One of the “life sayings” that governs my drone flying habits is: Even if you can do something, should you?
The reason I follow that statement, especially when flying drones, is that GPS Camera drones can fly extremely high and far, but the question “should you take them out to their limits” comes into play.
Drones are not only expensive but can pose a threat to individuals or property, should something go wrong with the drone. Couple that with their distance and height capabilities, there could be cause for concern.
So, how far and high can the DJI Air 2S fly?
According to DJI, the Air 2S can fly a maximum distance of 7.5 miles (12 km) and a maximum height of 3.1 miles (5 km). Those are actually pretty impressive numbers considering how small and light the Air 2S is. However, these distances, while looking great on paper, most likely will not be achieved by the general flying public.
Most drone operators will not reach those distances due to a combination of limitations caused by Battery life, Radio Certification, Country Laws, and obstacle interference.
We’ll be digging deeper into the distance and height the Air 2S can achieve, while looking at a few things that can hinder those numbers considerably.
But first, how about some information on the transmission system?
OcuSync 3.0 (the Transmission System)
A brief history lesson
OcuSync is the transmission system DJI implemented when the original Mavic Pro was released back in 2016. This system is used to communicate between the remote control (RC) and the drone. It brought with it some advanced capabilities.
One of these capabilities is being able to support simultaneous outputs effortlessly.
Not only could OcuSync support the use of multiple devices at once, such as 2 controllers or a controller and DJI Goggles, but it was also faster with a stronger, more stable connection than previous transmission systems.
In 2018 OcuSync 2 was released when the Mavic 2 series was introduced. Then in 2021, with the release of the DJI Air 2S, OcuSync 3.0 was released.
Current increased benefits
DJI took special care to beef up the transmission power, especially for the FCC modeled drones, or those produced to be operated in countries like the United States (and its territories), Canada, and parts of South America and Asia.
With this increased power (which also benefits all of the regions OcuSync 3.0 is used in) came the maximum operating distance of 7.5 miles. However, not only is the range improved but the quality and strength of the signal between the RC and the drone have improved as well.
OcySync 3.0 has a higher bitrate and lower latency than the previous versions of OcuSync, meaning not only can you fly further, you can fly further with a much better and cleaner video feed coming back to your remote control.
This is especially ideal for those taking pictures and recording videos.
DJI Air 2S Range
This is what we are all here for. When we talk about the range on the Air 2S, there are 4 limitation considerations we must discuss, as they’ll affect the realistic distance and height one can fly the Air 2S. These are:
- Limitation by battery
- Limitation by certification
- Limitation by law
- Limitation by obstacles
1. Limitations caused by battery
When we think about how far we can fly, oftentimes one of the most fundamental aspects of the drone is overlooked. This is the battery.
Batteries provide limitations in that they drain during the time spent flying, limiting how far you can fly out and return to the home point safely. If your Air 2S battery lasts, say, 30 minutes, then your maximum distance is limited to half of that time. I’ll explain.
Say for this test, we are going to run the battery down to 0% (which you should never do, to ensure the health and longevity of the battery). On a battery that will get an absolute 30 minutes, you can fly 15 minutes one way, turn around and fly 15 minutes back home, if you hope to retrieve your drone.
Math time. The max distance the Air 2S can fly is 7.5 miles or 39,600 feet. The Air 2S flies up to 42mph +/- or 61.5 feet/second.
This means that it would take the Air 2S 643 seconds or roughly 10.5 minutes, at a sustained max speed, to reach the max distance, if, there was no transmission interference.
You’d then turn around and take another 10.5 minutes to return home. This perfect trip would take 21 minutes or so.
In this unrealistically perfect scenario, you theoretically could return home after the 15-mile round trip. As we know, perfect scenarios in the drone world rarely exist.
If we take a common practice among many drone operators, such as RTH (return to home) at 25-30% battery, then travel distance is substantially reduced to more like 4.5/5 miles out and the same distance back.
Couple this with the effects of the temperature on the battery on that particular flight, and running the drone in sport mode to reach the max speed, then the distance round-trip would be even less.
Remember too, that most people rarely get 30 minutes out of the Air 2S battery. The battery lasts, more realistically, 27 minutes, give or take.
2. Limitations related to Certification
If you look closely at your drone and RC, you might see an FCC, CE, SRRC, or MIC sticker or stamp. This certification designates the governmental agency that regulates radio transmission for a particular region.
These 4 certifications, by country/regional law, regulate how far of a transmission your drone and RC can have. Because of this, you should only fly your drone in the particular region the drone is made for.
DJI has the firmware locked at the allowable max distance the region dictates.
Note: It is best to always check the drone laws of any country you are planning to visit and fly in.
- FCC Certified (i.e. United States), you can fly as far as the max distance stated in the user manual
- CE Certified, you can fly up to a max distance of 3.7 miles or 6 km
- SRRC Certified, 3.7 miles or 6 km
- MIC Certified, 3.7 miles or 6 km
As can be seen here, although the drone is rated to fly up to 7.5 miles, if you are flying outside of the United States or another FCC-rated country, you will be capped at 3.7 miles, by DJI, within the firmware, far below the physical capabilities of the drone.
3. Limitations related to regional/country laws
In the United States, by law, the FAA has mandated that drones are to fly within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) at a maximum height of 400ft AGL (above ground level) or below.
This means that if you are flying in the United States, the stated Air 2S maximum flight distance of 7.5 miles out and 3 miles high is basically a moot point. Why? Well, for distance, VLOS is basically defined as being how far you can see your drone without any obstruction.
This basically means clearly seeing the drone without buildings, trees, or other structures in your line of sight.
How far you can see your drone is subjective and based on how well a person can physically see without the aid of, say, binoculars. For many, this may be a few thousand feet out, but certainly not miles and miles and definitely not 7 miles.
Again, 400 feet or below is the maximum height the drone should be flown. This is close to 16,000 feet below the maximum height of 16,404 feet the Air 2S is rated to fly.
All of these laws by the FAA and other country lawmakers are put into place to protect manned aircraft (which might be sharing the same airspace as drones) from an aerial disaster.
Here in Central Florida, where I am located, there is a constant real threat from helicopters and low flying planes. Losing sight of the drone at any height could potentially present a problem.
4. Limitations from obstacles/obstructions
In the case of things that can affect the range of the Air 2S, obstructions can be categorized as either physical or signal interference.
As mentioned previously, the OcuSync 3.0 transmission system has really improved over the initial transmission system seen in the first Mavic Pro. We have a stronger and cleaner signal.
Depending on where you intend to fly, the transmission signal can be significantly reduced if there is interference from cell phone towers or WiFi congestion, typically seen in urban environments. In these urban areas, the transmission distance may also be reduced further by tall buildings and skyscrapers.
So, if you are planning on flying, say downtown, the signal interference will be strong. If flying in a standard suburban neighborhood, the interference will be moderate, with rural areas pretty much free of signal interference.
As can be seen here, although the Air 2S is physically capable of flying a distance of 7+ miles and a height up to 3 miles, most drone operators will not reach those extremes due to a combination of:
- Battery life
- Radio Certification
- Country Laws
- Obstacle interference
A positive takeaway from the news that the Air 2S most likely won’t fly 7.5 miles out, is that because of the strength of the new OcuSync 3.0 transmission system, even if you are just casually flying in the suburbs or downtown, you will have a strong enough, quality signal to fly where needed, when needed, with minimal interference.
That’s truly what most of us want anyway as drone operators when all is said and done.