Speaking as a real grown up with a workplace pension and several direct debits, who goes on holidays and comes back home and says things like “Ooh it’s nice to be back in your own bed again isn’t it?”, I very rarely get genuinely, childishly giddy about a new toy.
But the DJI Mavic Pro unlocked a feeling of unfettered excitement in me that I hadn’t felt since unwrapping a Tyco Rebound 4x4 (you know, the remote control car from the 90s that could do “IN YOUR FACE FLIPS” and keep on going for about ten minutes before needing an hour to recharge).
I should say that drones are not toys. The DJI Mavic Pro is a serious, consumer-grade aerial photography tool, built from lightweight component parts and equipped with a high-quality, gimbal-stabilised 4K camera.
But, in a much more accurate sense, drones are definitely toys. They’re toys for adult children with disposable incomes, and I suspect that DJI understands this on some level. To that end, the Mavic Pro has an idiot-proof beginner’s mode, as well as an array of sensors that makes it incredibly easy to not crash into stuff.
It uses satellite positioning to keep itself hovering on the spot while your hands are off the controls. And if things go really wrong and you fly it out of range (it can fly up to 7km away in ideal conditions), the drone will automatically come back to you and obediently land at your feet, like a robotic homing pigeon.
Battery life, so often the dealbreaker with drones of this size, isn’t so much of a problem, either: a fully charged battery will give you at least 20 minutes of flight time.
You can slot your phone into the Xbox-style control pad to see a live feed from the drone’s on-board camera, which is not only the best way of flying the thing, but helps with framing your shots. If you’re the sort of person who does exciting things like kayaking, or striding purposefully about, the Mavic Pro can automatically track alongside or rotate around a chosen target, keeping the camera aimed at you as you strut, flip or krav maga your way from A to B.
The footage is stabilised to the point of appearing slightly unreal, a triple-axis gimbal negating every vibration and shake from the quad-copter rotors. Viewed back on a 4K display, the resulting video is pixel-sharp, detailed enough to pick out the colour of somebody’s shoes from 200 metres in the air.
The DJI Mavic Pro straddles the divide between a professional photography tool and an entry-level consumer toy, but at a smidge over £1,000 it’s priced more like the latter. For that money you won’t find a more capable drone, and cheaper alternatives don’t come close to matching these specs. Treat your childhood self.