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Help me decide - questions I can't find answers to

PretendPilot

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I am in the market for a new drone after a less-than-savory experience with the GoPro Karma, which found its best use in helping me string Christmas lights over a 60ft tree.

Plan to use a new drone for the next several years, mostly just for family trips and various Alaskan sports/hiking/camping.

Been looking at reviews and nitpicks of lots of drone options but have a few questions that I cannot find easy answers to.

The 3 drones I have it whittled down to are the Skydio 2 Plus, Mavic Air 2S, and Mavic 3 (just the base kit with 1 battery). I know the Mavic 3 is much more expensive, but by the time you get all of the accessories for the Skydio 2+, it's pretty close to the base Mavic 3.

I know all the pros and cons of the various imaging and obstacle avoidance of these drones (and limitations) and have become OCD enough that I'm keeping a spreadsheet of this info, but have some comparison questions for those of you with the Skydio 2+.

- Mavic 3 seems to suck right now at getting in the air quickly due to slow GPS lock (sometimes minutes before safe flight can occur). Not an issue on Mavic Air 2S. How long does it typically take for the Skydio 2+ to calibrate itself and take off from the point that you want to fly it? (I would probably start with the sport kit using Beacon connected to my iphone for manual movement, though considering going for the controller as well).

- It doesn't look like the Skydio ever needs a manual calibration - is that true? (My Karma constantly needed calibration and still lost GPS and signal all the time - Ugh). For those who have have experience with DJI drones, do they need to be calibrated often? I really want to be able to take the drone out and quickly get it in the air.

- I see a number of videos that mention flying the Skydio in low light. No one has been able to clarify HOW low that light is before the drone won't fly, probably because it's hard to quantify. Any rules of thumb that seems to hold true?

- This is more of a DJI question, but if anyone has an answer it would be appreciated - I live in Alaska where there are lots of small, unregulated airstrips. Will geofencing with DJI be an issue with those? I know it's not an issue with Skydio.

- Love the new waypoint option with Skydio, really put it up the list for me as I can arrange to do cinematic shots more easily. Anyone compared it to their experience with DJI drones through Litchi?

- A LOT of video I've seen with the Skydio seemed to show more jerky motion when following a subject than similar video from DJI drones, but I also saw that some of the firmware updates over time may have improved that. I understand that this may be due to the Skydio's better obstacle avoidance, but I like smoother video. Anyone have opinions on this?

Probably more questions, but this should give me the info I really need.

Appreciate everyone's thoughts
 

Saladshooter

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The 3 drones I have it whittled down to are the Skydio 2 Plus, Mavic Air 2S, and Mavic 3 (just the base kit with 1 battery). I know the Mavic 3 is much more expensive, but by the time you get all of the accessories for the Skydio 2+, it's pretty close to the base Mavic 3.
I've owned them all. The Air 2s is your best all around drone. Pick the Skydio 2+ if you need the best tracking. Pick the Mavic 3 if you need the best camera...... but pick the DJI Air 2s if you just need a great camera drone. Its not incredibly expensive, has a great camera, and does everything right.
 

ETdronehome

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Good video on low light Skydio2 capability.


Likely a different experience in Alaska vs somewhere near the equator but the real issue is that the Skydio will at some point decide for you it isn’t going to fly. The DJI options don’t have that issue. Depends how big a deal that is for you.
 
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PretendPilot

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Saladshooter - Sound advice on the Air 2S. It definitely makes the most sense overall. Keep finding myself in the same situation when thinking about buying a truck - all of the edge use cases. ("But what if I want to shoot a picture of the northern lights from 100 ft up?") Truth is, 90% of the time the Air 2S would do a fantastic job.

ETdronehome - I saw that video but had dismissed it as just a "how to best image the sunset" - you're right, he does a good job of showing how dark the Skydio will fly (and it seems to work with less light than I thought).

Skydio would never have a problem in the summer here, it never gets dark. The winter, on the other hand...
 

ETdronehome

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Saladshooter - Sound advice on the Air 2S. It definitely makes the most sense overall. Keep finding myself in the same situation when thinking about buying a truck - all of the edge use cases. ("But what if I want to shoot a picture of the northern lights from 100 ft up?") Truth is, 90% of the time the Air 2S would do a fantastic job.

