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My plans to go to Malta and Sicily for December 2021 were formed as Delta began to rear its ugly head, but fortunately, they weathered both Delta and the onslaught from Omicron despite ever-changing regulations and restrictions.
I'm rather pleased about that.
This trip was 100% leisure, so I wanted to go as lightweight and simple as possible. There was going to be a lot of planes, trains, and automobiles, so I didn't want to be weighed down like a beast of burden.
But I wanted to take a drone with me.
Initially, I'd planned on only taking one drone on my travels -- the DJI Mini 2. This is a superb drone. It's small and light (the drone itself is sub-250g), it has an excellent camera, and thanks to its weight, it falls into regulatory categories that makes it easier to fly in more places with fewer legal hassles.
On top of that, Malta's airspace is one of the most regulated in the world. It is, after all, a tiny island with an airport slapped in the middle.
But at the last minute -- pretty much literally -- I decided to make some space for the new DJI Mavic 3 too, the Mini 2's bigger, beefier sibling.
I was, after all, going to visit some of Sicily's most awesome volcanoes. It would be easier to fly a bigger drone in Italy, and I'd be away from dense urban areas, so regulations would be a bit less restrictive.
It seemed like the perfect place to test the Mavic 3.
Now, before I go any further, I need to say that the Mini 2 is a fantastic drone for the money. I flew it quite a bit in Malta and I was always very pleased with the results.
For a small drone, it battles the wind extremely well, the stabilized camera is silky smooth, and the connection to the drone is solid.
For the size and weight and price, the Mini 2 is impossible to beat right now.
But for mountainous areas where there would be high winds and bad weather, I needed more power.
This is where I was thrilled that I'd packed the Mavic 3.
I visited Mount Etna on mainland Sicily, along with Stromboli and Vulcano, islands part of the Aeolian chain off the north coast of Sicily.
It was cold. It was windy. It was rainy. There were gusts that wanted to blow you over.
And the Mavic 3 didn't care.
There was also a lot of smoke, toxic gasses, and volcanic ash.
And the Mavic 3 didn't care.
In fact, on Stromboli, it looked like the Mavic 3 had even taken a hit (I didn't notice this until I got back to where I was staying), and yet it just kept on going.
Along with the Mavic 3 I was using DJI's new RC Pro remote control. The stock controller with the Mavic 3 -- a drone that starts at $2,200 -- is the same controller that comes with the $449 Mini 2. The stock controller is adequate, but it's clear that DJI is saving money by including such a cheap controller with such an expensive drone. The built-in screen, more buttons, and overall better fit and finish on the RC Pro make it a worthwhile addition for anyone serious about flying their drone.
Flying with the RC Pro feels better. I have better control, a better screen, and it's far quicker and more convenient than having to hook up my iPhone to the stock controller.
And the good news is that DJI is slowly but surely rolling out RC Pro support for other drones it has.
When I browse social media and the forums, I see a lot of people having a lot of problems with their Mavic 3 drones. I have to say that after many tens of miles, I've not had any major problems at all.
Yes, I feel like the flight characteristics are still aggressive (even on the latest firmware), and there are still features that are missing. Yes, I'm unsure how best to make use of the telephoto camera. And yes, plenty of features need quite a bit of polish. But for what it is -- a flying 4/3-inch Hassleblad camera capable of capturing 5.1K video that's stabilized on a gimbal and has built-in obstacle avoidance -- it's just incredible.
Yes, it's unfinished. Yes, the DJI Fly app feels rather basic for such a high-end drone (the DJI Go 4 app offered a lot more in the way of control and features), but, man, can it capture some amazing footage.
And, after all, at the end of the day it's the footage that matters.