When it comes to advanced features on the DJI Mavic 3, we now have plenty to choose from. One of the most popular of these features, though, is Active Track through the Focus Track system.
Active Track allows you, as a single drone pilot, to have a whole film crew with you in the field, providing the option for autonomous flying for tracking people and/or different objects like vehicles, bikes, boats and other moving objects as well as still non-moving objects.
The Mavic 3 uses the very latest in DJI’s Active Track, version 5.0. This most recent version has come a long way since the feature was first introduced in 2016 in the Phantom 4 system.
There are three main options when it comes to the use of Active Track. There is Active Track, Spotlight, and POI or Point of Interest.
Each one of these options provides a unique style of flight:
- Active Track, for example, tracks the subject at a constant distance and altitude with the option of either flying in front, back, right, or left of the subject or object selected. The direction is selectable while setting it up and can be changed during flight.
- When using the Spotlight option, the aircraft will track the subject while maintaining its current position, and the aircraft can be flown while still focused on the selected object or subject by the pilot.
- When using the Point Of Interest option of Focus Track, the aircraft will orbit the selected object, and you can change the distance and height as the craft maintains the orbit.
How to Use Active Track
Here’s how to activate and use the Active Track feature.
- Start by having the Mavic 3 take off and hover nearby.
- Drag a box around the subject in the camera view or enable Subject Scanning under DJI Fly Control > Control settings > Subject Scanning.
- Tap the recognized subject to enable Focus Track.
- Tap the icon to switch between Spotlight, Active Track, and POI.
- Focus Track supports 2x zoom. The zoom ratio will be limited if it is too large to recognize a subject.
- Select Active Track from the mode choices.
- Tap GO to start Active Track.
Before we get any further, let’s clarify really quick the difference between Focus Track and Active Track, as I know it’s a little confusing.
Focus Track is the system that contains all of the Active Track options and is just what it sounds like. It is the system that allows for the tracing of a subject.
When you’re drawing the green box around something, you are using the Focus Track function, whereas the Active Track is one of three types of tracking choices you can make, be it Active Track, Spotlight, or POI, that the Focus Track system has locked onto.
I know, a little confusing, right?
When looking to initiate any of the Focus Track features, you will start by selecting the subject. Selecting a subject is as easy as drawing a green box around the subject to be tracked on your view screen.
Once a subject has been selected, if it’s a person, you should see a small person icon in the lower portion of the box you have drawn. This means you have a good lock on the subject.
The same would be true if it were a car, as a small car icon should be visible once locked onto the object, and an icon should be present at the bottom of the green box.
Once you have the object selected, an options menu will appear at the bottom of the view screen, giving you the options of either Active Track, Spotlight, or POI.
Active Track mode
Active Track is the one flight mode that really takes the control out of your hands and gives it to the aircraft. Out of the three Focus Track options, it is the most autonomous.
Active Track is an advanced form of tracking that allows you to draw a box around the object that you want to be followed, and the drone will keep following it as long as it’s within its visual or sensing range.
In this latest version of Active Track, DJI has made it easier to set up and use than in previous versions.
It offers tracking from either the right or left side, which in previous versions was known as parallel, as well as front or rearward tracking through a selectable direction circle.
This is all thanks to the state-of-the-art APAS system, which stands for Advanced Pilot Assistance System.
Spotlight mode is to be used when you want to lock onto a subject and manually fly the aircraft. This is the default option when a subject or object has been outlined.
The aircraft will remain locked onto the subject, allowing you to focus on the flight around the object being tracked by keeping the tracked object in the middle of the shot.
Setting up the Spotlight mode is the same as above and is the same for all of the autonomous flight modes.
- Draw a box around the subject.
- Once the subject is selected and the icon is there, the three-option menu will come up on the bottom of the view screen.
- Select Spotlight. This will keep the Mavic 3 locked onto the subject, and you can pilot the drone as you need to without having to share that focus by trying to maintain the object in the middle of the screen.
In this mode, the aircraft will adjust the gimbal as well as keep the object in the middle of the screen, allowing you to focus on the direction and height.
This mode can provide some really dynamic shots when used right.
Point of Interest (POI) mode
One of the most interesting of the autonomous flight modes and one of the handiest is the Point of Interest mode.
The Point of Interest mode can be locked onto a subject, and the aircraft will orbit the object at the height that you set it at and the speed you selected.
You will be able to adjust the speed of the orbit during the flight as well as adjust the height and distance.
In this mode, you can get a perfect orbit of a static, non-moving object or capture orbiting footage of a moving tracked object as well.
The Advanced Pilot Assistance System built into the Mavic 3 is DJI’s most impressive to date.
This newly improved system uses obstacle avoidance systems in conjunction with the GPS to make the autonomous flight modes possible.
With its true 360-degree obstacle avoidance system, this feature prevents the aircraft from flying into obstacles it may encounter.
There are three modes found in this system:
You may be more familiar with this as the obstacle avoidance system, and it is in this section of the app where you will find these options.
Here’s a breakdown of what each does:
- Bypass – Bypass will have the drone do its best to fly up, down, or around an object it encounters, and enable the flight to continue without incident.
- Brake – The Brake feature will have the object merely come to an abrupt halt leaving the operator to decide how and where to fly next.
- Off – The last feature, Off, turns off object avoidance altogether, forfeiting the AI component of the drone. This feature also depends on the pilot to visually make speed, course, or altitude changes to avoid collisions.
Now the third option is not an available choice when using any of the Focus Track intelligent flight modes as it is this system that makes such possible.
So, in reality, you have the choice of Bypass or Brake.
If you opt to use the Bypass option, you will be presented with something new, and that is the choice between Normal or Nifty mode.
If you are looking for this mode, you will find it on the Obstacle Avoidance page in the app.
This is a new mode that can be used for the obstacle avoidance system and APAS system. However, it is not really intended for use with the Focus Track options.
If you select bypass, this option will present itself offering either Normal mode or Nifty mode. It is similar to the Normal Bypass mode found on the same page with a major caveat.
Here’s how DJI describes it:
“Nifty bypassing allows for smoother flight and more subtle aircraft attitude change when avoiding obstacles but is of increased collision risks. You will be liable for any adverse consequences arising from use of this feature.”
This is the exact warning you will receive when selecting this mode. So, what does all that mean?
Well, according to DJI:
“This mode (Nifty) is not really meant to be used within an Active Track flight, but rather with an operator at the controls. If dynamic footage is a priority, the new Nifty option allows Mavic 3 to fly faster and bypass obstacles more closely during an APAS-directed flight. Please note:
- Nifty is meant for N and C mode flight.
- The user needs to be mindful of smaller obstacles like power lines and branches.
- When avoiding obstacles, do not make large, quick turns while passing by.”
What that tells us is that in the Nifty mode, the area of protection is reduced.
Therefore the potential is there for the aircraft to have a collision with an object, as it will be traveling closer and faster to obstacles than if it were in Normal Mode.
Using any of the above-mentioned Active Track modes should be done with caution.
Be aware of your surroundings and any obstacles that may present a danger to your flight. Although these systems have improved greatly over the years, they are not perfect and do still make mistakes.
In order to get the best results, be sure to be in a well-lit area. This will allow for the APAS system to make a good solid lock onto your target and allow it to see anything in its path.
Be sure to have plenty of satellites since the system relies heavily on not only the optical sensors but on the GPS as well. You’ll want to be sure to have good satellite coverage when engaging these systems.
Other than that, remember to have fun. These advanced flight modes can not only make getting that perfect footage easier, but after a little while, you may find they become your go-to for many of your great cinematic footage needs.
So, get active and get tracking.
Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!