I’ve never owned a drone but have been casually observing the drone space to see improvements in obstacle avoidance and follow-me features etc.
But those controllers are large and not ideal for MTB rides.
That said I think I might be getting closer to pulling the trigger: DJI Mini 3 Pro (DJI RC) & Fly More Kit Plus – Lightweight and Foldable Camera Drone with 4K/60fps Video, 47-min Flight Time, Tri-Directional Obstacle Sensing, Ideal for Aerial Photography https://a.co/d/isFjELU
Does anyone have any MTB- relevant experience with this?
I agree the Skydio will definitely beat the DJI hands down in tracking, but the quality and smoothness is something to be desired. Even DCRainmaker has commented on that many times. So far the DJI Mini 3 Pro in terms of 4K resolutions, smoothness has been fantastic, no regrets in my purchase.
I have the Mini 3 Pro and it does a decent job of tracking on the gravel and MTB rides I’ve done. You need to be vigilant though of your surroundings/trees/trails and on climbs. Since there’s no official DJI product for mounting the RC, there are a few ebay and Amazon mounts, but those at least seen on the DJI forums have been junk. Best to use the 3D print stuff as it’s been proven. Here’s where I got my 3D print idea from…
I do some MTB here and there, but honestly, the reason I mostly skip it is I mostly keep crashing drones into trees via MTB.
Ultimately, it’s really going to come down to what type of MTB environment you’ve got - specifically, the tree situation. Here in the Netherlands the tree situation is generally quite dense with wild underbrush, and the trees tight together, making both Skydio and DJI pretty much useless at speed. There are a handful of places where I can do it because the forest has more space between trees, but that’s about it.
Inversely, places I can MTB with it relatively successfully are in more arid climates. So for me that’d be Malorca, Canary Islands, etc… - where it’s more cactus-type trees, usually relatively low density of brush, tec… Obviously, not all parts of those places are like that, but I can usually make it work from either, with again, Skydio almost never losing tracking, while DJI is hit or miss.
Place that fall in the middle for me Alpine locations mostly above the tree-line, in that case, both tend to do well. Skydio will virtually never lose you, but as noted, quality isn’t as some as DJI. DJI usually won’t lose you as long as you don’t have any super-fast sections (e.g. above 30MPH) where the DJI options won’t hold that speed while tracking.
@dcrainmaker, thanks for the helpful comments. If you had to guess, do you expect drone technology to improve for mtb applications soon enough to warrant holding out for a while, or is the “hit and miss” of DJI Mini 3 Pro tolerable enough to try? I’m assuming riding in terrain with low to mid brush density. I’m drawn to this over the Skydio for its size and image quality.
Depends on how much climbing you’re doing and what your ‘auto RTH altitude’ is set at. If its only a few meters/feet, it should be ok. But in certain instances, for some AI tracking algorithm that DJI has, it seems to stay at the altitude when you first start tracking and won’t necessarily go up so the drone will be near the ground as you keep pedaling up. Its not bad, just need to keep an eye & ear on your controller view to see where the drone is at.
I’ve had a Skydio 2 for a couple years and it’s been incredible. I can literally just launch it and ride, and it follows me for ~20 minutes. But, I should note that I live in the Western Colorado desert, so we have almost no trees to contend with.
I am just about to pull the plug on the Mini 3 pro with the extras. I will use it for my small youtibe channel (jaselikesbikes) I am in New Zealand so have some open and some trees so yes I am a bit nervous about the tracking. My plan is to set the tracking and pop the controller in my hip pack and use the “follow me” option. I ma just a bit nervous of carrying the drone and controller in the hip pack between use in case I fall off! As mentioned the Skydio is better at tracking but larger and more expensive but I think if you use the mini 3 pro in the right spots it will work. Fingers crossed anyway!
I have tried it a couple of times and here is an example. I did the track twice and tried the follow me and parallel option and it lost me twice on both occasions. I wasn’t going quick either as I was concerned to see if the drone was following me. I popped the controller in my hip pack with no joysticks and pressed the off/on button once to blank the screen.
“Follow me” function would not work where I ride because the dense tree cover. In the US drones over 1/2 pound are regulated and if you are using the video on a monetized YouTube channel you need a Section 107 license. It is not hard to get but definitely something to keep in mind. Recreational flying also requires registration and a test. Even if you are being safe, if you run into any law enforcement in a bad mood they can check if you have it and the fines are no joke.
Mini3Pro is a strong contender. The Skydio is a beast at tracking, but the weight and fixed arms really limit it’s portability, ironically. I still don’t feel like we’re at a place where taking a drone doesn’t turn the event into a ‘drone day.’ For me, the Mini 3 P is closest to getting there though. The HLG in the M3P puts it against the Mavic 3 in my opinion, at far more portability.
I managed to piece together an edit with the Mini3 Pro Active track on a grade 4 mountain bike trail. It would be better if it had a beacon like the skydio and it needs a feature to switch off the controller buttons (not just the screen) for when you put it in a bag. I was going slower than normal and was checking to see if the drone was still around. It lost me twice on each of the 2 runs.