ETdronehome - I saw that video but had dismissed it as just a "how to best image the sunset" - you're right, he does a good job of showing how dark the Skydio will fly (and it seems to work with less light than I thought).

Skydio would never have a problem in the summer here, it never gets dark. The winter, on the other hand...

Hard to make a mistake with the three you have narrowed it to. Just have to jump in. Pick one and if you don’t like it pretty easy to sell used and go to the next one on the list.

Analysis paralysis is way painful 😎
 
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Saladshooter

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Hard to make a mistake with the three you have narrowed it to. Just have to jump in. Pick one and if you don’t like it pretty easy to sell used and go to the next one on the list.
The Skydio 2+ is the most divisive drone on PretendPilot's list. It provides great footage but has the smallest camera by far. It won't fly in bad weather or nighttime. It has the shortest range. Its missing basic features like the ability to lock on inanimate objects to film orbits and dolly shots. No LOG for 10 bit color correction. It really annoys me that Skydio won't make these additions to the software because they hold it back from being a complete drone that everyone would want to own.

The Skydio 2 really is an amazing aircraft. Its ability to fly through areas that no other drone would dare, sets it apart..... but it is positioned as a niche item for no reason and makes it hard to recommend except to someone who needs that level of tracking and avoidance. It fails as a camera drone outside of those parameters.
 

PretendPilot

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The Skydio 2+ is the most divisive drone on PretendPilot's list. It provides great footage but has the smallest camera by far. It won't fly in bad weather or nighttime. It has the shortest range. Its missing basic features like the ability to lock on inanimate objects to film orbits and dolly shots. No LOG for 10 bit color correction. It really annoys me that Skydio won't make these additions to the software because they hold it back from being a complete drone that everyone would want to own.

The Skydio 2 really is an amazing aircraft. Its ability to fly through areas that no other drone would dare, sets it apart..... but it is positioned as a niche item for no reason and makes it hard to recommend except to someone who needs that level of tracking and avoidance. It fails as a camera drone outside of those parameters.
This lines up with a lot of what I'm finding. The thing that helps redeem it is the addition of keyframes to allow for some really cool cinematic options, but I wish they had just done a few upgrades on the camera when they pushed out the 2 plus.

It would also help if it's quick to turn on and fly, my wife has very little patience for waiting on me to get drone footage. :)
 

Saladshooter

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Still would like to know time-to-flight with the Skydio - any thoughts?

It would also help if it's quick to turn on and fly, my wife has very little patience for waiting on me to get drone footage. :)
Mavic 3 is currently the slowest by far because of the satellite acquisition problem that cropped up after a December update, but I expect it will be fixed soon. The Air 2s is the fastest at under a minute. Skydio 2/2+ comes in second because it takes a bit longer to boot and goes through some sort of calibration sequence every time.... its time to flight seems to vary depending on its mood.
 

Sky Cyclist

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I am in the market for a new drone after a less-than-savory experience with the GoPro Karma, which found its best use in helping me string Christmas lights over a 60ft tree.

Plan to use a new drone for the next several years, mostly just for family trips and various Alaskan sports/hiking/camping.

Been looking at reviews and nitpicks of lots of drone options but have a few questions that I cannot find easy answers to.

The 3 drones I have it whittled down to are the Skydio 2 Plus, Mavic Air 2S, and Mavic 3 (just the base kit with 1 battery). I know the Mavic 3 is much more expensive, but by the time you get all of the accessories for the Skydio 2+, it's pretty close to the base Mavic 3.

I know all the pros and cons of the various imaging and obstacle avoidance of these drones (and limitations) and have become OCD enough that I'm keeping a spreadsheet of this info, but have some comparison questions for those of you with the Skydio 2+.

- Mavic 3 seems to suck right now at getting in the air quickly due to slow GPS lock (sometimes minutes before safe flight can occur). Not an issue on Mavic Air 2S. How long does it typically take for the Skydio 2+ to calibrate itself and take off from the point that you want to fly it? (I would probably start with the sport kit using Beacon connected to my iphone for manual movement, though considering going for the controller as well).

