video in the channel quite a bit now one of the fastest ways to kill your dji drone. In the past has been to go up into a tree, its actually not so much going into the tree from the side that tends to kill them, but going up into a tree because there wasnt sensors on most of the drones on top of it. So in this case there is – and so i put that to the test – where ive got these very very thin branches with virtually no leaves left on them. This is at the end of the day. You can see its fairly dark out. Ive increased the exposure by a full stop here, so were talking quite a bit darker than you might think, and you can see here, as i point the camera up just to see by thats, pretty cool its a 35 degree up, gimbal im gon na go up Into these trees, im just gon na keep on pointing up and seeing how close i get, and at this point im like really wedging it in there trying to find every last little bit uh.
There are branches on all sides of me and its not upset about it like its perfectly fine, and you can see again heres another little section as well, where im trying to go up into these branches, and it wont, let me do that. It just simply says no, no, that doesnt seem like a good life choice and it hangs out right there mind you, the mavic air 2s. It disagreed with that and it went straight into those branches. These exact same branches back a number of months ago and then from there into the well. This happened and if you havent seen that video, by the way its linked up there, that was just the start of my bad day. Now, at this point, youre, probably seeing yourself – this seems like the mavic 3 – might be a little bit cautious, a little bit wimpy a little bit, uh just afraid of its life and so just to show you that thats, not always the case. I wouldnt have this forward stick again so right now, if i play this, i said go forward and it literally just shot the gap between this tree and the light post. You guys turn around. You go im like wait. A second. It just went routine that so i did it again. I pointed in between these two scenarios right there and at the last second, it swerves in there and its funny, because thats the exact same behavior that you see from the scotia drone when it gets in a tight spot and its like im, not sure i can Lets send it and it just goes for it and just like it looks super unsmooth, but it pulls it off its almost like speed over carefulness and it works and its kind of funny to see that exact same little quirk occurring on the mavic 3.
Now as well, okay, so now lets get into part two here where were going to talk about tracking an object and how well it works for an obstacle avoidance in that scenario, so, like full flights with tracking someone on a bike, now keep in mind. This is all manually flown for the mavic, 3 and autonomously flown for the skydio uh again a dji says action track. 5.0 is coming to the mavic 3 in january. There is no other active tracking on the drone. Today, you dont have like 4.0 on it today. Its just have to wait until january now. There are basically three things that active track: 5.0 aims to better compare the previous version. The first one is simply having the full obstacle avoidance on the entire drone thats, like the biggest thing. That is the vast majority of hopefully a success story. The second is ability to set the angle that youre following. So if im here, you can say the drone should stay over here or stay on this side or stay right there or stay behind me. Something you cant do today with dji drones and the third thing is to allow far greater distances and heights away from the subject. Youre tracking. So, instead of having to be lets, say 10 meters away, you can be 100 meters away and that allows you maybe broader shots or things like that. Okay for this setup right here, what youre looking at is the main drone camera on the top and lower right hand.
Corner is a tripod camera, so you can see the drone itself, so you can see the drone just kind of chilling there im starting to slide down along this canal. My friend starts to pedal hes going to catch up into the frame. There you go and you can see he blows through the frame and the reason is, i am limited right now to about 12 kilometers an hour because im too close to trees, so let them pull away from the trees. You can see my speed catches up im at 20 kilometers an hour. I get a little bit faster here. I get a little bit further away from the trees, a little further away from the water that was below me, uh and now im cruising along. I catch up to him uh hes, about 40 kilometers. There we go hes, wait for me at this point. I can go ahead and basically be tracking him on the side. There are no problems at all, but im now quite a bit away from these trees. So for this next one here, i put it as close as i could to the trees while still maintaining speed. So you can see those orange pop ups there, that is, the obstacle avoidance triggering and every once in a while. I go past a bigger tree and actually pushes the drone out of the way of the tree, so its kind of cool. I guess the drone pushes the tree, you get the point right, it goes around the tree and you can see that.
