I have always been fascinated by and loved drones but at a distance. Like many reading this, I resisted the temptation to spend $1k+ on a drone that I knew would crash into a tree or into a body of water where it is doomed to rest for eternity.
With the DJI Mini 3 Pro, many of those valid concerns have been alleviated by releasing one of the most beginner-friendly drones, which also offers pro features. While this is not the first small-sized drone DJI has released, it is one of the best.
A drone capable of taking high-resolution photos and high-quality videos and stopping you from crashing it into a tree or freefalling into the ground at top speed. While the Mini 3 Pro isn’t an enterprise-grade drone, it offers enough professional-like features.
Specs-wise, the Mini 3 Pro boasts a respectable 1/1.3″ sensor and a fast F1.7 lens. It has three-direction obstacle avoidance and a gimbal capable of shooting landscape and social media-friendly portrait orientations. It can shoot 4K/60p video, 34 minutes of flight time and a plethora of other features you would expect to find in a much more expensive drone—all the while weighing in at 249g (with the battery fitted).
Where the Mini 3 Pro heads into the beginner-friendly territory is obstacle avoidance. You can configure the behaviour to brake or avoid. I set it to brake. I tried my hardest to crash this drone in neutral mode and could get it to happen.; In sport mode, where obstacle avoidance is disabled, you’re on your own.
The sub-250g weight is essential. In most countries, drones under 250g do not need to be registered (unless you’re using them professionally). The separate purchase of the fly more kit will take the weight over 250g, but the base drone you buy is 249g, meaning you can fly without needing to take an online drone course or pay for certification.
The Mini 3 Pro being my first drone, was an experience when I first turned it on. Seeing it connect to GPS satellites, present a map with my location on it, and a view from the camera made me feel like I was operating a device that was a lot more expensive.
I highly recommend the RC Controller. The display is nice and bright, but it’s incredibly responsive too. The RC Controller is running Android and can only run the DJI Fly app, from what I could tell.
My hands were shaking on the first flight I took. It’s crazy that a drone resembling a children’s toy can make you feel this way. As you go higher and higher, anxiety and doubt kick in that it will crash or fall to the ground. Learning to trust the technology on something like this takes time.
It took about 5 hours of flying to work up the confidence to go to the legally allowed 120 metres into the air. The one thing that surprised me was how visible the Mini 3 Pro is at obscene heights. You could still make it out on a clear sunny day.
One of the first photos I took of my neighbourhood is below.
Although you shouldn’t be flying a drone at night, I am a terrible photographer. When it comes to nighttime performance, despite boasting of an F1.7 lens, you’ll still get a bit of noise. The photo and video quality is acceptable, I tried to take a photo of the moon in auto mode, and it didn’t work out too well.
In the hands of a more capable photographer, you might get better results. The daytime performance is exceptional, even for a terrible photographer like me.
Oh, and when I said this thing was almost uncrashable earlier, it’s true. Although, it can get confused with areas with a lot of tree coverage, and there are no sensors on the top. I found this out the hard way. On the second day of flying, after my confidence grew, I took off at the front of my house and crashed into the underside of the roof. The drone fell about 2m. I ended up needing to replace two of the blades.
There are obstacle avoidance sensors on every part of the Mini 3 Pro except the top (I would love to know why). So, be aware that if you go flying straight up and it’s not clear, the drone won’t brake and continue upwards.
Some users have reported issues with the range, but I haven’t even seen the signal bar drop by one bar in my use. I have also flown quite far with this in my area, with no signal issues whatsoever. I am sure DJI will improve signal performance over time with future updates.
The rules from CASA state you’re not allowed to fly without a visual line of sight. But, we all know that drone users get curious and tend to break that rule once or twice. Speaking of rules, in Australia, you are only allowed to fly 120m into the air. Although, scarily enough, it appears that the Mini 3 Pro doesn’t impose a limitation on height, and it is possible to go higher than that.
Now, the battery life. I know DJI included this particular battery because it keeps the weight under 250 grams. Still, I wish they included the extended batteries instead and made the lighter battery an optional addon that law conscious operators can buy.
I wanted the Fly More Kit (which I have pre-ordered) that comes with the extended range batteries and extra blades, but strangely enough, it wasn’t available until after May 26, 2022. You get a good 34 minutes quoted battery life, but this will depend on your flying conditions. In semi calm weather, I saw closer to 27 minutes (which is pretty damn close).
Overall, the Mini 3 Pro has been an excellent introduction to the world of drones. It’s not the cheapest, and there are existing DJI models that might also fit the bill. For me, the obstacle avoidance, range and quality of the photos and videos convinced me to make the purchase.