- It doesn't look like the Skydio ever needs a manual calibration - is that true? (My Karma constantly needed calibration and still lost GPS and signal all the time - Ugh). For those who have have experience with DJI drones, do they need to be calibrated often? I really want to be able to take the drone out and quickly get it in the air.

- I see a number of videos that mention flying the Skydio in low light. No one has been able to clarify HOW low that light is before the drone won't fly, probably because it's hard to quantify. Any rules of thumb that seems to hold true?

- This is more of a DJI question, but if anyone has an answer it would be appreciated - I live in Alaska where there are lots of small, unregulated airstrips. Will geofencing with DJI be an issue with those? I know it's not an issue with Skydio.

- Love the new waypoint option with Skydio, really put it up the list for me as I can arrange to do cinematic shots more easily. Anyone compared it to their experience with DJI drones through Litchi?

- A LOT of video I've seen with the Skydio seemed to show more jerky motion when following a subject than similar video from DJI drones, but I also saw that some of the firmware updates over time may have improved that. I understand that this may be due to the Skydio's better obstacle avoidance, but I like smoother video. Anyone have opinions on this?

Probably more questions, but this should give me the info I really need.

Appreciate everyone's thoughts

The quick time-to-flight is not the only consideration. And, sorry, you will know more "dislikes" after you have your first drone. Many drones are great, but they all have some drawbacks.

The real world of drones is still growing and there is no smart answer or a perfect drone in my own experience.

You will also need another drone after Skydio 2 eventually.

It is all about learning and the drone is a new world.

You are learning the drone as well as your own needs.

I'm lucky, I happen to have more than all these 3 drones and also Litchi and Dronelink.

I also have read your post carefully and I can feel your troubles right now and how hard you are studying.

You will probably need more time and money in the journey of learning.

And, what I can share and help is telling the perspectives from my own experience.

There are many good responses above and I will share them from different perspectives.

(1) Skydio is very unique and different. And, it has many features that other drones don't have.

If you need high-speed active tracking, it is the best option.

However, Skydio has limitations with its strength, you can not just have the good parts.

(2) Since it is a learning journey, learning by doing is the way to go.

The drone is an asset and it is quite like a car. You don't need to pay 100% cost of the drone for the learning, and you can sell it later, as long as you don't crash it.

There are also a few options to consider:

(2-1) Just get a starter kit only.
(2-2) Just get a used Skydio 2. As I studied, the current used Skydio's price is about 50% - 90% of the brand new one. It will help decrease the cost of learning. There are shipping and transactional costs if you will sell it for purchasing new some of the day later. But it will still help lower the cost of learning.
(2-3) Get a detailed understanding of the 30-day return policy. The knowledge will also help you in the learning journey.

I am also on the journey of exploring the drone world. That's the reason I have so many drones.

Not every part of the journey was sweet, some were very bitter, but for me it is still a joyous journey. I hope yours will be better.

Good luck.
 
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PretendPilot

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(2-1) Just get a starter kit only.
(2-2) Just get a used Skydio 2. As I studied, the current used Skydio's price is about 50% - 90% of the brand new one. It will help decrease the cost of learning. There are shipping and transactional costs if you will sell it for purchasing new some of the day later. But it will still help lower the cost of learning.
(2-3) Get a detailed understanding of the 30-day return policy. The knowledge will also help you in the learning journey.

I am also on the journey of exploring the drone world. That's the reason I have so many drones.

Not every part of the journey was sweet, some were very bitter, but for me it is still a joyous journey. I hope yours will be better.
Thanks all of the very thoughtful responses and the positive vibe. It's not everywhere that I see that kind of support to a new member and I really appreciate it.

As everyone has pointed out (accurately) so far, every one of these drones have strengths and weaknesses in different places. In the end, I know I would be happy with any of them (even with some of the decreased video quality/flexibility on the Skydio compared to the two others).

Buying a drone locally would allow me to "try it out" and return it easily, something I don't usually do but may be worth it for me to do.

I've been selling off some other things I don't use anymore which will allow me to maybe afford the Mavic 3. I'm old enough to know that it is impossible to future-proof, but it seems the most likely to be the drone that I will be happy with even in a few years, and I can nickel-and-dime myself going forward to get more batteries, etc, if needed so I could start with the basic kit.
As Saladshooter noted, I would bet that the satellite acquisition issue will be addressed with some of the many firmware updates they've been doing.

