Are you a land surveyor or hobby mapper and wondering if the Air 2S can be used for mapping? While the Air 2S may not be the best mapping platform, it may be the only drone you have available.
So, before you conclude that you made an expensive mistake, can the DJI Air 2S be used for mapping?
You can use the DJI Air 2S for mapping thanks to its 30-minutes of battery life, GPS capabilities, and high-quality camera. Also, thanks to the DJI SDK update, more mapping apps and platforms are now compatible with the Air 2S.
Here I’m going to discuss the various ways you can use the DJI Air 2S for mapping, plus more helpful tips.
About the DJI Mavic Air 2S
Released in mid-2021, the Air 2S is one of many of DJI’s advanced yet affordable drones. Going for around $1000, this drone comes with the following features:
- 5.4K Video Resolution
- All-directions obstacle detection
- 1-Inch Image Sensor
- MasterShots (an advanced version of Quickshots)
- FocusTrack (ActiveTrack 4.0, Point of Interest 3.0 and Spotlight 2.0)
Can the DJI Air 2S be used for mapping?
Technically, yes, you can use the DJI Air 2S for mapping since it has the main features that should be in every mapping drone. These include:
- A high-quality camera – You can get high-quality photos with a 4K camera, but the Air 2S has a 5.4K camera at 30 fps and 4K at 60 fps, which are more than good enough for mapping. This also comes in handy since you can’t attach any other payload.
- GPS or RTK capabilities – While the Air 2S may not have an advanced RTK capability, it is a GPS drone, which means you can take photos with a spatial attribute (coordinates and elevation), making it easier to develop maps from the images.
- Long battery life – The Air 2S has a 30-minute battery life which is pretty standard for most commercial mapping drones.
When it first came out, there wasn’t much you could have done with the Air 2S in terms of mapping since most apps didn’t support it. But thanks to recent updates, such as the SDK update, you can use the Air 2S with various third-party apps designed for mapping.
However, not all have been modified to work with the Air 2S. But you can improvise with those that are already compatible. With that in mind, let’s look at some mapping apps compatible with the DJI Air 2S and how you can use them.
Dronelink allows you to automate flights, design missions while in the field, and develop 3D models of the areas you are mapping within seconds. It’s also one of the apps that became useful after the SDK update.
DJI’s Fly app lacks waypoint capability for the Air 2S, but the Dronelink app allows you to use waypoints, 360s, orbits, and more. However, some limitations are expected since this compatibility has not been around for long. These limitations include the following:
- When you are using an iOS mobile device and have started a mission, you must disconnect and reconnect the controller before you can start another mission or even resume the first mission.
You will get an error on the app that states, “Unable to Take Control.” But this issue stems from DJI’s SDK, not the Dronelink app.
- Dronelink limits access to other settings, such as the camera settings. When you attempt to access these settings while using the Dronelink app, it may forcefully terminate the session.
You can avoid this by adjusting the camera from the Fly app while we wait for Dronelink to fix this issue.
- When using the Dronelink app with the Air 2S and Mini 2 on iOS devices, you won’t be able to access histogram, focus target, and exposure metering target features.
You can get the Dronelink app from Google Play Store. However, it’s not free. For hobbyists, the prices range from $24 to $99 for one-time fees, while for the enterprise package, they range from $19.99 to $39.99, payable monthly. You also get tutorials on the best way to utilize the app.
Now, Litchi isn’t exactly a mapping app, so you can’t use it to generate professional maps. But if you’re looking for stitched images, raw data, or autonomous flight as you take the photos, then Litchi gives you all of these options.
Another software to consider for mapping is Scanifly, a surveying and 3D modeling tool designed to help make a solar professional’s work easier. Traditional survey and inspection tools are time-consuming, sometimes risky, and sometimes have a huge margin of error.
Scanifly provides a solution to all this by helping solar contractors integrate drones into their workflow. In this video, they even detail how you can use it with the DJI Air 2S, though the process is the same for other drones. Scanifly is more applicable when surveying buildings, rooftops, canopies, and ground mounts.
If you’re more inclined to ground survey, WebODM is a viable mapping platform. Designed to work on a wide range of drone models and camera platforms, including the Air 2S, the WebODM can help you produce the following types of data:
- GCP (ground control points)
- 3D Models
- Point Clouds
- Plant Health
- Data processing of multispectral images
You can handle most data formats and even share the data right within the software. Like Dronelink and Scanifly, WebODM is a paid tool with the pricing starting a $29 per month. Unfortunately, they don’t offer free trials.
DJI’s GS Pro
The GS Pro (or Ground Station Pro) is DJI’s app designed to help iOS users automate flights, manage several flights and data sets, collect accurate data, and collaborate with other users. The data you collect from the GS Pro can then be uploaded to a data processing software like WebODM or ArcGIS to develop 3D models or other outputs available.
If none of the mentioned apps can work or produce desired results with the Air 2S, try the Pix4D enterprise apps. Pix4D provides a wide range of photography and mapping apps, including:
The good thing about these apps is they don’t have to be compatible with the drone. All you need to do is take high-quality photographs, load them on the app, and get your desired output. As a result, you can utilize the Mavic Air 2S’ 5.4K resolution to get better images.
You also get a 15-day trial period. Unfortunately, the DJI Air 2S is not compatible with the Pix4DCapture, a free software from Pix4D.
Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor)
This is not really a mapping software but more of a photography tool. But you can use it to stitch together several images into a mosaic.
Like Pix4D, you can upload any type of image, as long as they are in the accepted formats.
Microsoft discontinued this software a while ago, but at the time of writing this, the software was still available for download in the following archives:
Does the DJI Air 2S support waypoints?
Yes, it does, but not on the standard DJI Fly App. You can only fully utilize waypoints with the Air 2S using third-party apps like Litchi or Dronelink.
Which DJI drone is best for mapping?
The DJI Phantom 4 RTK is one of the best and most affordable drones for mapping. Generally, DJI Phantom 4 series is quite popular in the mapping world. That’s why it appears in most images and videos advertising the use of drones in surveying.
Released in 2013, the DJI Phantom 4 RTK strikes a good balance between DJI drones’ portability and advanced survey features such as the RTK and 1” CMOS camera for crisp images.
To set it apart from standard GPS drones, the Phantom 4 RTK comes with an RTK module and a D-RTK2 ground station to ensure higher accuracy of the data collected. Going for around $6500, it’s more expensive than the Air 2S or any standard drone used for photography but cheaper than high-end surveying and mapping drones.
Other Alternatives to The Air 2S
Other drones you can use for mapping include:
- DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2
- Mavic Air 2 (RTK and V2 versions)
- Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Pro Zoom
- Matrice 200, 210, and 300
- Skydio 2 and 2+
- WingtraOne GEN II
And there you have it. Don’t give up just yet if all you can access is the Air 2S. There’s a lot you can do with the apps already mentioned. But if you want a drone that’s designed for mapping or one that’s compatible with most of the apps, I’ve mentioned some of those too.