The amazing technology found in the DJI Mavic Pro and Mavic Air really makes flying easy. Much of this is thanks to the vision sensors found in these drones. But in order to keep the drones flying safely, you need to know how to calibrate the Mavic’s vision sensors.
What sensors do the Mavic Pro and Mavic Air have?
All DJI drones – not just the Mavic Pro and Mavic Air – have a number of sensors to aid the pilot.
These sensors include cameras, radars, compasses, GPS receivers, and inertial measurement units, along with powerful computing to put all the pieces together.
The Mavic Pro has dual forward-facing vision sensors and dual downward-facing vision sensors, in addition to the main camera.
The Mavic Air has the same vision sensors as the Mavic Pro, but also adds dual rearward-facing vision sensors.
These vision sensors are nothing more than basic cameras that operate on the same principles as other cameras – they need light to take photos of the world around them.
What do the Mavic vision sensors do?
The vision sensors are arranged in pairs to take advantage of “stereoscopic” sensing.
This is similar to how our eyes work. When you look at an object with only one eye open, it’s difficult to tell how far away that object is. With both eyes, our brains calculate the offset between the two pictures to calculate depth.
The Mavic’s computer does the same thing. It compares the two photos from each set of cameras to calculate the distance to nearby obstacles within a reasonable accuracy. The Mavic continuously builds a 3D picture of the surrounding environment as it flies.
In the Mavic Pro, this 3D picture is used in conjunction with the other sensors to keep the drone away from obstacles. The drone will stop if it calculates that it is quickly approaching an object in its flight path.
The Mavic Air adds a mode called the Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS). APAS takes this 3D model and won’t just have the drone stop; if a safe flight path is found, the drone will fly around the obstacle and continue the flight.
Both the Mavic Air and Mavic Pro use the downward vision sensors for additional functions.
DJI drones are extremely stable when hovering thanks to the downward cameras. These cameras take a picture of the ground below when you command it to hover. It then uses its computers to keep the drone over the exact same spot and altitude.
The Mavic Air and Mavic Pro also use the downward cameras to help the drone return to the exact spot it took off from.
The Mavic takes a photo of the ground at takeoff. During its return to home, it uses the compass, GPS, and IMU to get it close to its launch point. It compares the ground below with the photo taken at launch. Once a match is found, the drone sets the same orientation and lands at that spot.
Why is it important to calibrate the Mavic sensors?
The vision sensors require precise alignment to function properly. Malfunctioning or misaligned sensors could result in erroneous readings or a complete failure.
If you’re relying on the vision sensors to avoid obstacles, this could result in a crash.
You should calibrate your Mavic vision system whenever you get an error that may read something like, “Forward vision sensor calibration error. Precision hovering and obstacle avoidance may fail.” Or, if you notice extremely erratic hovering behavior in calm conditions.
How do you calibrate the Mavic Pro and Mavic Air sensors?
Correctly calibrating the Mavic vision sensor system will require a computer with DJI Assistant 2 and USB connection.
Calibrating these systems is the same for both the Mavic Pro and Mavic Air, and between Windows and Mac machines. These vision sensor calibration instructions will cover it all.
The screen will present you with a pattern of solid circles. You’ll start with calibrating the forward sensors and then move on to the remaining vision sensors.
Tips for Mavic vision sensor calibration
Be sure to hold the Mavic at the correct distance from the screen the whole time. A box displayed on the screen will show you if you need to move the Mavic closer or further.
Hold the Mavic in the same spot during the entire calibration. You should only be rotating the Mavic to point at different areas of the screen, not moving the whole drone around.
You should also ensure that you have the most current firmware installed on your Mavic, and that the vision sensors are clean and unobstructed.
Steps to calibrating the Mavic vision sensors with DJI Assistant 2
- Download & Install the DJI Assistant 2 program for either Mac or Windows.
- Ensure at least 50% battery remaining.
- Remove propellers.
- Connect the Mavic to the computer with USB cable.
- Turn on your Mavic.
- On the screen, open the Mavic Pro or Mavic Air icon in DJI Assistant 2.
- Select “Calibrate” on the left sidebar.
- Start with the forward sensors and follow the directions on screen. Follow the box around the screen by pointing the Mavic at different areas of the screen.
- Repeat for the remaining vision sensor systems.
- Keep the Mavic connected to the computer until it directs a restart. This could take a few minutes.
- Disconnect the Mavic from the computer and restart power on the Mavic.
The DJI Assistant 2 performs a complete vision sensor calibration. What if you’re in the field shooting some video and you don’t have your laptop?
The DJI Go 4 App allows you to do a “quick calibration.”
To perform a quick vision sensor calibration with your Mavic, open the DJI Go 4 App, go to “Aircraft Status”, and then select “Calibrate Vision Sensors”.
This is a quick fix only and will not ensure that it will fix the system. You should always perform a complete calibration using the DJI Assistant 2 when able.