I think most of my questions have been answered except maybe the Litchi on a DJI vs Skydio Keyframe for planned routes (I'd use it most for smooth, cinematic videos of pretty Alaskan scenery, probably with my family) and opinions on whether Skydio still gives more "jerky" videos than DJI when following - anyone with an opinion on those two things?
 

Sky Cyclist

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I think most of my questions have been answered except maybe the Litchi on a DJI vs Skydio Keyframe for planned routes (I'd use it most for smooth, cinematic videos of pretty Alaskan scenery, probably with my family) and opinions on whether Skydio still gives more "jerky" videos than DJI when following - anyone with an opinion on those two things?

1.

Per your description, you have described the keywords about the scenery and cinematic videos many times. In this case, you will need a DJI drone.

Not the more expensive the better. DJI Mavic 3 has not supported MSDK and it will not support in near future, too. It can't be used with Litchi. Besides, DJI Mavic 3 seems to have some flaws - like slow GPS locking, etc.

DJI Air 2S is quite reliable and superior. Except for the lack of the adjustable aperture, a slightly lighter and smaller size, and a little poor wind resistance, it is a very good drone for aerial photography.

2.

Litchi vs KeyFrame - The quick answer is to have them both.

Let me show you some of the samples. Litchi can do these very easily which Skydio's KeyFrame can not.

People, like me, can stay in a warm room and create tons of flight plans.

Image 385.png

Image 386.png

And, here is one another my dronelink's flight plan.

I have more than 100 plans in my library and the number is growing day by day. :)

In the sample, there is a location where no road/trail can reach. And, now, I can plan the flight distance/flight time/angles of photography... etc before the flight. It helps me a lot to explore and know my living location.

By the way, it is a standard mission of mine and the mission takes about 20 minutes to complete which is close to the maximum DJI Air 2S safe flight time. Thus, it limits the range of exploration (well, I have found a way to overcome this physical limitation).

What you ask and consider now are time-to-launch and other topics. For me, now, it is the flight time to consider and distance and angle and smoothness... and storytelling etc. It is really a learning journey, isn't it?

I am looking forward to DJI Mavic 3's MSDK release. But, for now, I will use DJI Air 2S for the first flight and then fly the Mavic 3 manually to explore deeper and longer.

1645374316810.png

1645373250634.png

But, Skydio's KeyFrame and the Cable skill can do what Litchi can not.

 
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kenmavic2zoom

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there is another option, don't forget the autel evo 2 pro 6k. i actually took mine with me the last time i visit AK, here's the video:
 
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RiverEagle

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Great answers, love it when folks share their knowledge on these things.

I came close to settling on the Air 2 but I strongly dislike being geofenced. I ended up with the Skydio 2+ because I wanted something easy to throw in the air on a moments notice and be able to fly stress free thanks to its wonderful obstacle avoidance. This was important for me so I could focus on getting the shot rather than the flying itself.

Ray
 

PretendPilot

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there is another option, don't forget the autel evo 2 pro 6k. i actually took mine with me the last time i visit AK
Hey, kenmavic2zoom! I know that spot well. There is a phenomenon called the bore tide that creates a wave that goes all the way down the arm, people surf or kite it (I know a few who have done so). I love that drive. Also the beluga whales go by there at certain times of the year.

I really thought about the Evo 2 Pro 6K - it seemed to really struggle with tracking, though, which I'd like to be able to do (I think it's called Dynamic Track with Autel). I love to mountain bike mostly, but also snowmachine (sorry, that's the Alaska word for it, everyone else calls it snowmobiling), skiing (all kinds, some backcountry) and a bunch of other things that some sort of reasonably good tracking would be good for.
Sounded like an update to Dynamic Track is coming soon, but prior versions sounded inferior to DJI Activetrack, and everything is inferior to Skydio. The video quality is great, though. Nice that there is no geofencing with the Autels, too. Great video!

Sky Cyclist - Thanks for the in-depth info. I had heard that the SDK hadn't been released for the Mavic 3 yet, figure it'll happen eventually. Sounds like Skydio has it right for the stuff that I would probably use it for (fly a pattern to mark spots, then have the drone do the flying smoothly to make a pretty seamless video that makes it seem like I am a much better pilot than I am).
 
