The DJI Air 3 has made a major splash since its release in July 2023, captivating pilots’ minds, attention, and wallet. I know that’s been the case for me, and I regret nothing.
However, the other day, I dusted off my Autel EVO II Pro and took it for a spin. In doing so, I had a thought.
How does the Air 3 stack up to the EVO II Pro?
Once I began thinking about it, I knew I had to find out.
And you, dear reader, must be curious about the same to have landed here. Well, I promise I won’t leave you in suspense!
This guide will be a deep dive into the Autel EVO II Pro and DJI Air 3, reviewing areas like their differences in performance and features. Along the way, I’ll tell you about my experiences flying these high-end drones. You’ll learn why the Air 3 is my winner and should feel inspired to make your choice between these two drones.
Given the high price points of both, you don’t want to pick the wrong one and be forced to live with regrets. I don’t want that for you either.
This review will mitigate your sense of FOMO and gear you up to make a choice you’ll love.
Let’s get right into it. Your next drone awaits!
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
Autel EVO II Pro
The initial release of the Autel EVO II Pro was in September 2021. Since this model became a smash hit for Autel, they’ve released several iterations, with the latest and greatest being the V3 edition.
That’s the one I’ll pit against the Air 3. It’s only fair!
The EVO II Pro is, simply put, a powerhouse. I can’t think of another more apt term than that. Okay, maybe dynamo, or workhorse, or flagship drone. You get the idea.
Autel’s gradual improvements to this drone since 2021 make the EVO II Pro V3 one of the best models in the sky today.
The EVO II Pro is packed with features that make your average drone pilot weak in the knees (myself included!), such as:
- Available in a bundle with all the accessories you need, saving you time and money since you don’t have to buy them separately.
- A game-changing one-inch Sony CMOS sensor that takes video in 6K Ultra HD and images in 20 MP. This might be one of the best drone cameras you ever get your hands on, if not the best. It’s designed to take your professional videography to the next level.
- An intuitive Smart Controller SE with an OLED touch screen, a supportable distance of over 9 miles, and an eight-core processor. As quickly as you can navigate your EVO II Pro, the controller will respond intuitively.
- Exceptional photography and videography features, including 6K hyperlapse photography, 12-bit DNG images with over 68 billion colors, the Moonlight Algorithm 2.0 for nighttime footage, and an adjustable aperture. You can be a perfectionist about your footage with this drone.
- Some of the best obstacle avoidance in the game, achievable by 19 unique groups of sensors. Safe flying has never looked so stylish.
DJI Air 3
One of the new kids on the block, the Air 3 was released in July 2023. It’s a direct descendent of the Mavic Air 2, which came out all the way in 2020.
Well, I say “all the way” like it was a long time ago, but given how fast DJI puts out drones, it feels like it.
It’s an entry to the Air series that’s been called “the perfect drone,” and honestly, that takes the words right out of my mouth. Well, almost.
No drone is perfect, even the impeccable DJI Air 3, which I loved using from the first launch and continue enjoying more and more with each flight.
- An awesome dual-camera system with a medium tele and wide-angle camera. Both feature 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensors, with the medium tele camera equipped with 3x zoom and the wide-angle camera boasting a different focal length. Now, you can take photos and videos according to your mood without switching drones.
- Exceptional 48 MP image quality and 4K HDR video at 60 frames per second, which pushes the limits of quality from a DJI drone. You can expect crystal-clear footage to knock your competition out of the water.
- APAS 5.0 and omnidirectional obstacle sensing to get out of Dodge before you risk crashing your expensive new drone. This feature makes the Air 3 more accessible and beginner-friendly.
- Great smart features, from Smart RTH to FocusTrack with the medium tele camera, ActiveTrack 5.0, QuickShots modes, Waypoints, MasterShots, and Vertical Shooting in 2.7K quality. You can play all day with the Air 3.
- Ready to use with your favorite DJI FPV controllers, including the DJI RC Motion 2, to make flying the Air 3 one of the coolest experiences ever. First-person, here you come!
