Process of Design

Interview with DJI Air 2S Product Manager: Making a Simplified Flight Experience with Professional Level Results

In April 2020, the launch of Mavic Air 2 was greeted with wide acclaim from aerial photographers, creators, and drone enthusiasts. Now, one year later, DJI is introducing a new powerful successor: DJI Air 2S

DJI Air 2S is an ultra-compact aerial system with a 1” imaging system, robust hardware configuration and a functional design, all packed into a lightweight product. This makes it the ideal option for creators and professional aerial photographers, especially those who like to travel light. DJI Air 2S has notable upgrades to camera performance, visual sensors, intelligent functions, and flight experience, setting a new benchmark for lighter, smaller, stronger, and smarter one-inch camera drones. For an in-depth look at the making of this advanced new drone, we interviewed the product manager for the DJI Air 2S. Read on to find out about design process, creative thinking and what the S stands for in the DJI Air 2S. 

It’s now been a year since the launch of Mavic Air 2. How have users been feeling about that product?

Over the past year, we’ve received tons of feedback from users via social media, forums, and user surveys. Most users have been very impressed by how smart Mavic Air 2 is. Its stable performance, obstacle sensing technology, intelligent functions, and pricing have opened the world of advanced aerial photography to more people than ever before, making it an optimal camera drone in terms of a comprehensive product experience.

In addition to positive feedback, we also received valuable suggestions and advice regarding product improvements. Compliments and criticism both play important roles in product iteration, and they remind us of our initial drive for product development. It’s no exaggeration to say that we have built the new DJI Air 2S together with our users, because the product is based on a wide variety of feedback from them.

What user feedback has been addressed and resolved?

Some of the user feedback we collected was quite detailed. Suggestions ranged from performance improvements to ideas for new functions and features. One common theme we noticed was that while some users found Mavic Air 2 easy to use, they were unable to get the epic shots they saw more advanced pilots were getting. This is an issue we have heard from both beginners and experienced users, so we introduced MasterShots on DJI Air 2S, which allows users to get “master shots” with just a tap of a button. MasterShots comes with many preset templates to choose from, which were developed by real aerial photography pros. These experts, along with our internal pilots, conducted over 2,000 hours of flight tests and adjustment sessions for this feature alone.

We also understand the highest expectation from our users is a one-inch CMOS sensor. For Air 2S, we worked tirelessly to equip the drone with exactly that. To be honest, the idea occurred to us back when we were developing Mavic Air 2, but at that time we couldn’t solve the problem of gimbal size, so we decided against rushing the one-inch solution. The key technical difficulty of giving a drone of this size a one-inch sensor is the maximum gimbal size a small drone can carry and the processing capacity required by a larger sensor. We also had to consider heat dissipation and the allocation of computing power for the obstacle sensors. Simply put, there’s no space to spare when adding a one-inch sensor to a drone this size, especially one with so many other advanced features.

With the prerequisite of developing a stable technical solution, the project team finally overcame a series of problems related to payload, sensor adjustments, computing power, and heat dissipation. To get an idea of how small the DJI Air 2S gimbal is, let’s compare it with the Mavic 2 Pro. The Mavic 2 Pro weighs 907g, the gimbal alone weighing 96g. DJI Air 2S weighs less than 600g, and its gimbal is even lighter weighing in at only 59g.

What makes DJI Air 2S the “All in One” camera drone?

We’ve made many adjustments to its features, including additions and subtractions. Subtractions were made to reduce the cost for users and offer a superior flight and aerial photography experience. This includes powerful autonomous features and visual obstacle sensing in four directions. In terms of additions, we’ve added new features to improve flight, aerial photography, and the after-sales experience for our users. The ideas of subtraction and addition to some extent helps us evaluate existing features and plan for new products.

For example, many users found it hard to compose and edit footage, so we developed the new MasterShots feature. Now, users can simply tap to start, and the aircraft will autonomously fly along a preset route and edit the footage according to the selected template, making it effortless for any pilot to get breathtaking aerial shots in any location. In addition, all vision sensors are enabled during a MasterShots flight to detect its surroundings, sense obstacles, and ensure flight safety. Simply put, DJI Air 2S is designed to provide the best, most simplified aerial experience possible.

The obstacle sensing of Mavic Air 2 was already powerful, but we wanted to make it even better, so we added two upward visual sensors in the Air 2S. If you look closely, you will notice that the upward visual sensors are slanted, so they have a wider FOV to detect obstacles both above and ahead. When flying at higher speeds, the aircraft may tilt, and the slanted upward sensors take the key role of sensing obstacles in front of the drone. With this new design, the max flight speed of DJI Air 2S in normal mode can reach 15 m/s. Though some of the changes on DJI Air 2S may seem small, each is the result of careful consideration from our engineers.

Last question, what does the “S” in DJI Air 2S stand for?

Users might be surprised to know that the S was originally an internal name for the project. However, the engineers got so used to saying it that it grew on everyone and we realized that it would be a great name for the actual product. So we asked everyone what they felt the S represented to them. There were countless suggestions from our colleagues, including superior, smart, safe, and even surprise, which could represent the 1-inch sensor being added. In the end, we realized the S could stand for all of these things and more. Just as the drone itself is an all-in-one drone, so too is its name.

Topics: Process of Design

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