Then it stays that distance away from the rider and theres another pop right there of the obstacle avoidance system, and this is producing a very clean shot. But again its all manually flown but im only holding left, stick nothing else, but left stick so now lets head in the trees itself and im gon na try to follow him. You can see right now. The bottom speed there seven point: nine eight kilometers an hour uh on the same trail we saw earlier but im trying to follow this rider, and i cant do that. He is, you know, basically stop pedaling easy, pedaling, trying away from me im going as fast as i can forward full throttle forward right now, and this is as fast as it lets me go now, keep in mind. I am happy to fly this at 100 kilometers an hour 120 kilometers an hour ive done it before with the uh dji fpv drone uh, and so this is as fast. It allows me to go uh with the obstacle void and sensors triggering on all sides theres. He just simply rides off rides off in the distance now for context. Lets talk about what the scadio does here. I didnt show the skyview and all the previous stuff, because it doesnt really matter were just going to get right to like the juicy part. I dont really need to show you the fact that it can slowly go around a tree because thats been established for about two years now uh.
So instead im going to show you what happens with the same little section there. This was about 20 or so minutes later, so its got quite a bit darker. Also, the white balance is set correctly here, so itll look different, so keep that in mind and ive had to turn up the exposure significantly to take care of compensate for that darkness. So just keep that in mind. You can see right here im going to go ahead and i tried to follow him from the side, but i didnt quite go far enough at this time, so its going to fall from from behind at first so thats fine, you can see im doing nothing ive. Just got him, i tapped him once and thats it and he just he just rides and its as simple as that: thats thats, the scadia drone thats, what its so good at and again theres lots of things thats very much, not good at. But this sort of thing is what it absolutely excels at uh. You can see this im doing nothing im, just letting it do its thing following along hes riding along at roughly 40 kilometers an hour a little on that, like 36 38 kilometers an hour, he turns around by himself uh the drones like sure ill ill. Do this too uh and then it turns around and follows him there as well its trying to decide which way to follow him from i had set it off to uh his left, so the drones trying to decide if thats, viable and eventually says now.
This fall from behind then we did another run here again. I put it a little bit further out, so it stay out there and you can see here its just following them. He actually stops for a second to see what happens and he goes again. The drone catches up and then hes, going to pause again in a second and slow down and it looks fairly smooth like its all autonomous its all done there. He goes. He stops again and thats thats a skydio drone. It doesnt crash into anything uh. It doesnt have any problems; it just simply does its job and follows now, of course, once dji releases the active track firmware in production in january, i will undoubtedly do a complete head to head of these. Just like, i always do as detailed and as painful as it is, and hopefully both drones survive like hunger, game style. Hopefully they make it to the end um. Otherwise, itll cost me a bunch of money. I guess, but in terms of where things stand today, i would say one im super impressed with the obstacle avoidance on this. I have not been able to crash it and if you know me, im gon na im gon na try to crash it. Like thats sort of my deal in life uh, it hasnt happened yet so thats thats positive, even like in the evening dusk kind of settings there, where light is low and its giving me warnings its still avoiding twigs and stuff like that.
But the main issue i see today is the speed tolerances within the settings for obstacle avoidance theres, only three options uh to go ahead and turn it off entirely to break some meaning to stop or to go around theres only three options today, so they need to Decrease that bubble around the drone before they allow that lower speed. So, in the case of the skydeal, for example, its got a one meter bubble around it. So if this is the drone, its got one meter this side, one meter. This side will be to this side that it maintains as long as its got that bubble clear, it can go pretty darn fast uh. In the case of this, this appears to be roughly a three to four meter bar roughly a four meter bubble for full speed and then three to four reduce speed and then below three at like creeping along speed, um, all of which right now is essentially walking. Speed or brisk walk speed now the good news is that dji has promised that its going to work faster than this, because, if you watch their launch, video youll see there that they are following a mountain biker in their after track section of this video. This is theoretically all done in active track, and you can see the drone swerving around and all sorts of crazy stuff following this mountain biker uh, who was clearly going faster than walking speed, and so there was no way that dji would lie in their their launch.