The EVO II Pro and Air 3 bring so much to the table that it’s tough to choose only one. However, it only takes a quick glance at their price tags to make you realize that indeed, you’ve got to choose between them.
Here at Droneblog, we strive to bring you the best drone recommendations. That’s achieved by many, many, many hours of field testing and personal flight experience.
I tested both of these drones so you don’t have to. You can just pick the best one and get right to work.
We’ve concluded that the DJI Air 3 is the superior pick over the Autel EVO II Pro, although its victory is narrow. The Air 3 has amazing image and video quality (but not as good as the EVO II Pro), strong obstacle detection, a solid battery, so many fun Intelligent Flight Modes, and a good transmission range. It’s got everything you want in a drone and then some!
It would be foolish to gloss over the EVO II Pro as though it were merely some also-ran, as it’s anything but.
This drone is phenomenal in many of the same ways as the Air 3, as it has some of the industry’s leading obstacle avoidance technology, a video quality the Air 3 can’t top, and so many great features you’d almost wonder if you’re flying a DJI drone.
Its single-camera system is more than capable but doesn’t offer the same degree of creative freedom the Air 3’s dual-primary-camera system does.
What are the main differences?
I promised a review of these drone’s differences, and I’m here to deliver.
It’s a fascinating comparison, considering that while the Air 3 and EVO II Pro are different in many ways, they share many cutting-edge features, such as top-of-the-line video and image quality, safety, and flight modes.
However, the ways in which they diverge make them even more interesting, wouldn’t you say? I think you will by the time you read this section.
Without further ado, here are the differences I found in these two drones after testing them both for countless hours.
- Number of cameras: Well, okay, I didn’t have to fly them to learn this one. The EVO II Pro has only one camera, and it’s an ultra-capable, one-inch Sony CMOS. The Air 3 has two: a 1/1.3-inch CMOS medium tele and a wide-angle camera. Two things are better than one, as DJI proves.
- Video quality: There’s nothing wrong in the slightest with the Air 3’s video quality. However, it’s not as high as the EVO II Pro’s, 6K vs. 4K HD. I find that interesting, given the age of the Air 3 in relation to the EVO II Pro.
- Photo quality: There is give and take in drone development, as evidenced by the Air 3’s greater image quality compared to the EVO II Pro’s.The Autel drone’s image quality is no slouch, but it doesn’t quite match up to this latest entry in the Mavic Air line.
- Weight: Neither drone is a lightweight, but the EVO II Pro makes the Air 3 look like a Mini. The Autel drone weighs 2.6 pounds or 1,191 grams, while the DJI is a moderate 720 grams.
- Bundle options: The EVO II Pro is packed into a bundle with everything you need to get started, which explains its high price tag. On the other hand, the Air 3 is expensive because it’s a DJI drone. It doesn’t come with nearly as many accessories.
Autel EVO II Pro
Autel Robotics has staked its claim in the drone world with incredible models like the EVO II Pro.
Revised and improved since its initial release in 2021, the EVO II Pro V3 comes packed with a spare battery, power cable, battery charger, spare propeller pair, RC lanyard, carrying case, spare control sticks, remote controller, RC charging cable, and RC charger.
What more do you really need? I’m hard-pressed to think of anything.
However, Autel didn’t rest on its laurels. It went out of its way to build one of the best drones out there, as evidenced by the EVO II Pro’s videography and photography capabilities.
The CMOS sensor produces 6K Ultra HD videos and 20 MP images, and you can fine-tune your photography settings to get just the right shot.
That’s a must whether you’re using your drone for a work project or building a social media following.
You can adjust the max ISO to 44,000 and tinker with the aperture range, setting it between f/2.8 and f/11.
The camera’s elevated frame rates, noise reduction, and dynamic range are worth writing home about, as is the Moonlight Algorithm 2.0.
How about some hyperlapse? The 6K Hyperlapse photography option will liven up your portfolio, as will Dynamic Track 2.0 for finding and locking onto targets.
You don’t have to be an experienced drone pilot to make the most of these features, which is awesome.
When you’re done with your day of fun, the 12-bit DNG images will reduce your time spent in post. The images render color over 64 times better than 10-bit shooting, opening your door to 68.6 billion colors.