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PretendPilot

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I ended up with the Skydio 2+ because I wanted something easy to throw in the air on a moments notice and be able to fly stress free thanks to its wonderful obstacle avoidance. This was important for me so I could focus on getting the shot rather than the flying itself.
Aww, man, RiverEagle - I was almost ready to go down the DJI route, now you've got me thinking again about what I really want to do with a drone.
As ETdronehome said, analysis paralysis is painful.
 

kenmavic2zoom

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im up in AK all the time, will be there this summer. because i bring so much other "stuff", i seem to only have enough room for one drone. next time, the skydio will make the trip. and if the mavic 3 has settled down by then, hopefully i can bring that too. you're welcome to check them out if haven't made the decision to buy both. :) this hobby is addicting and i have air 2, nano+, dji fpv, mavic2zoom and mini 2. but the evo2 and the s2+ are my favorites. good luck with whatever you land on. love your state btw.
 

Sky Cyclist

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Sky Cyclist - Thanks for the in-depth info. I had heard that the SDK hadn't been released for the Mavic 3 yet, figure it'll happen eventually. Sounds like Skydio has it right for the stuff that I would probably use it for (fly a pattern to mark spots, then have the drone do the flying smoothly to make a pretty seamless video that makes it seem like I am a much better pilot than I am).

I, personally, will fly my Skydio 2 with active tracking activities and cable skills more often.

I mentioned before that the Starter Kit or Sports Kit is also considerable. What I have not mentioned is Skydio drone is not good to operate manually. It is hard to imagine it until you have it and fly it personally. But, if you want Skydio to do the flight described above, an RC will be needed to consider as an important accessory.

Though I have so many drones and a Skydio 2, more than 50% of my flight time of mine is manual flight. Manual flight is the true beauty and source of pleasure of flying the drone, and it is also more safe for flight.

Well, it could be personal preference, too.

"No matter how good Tesla is on auto-driving, the MT car has more fun for hobbyists." <-- I am the kind of guys.

So, the way to confirm/learn the information is by doing it.

Again, for me, if I were you, the 30-day return period is the most key consideration factor now. And, I will check the weather condition before placing the order. In my place, it has been raining for almost a month. In this case, even if there is a 30-day return policy, it is meaningless. BTW, any order will ship within 10-15 business days currently even a simple accessory. I placed a simple accessory order on 5th and it has not shipped yet. It is not my first order so I am not worried and I know it will ship soon in this week.

analysis paralysis is painful.

It could be just the beginning.

It's been raining so I can just stay at home and chat here.

It's a painful time not being able to fly outside.

And, tell myself: No pain no gain :D
 
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VEGASROBBI

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I'll put in my two cents. I think DJI drones are excellent however I avoid them like the plage. Between no fly zones, cybersecurity, geofencing.... I've been stuck in the middle of nowhere without a drone to fly. I firmly believe the CCP has ties to DJI so it rubs me wrong. As far as capability goes they are excellent and a good choice if that's what you're looking for.

The Autel specs look really good, Autel has a 6K camera and I've read very good reviews about it; but since I have no first hand experience I cannot comment.

Hands down the S2 is the winner if you want top notch tracking. If tracking is a priority get the S2.

I have used DJI tracking since the Phantom 3. Actually the Phantom 3 tracked better than some of the active tracks in my opinion because it used GPS.
I own the original mavic, mavic 2, P4.... None can hold a candle to the S2 when it comes to tracking but the S2 pretty much falls short on everything else.

If tracking is not a priority - but range, being able to fly in low light... is your priority then DJI is a good choice. I do not trust active track, any of them 1, 2.0, 3.0 they all suck imo.
 
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RiverEagle

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Aww, man, RiverEagle - I was almost ready to go down the DJI route, now you've got me thinking again about what I really want to do with a drone.
As ETdronehome said, analysis paralysis is painful.

LOL, I feel ya! Am the same way.

Rather than think about all the scenarios you want to use your drone in, be realistic and think about what you will actually do with it. That's how I was able to narrow it down from wanting an everything drone For All Things to something I'd actually use it for.

Good luck and take your time!
Ray
 

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