Video about the capabilities of of this drone, no, no, i dont, i dont think so, but the good news is there is one thing thats already here today: uh, which is the advanced return to home capabilities, so a very quick, 10 second primer and return to home. If your drone, if you tap the return to home function in the past, it does one thing it goes up like this goes to whatever set value you have and it goes over and it comes back down and lands at you, its like, very, very straightforward, which Is fine but the mavic 3 has an advanced return to home that will go ahead and just take whatever direction is most prudent to get between point a and point b, ignoring this hole going up over and down thing. So to show you that what i did here is i took the drone and i flew it into the tree, so you can see right here im about 160 meters away from me at this point i just stuff it down in the trees. Im, like you, go in the trees and then once i get there, i want to go ahead im going to tap the return to home button, to get it back and youd use return to home um in all sorts of scenarios like if you cant find the Drone anymore, you cant see it or something like that. You just want to get it back or if youre just lazy, you just want to fly back thatll.
Do it the quick way, so you can see theres no way for this drone to go up right now. Ive planted it below this street cover the street canopy. So i tap the return to home button here. There we go and the first thing it does. The drones, like yep uh, im gon na, go out the side, its not gon na try to go up. It goes out and it kind of goes through this little pocket there and the tree is even avoiding some bigger clumps and then it makes this turn to the left im located down to the left here and then it heads on out now fast forward. This little section here to get to where it catches up to me and now im right down below this here, you might be able to see me at a split second there and im, basically where its going towards, but the problem is at this point its almost Above me, and it didnt go down into the pocket. So basically you can see right here its sitting above the trees in just a second. It looks like it wants to land right there. It starts to go downwards to the landing spot, but theres freezer. You can see the bright red indicating its being blocked, and then it says the aircraft. The site is unsuitable for landing. At this point, i have to take it over and land it and its not a big deal, of course, because im standing right there.
But if theres, a scenario where perhaps youre doing aftertrack and something fails and rth is back to a starting point and thats. Not a clean starting point, then this would certainly be an issue, but not a not a big deal, this particular second. So the second scenario i was curious about, then, is what, if i went ahead and just simply put it down that pathway a little bit so i just backed it up. I think, like 40 or 50 meters, not very far, youll see right here, uh youre going back back back back and then i say right here how about we do a return to home right there. I was curious if it would go out back in that whole bit or if it just simply goes straight down the path to me. The return to home point is just right in front of me there and you can see it did the correct thing. It did. A cool thing: it went straight down the path here, slowly going down the path, its not not too uh, not too fast here and its just about to meet with wait. What no? No, no, no wrong way, no wrong wrong way and it went out the side and then it went above the trees and then it it came back down the trees, uh and right there. And so what i thinks happening here and then this point basically says: hey its not suitable. I cant find my little home spot down there, but didnt crash into it, which is cool uh and you can see the wind there.
We go and says unsuitable, uh and now i think whats probably happening here is my guess – is that dji has basically said. The entry point to a landing zone has to be a certain altitude and its going to come into that altitude. Every single time, as opposed to just coming straight like this and then going down the one meter above the ground to the ground which, again in the grand scheme of life, im not super concerned about, but its an area they could definitely improve upon in the future. Now its worthwhile pointing out that this zoom lens right here will not be used for active tracks not being used at all according to dji right now, they only plan to have the main lens used for active track: master shots, quick shots, all the like automated shots. Only the main camera lens to me thats a huge downer because of the fact that there is so much potential for active track to use that higher end lens. That zoom lens are not higher end, but the further focal length on that zoom lens to get those really cool shots from further away that give a much better impression of speed and its something that shouldnt technically be difficult for them. Given that they have far lesser cameras than this particular camera on many of their other drones out there over the last decade and theyve had active track on those drones, just fine, okay, there you go a complete look at the obstacle avoidance on the mavic 3 and How it kind of competes with the skadio 2.
im super looking forward to january and seeing what they pull out there and seeing how it looks right now. People have always had to make the choice between a very good autonomous drone, but not such a good drone. For everything else, and then a very good drone for everything else, but not such a good drone for autonomy and tracking. So, if dji can get like 80 of the way there to this, i think that will go ahead and kind of fit the needs for a lot of people with that.