Your photos will look so lifelike that your portfolio will certainly attract attention.
As if all that wasn’t great enough, the incredible 360 degrees of obstacle avoidance, achievable through 19 hard-working sensor groups, help the EVO II Pro fly in dicey conditions without crashing or failing.
DJI Air 3
What’s better than one camera? That’s right – two!
That was DJI’s line of thinking when releasing the Air 3, which has two times the cameras of a standard DJI drone. Well, the Mavic 3 Pro has three cameras, but we’re not talking about that one today.
The two cameras share a sensor size but are otherwise very different.
The medium tele camera has tremendous zoom capability of up to 3x, while the wide-angle camera opens your world when shooting vast landscapes. It’s also great for real estate photography and videography.
The dual-camera system produces stunning 48 MP image quality and 4K HDR at 60 fps.
The differences between the format equivalent and aperture allow you to swap seamlessly between cameras depending on the atmosphere you wish to capture with your drone photography.
Dual color modes, 10-bit HLG, and 10-bit D-Log M make the color profile of the Air 3 comparable with the EVO II Pro.
I would say it’s even better, as I love how the Air 3 retains shadows, highlights, and details throughout.
The omnidirectional sensing technology is itself not obstacle avoidance, but with the Advanced Pilot Assistance System or APAS 5.0 at your fingertips, the drone can smartly get out of harm’s way before the worst happens.
» MORE: DJI Air 3 Vertical Mode (Video)
And Intelligent Flight Modes, oh, let me tell you! They’re smarter than ever in the Air 3, including Smart RTH for auto flight planning, Waypoints for drawing custom flights, and Vertical Shooting with both cameras.
QuickShots include more shooting modes than ever, from Boomerang to Dronie, Asteroid, Rocket, Helix, and Circle.
FocusTrack comes equipped with Point of Interest 3.0, ActiveTrack 5.0, and Spotlight 2.0 for more advanced locking onto targets, whether they’re moving or stationary.
You can chase anything with your drone (legally, of course)!
That’s not even all. The Air 3 also boasts MasterShots for taking social-media-ready footage, SmartPhoto 3.0 (which adjusts between hyperlight, HDR, and scene recognition according to your environment), Night Mode, Slow Motion, and Hyperlapse for upping your photography and videography games.
Your competition better move over because you’re coming, and you’re bringing the Air 3 with you.
DJI Air 3 Fly More Combo with DJI RC 2 (screen remote controller), Drone with Medium Tele & Wide-Angle Dual Primary Cameras for Adults 4K HDR, 46-Min Max Flight Time, 48MP, Two Extra Batteries.
Winner: DJI Air 3
Ah, was this the toughest choice ever. No, really, it wasn’t easy.
The EVO II Pro has one of the greatest cameras on the market. However, its sensor size (compared to the Air 3) isn’t as good.
That’s probably why the Air 3 has the amazing 48 MP image quality versus the 20 MP quality of the EVO II Pro.
I’m not trying to infer that 20 MP image quality is bad. It’s about average and certainly better than 12 MP.
However, professionals will want something better, and that’s what the Air 3 delivers. Its image quality is more than 2x better.
Keeping that in mind, this drone backslides with video quality. Its 4K HDR is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not 6K Ultra HD like the EVO II Pro.
This again goes back to how pros want the best of the best, and I know I do too, which makes the Autel drone a tempting buy.
So, then why did I give this category to the Air 3? Simple! It has two cameras.
Those cameras are so dynamic and expand your freedom as a pilot, and why wouldn’t you want the option to have more? With how high-quality the cameras are, you can excuse the somewhat lesser video quality of the Air 3.
After all, like I said, it’s not like its video quality is bad, per se. It’s just less than the EVO II Pro.
Winner: DJI Air 3
This was another category that felt so impossible. I really struggled here.
The EVO II Pro has some of the best performance metrics you could ask for, including a long battery life (more on that to come) and a top-line obstacle avoidance system.
So, why didn’t it win?
It’s lacking in flight features compared to the Air 3.
This isn’t surprising considering how seriously DJI takes its Intelligent Flight Features, but the Air 3 is packed with so many of them compared to what the EVO II Pro has that it became quickly apparent to me which I had to pick.
The Air 3 has Intelligent Flight Modes for everyone. Beginners will appreciate its great tracking, automated features, and Smart RTH so your drone never gets too far outside of range.
More experienced pilots will enjoy the cool videography and photography modes that let you slow down and speed up your footage.
The Dynamic Track 2.0 the EVO II Pro boasts is smart at tracking more than 60 items simultaneously, which is way better than what DJI offers. This drone just doesn’t have as many flight features.
Winner: DJI Air 3
Is either drone really portable? Not in the sense that they’re so lightweight that they weigh as little as a smartphone.
That would be great, but these drones have too good cameras and flight features to weigh under 250 grams.
Both drones fold, so really, it comes down to which weighs less. That’s the Air 3, although it’s only by about 400 grams.
Is that additional weight going to make your back or shoulders hurt that much more if you carry the EVO II Pro through a busy airport or when backpacking all day?
Sure! Any additional weight increases your load, slowing you down and increasing your risk of pain.
However, it’s not like the Air 3 weighs so much less that you’d get noticeable relief. These are both heavy drones compared to a mini drone, but leaving them behind on your traveling adventures would be a sin.
The high-quality video and long battery life of the EVO II Pro make it perfect for out-of-state and out-of-country adventures, while the Air 3’s wide-angle camera will capture more of the moments that make your expeditions unforgettable.
RC compatibility and long-range flights
Winner: DJI Air 3
Here was a category that was much easier to decide.
The EVO II Pro uses the Autel Smart Controller SE, which has a wide operating temperature range of 14 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Its 6.4-inch screen is more than large enough to perceive every last square inch of your flight details, and it will make you glad to leave your phone in your pocket.
The OLED screen responds to touch, making it effortless to draw flight maps with your finger. The eight-core processor supports HD footage sending, and triple-band frequency hopping keeps your transmission strong.
The remote even supports third-party apps, and it’s compatible with several Autel drones, including the EVO II Enterprise V3 and EVO II RTK V3.
The Air 3 uses the DJI RC 2, which also comes with a screen to spare your smartphone. It’s a smaller screen, 5.5 inches versus 6.4 inches for the EVO II Pro remote, and is FHD versus OHD.
It doesn’t have touch controls, but it does include a top-notch DJI processor and its O4 HD video transmission system, the latest and greatest as of this writing.
So, yet again, why do I choose the Air 3 for this category? Well, because it’s also compatible with DJI FPV equipment, like the DJI RC Motion 2, DJI Goggles 2, and DJI Goggles Integra.
Oh, and its transmission distance is 20 kilometers at 1080p at 60 fps video quality versus 12 kilometers for the EVO II Pro.
Winner: DJI Air 3
The EVO II Pro’s projected battery life of 40 minutes is awesome, and versus a DJI Mini drone, there is no comparison.
However, DJI equipped the Air 3 with a 46-minute battery life.
Neither is the actual time you get to fly the drone. I was always several minutes shy of 40 minutes when using the EVO II Pro, which is to be expected.
A flight time of around 36 or 37 minutes is still enough to get your tasks done, but isn’t as remarkable compared to the Air 3.
Its battery life was more like 41 or 42 minutes, maybe 43 on a good day. That’s still pushing 40 minutes of flight time!
You should be able to see now why I selected the DJI Air 3 as my preferred drone choice between it and the Autel EVO II Pro.
The Air 3 is phenomenal with dual cameras, photography and videography features, a battery life of more than 40 minutes, a large suite of Intelligent Flight Features, and DJI’s latest video transmission system at the time of this writing.
In every category the EVO II Pro lost, it did so very narrowly.
This is still an immensely fantastic drone, especially for its age, and its price is worth it, considering how many more accessories and parts you get. It’s a great bang-for-your-buck drone.
However, I can’t stop coming back to the Air 3. It’s one of the most incredible drones I’ve ever had the fortune of flying, and I can’t wait to get it back out into the sky soon. I hope you’re just as excited about it!