– Ben Martens


One reason DJI sells the Mavic Mini for less than its other drones is that it doesn’t have as many autonomous features. However, they recently published an SDK do a number of 3rd party companies have added the Mavic Mini to the list of drones that can be controlled by their existing software. I ended up paying $20 for a hobbyist license to Dronelink. The price was low enough that it seemed like it was worth a try.

The main customer of the software seems to be companies who need to get aerial photos of buildings, bridges, etc but they don’t have a stable full of expert drone pilots who can quickly get the shot perfectly every time. With the software, the route planning can be done completely from a website and then executed via a phone app connected to the controller. You can also create simpler programs out in the field directly from the phone.

My old S7 was woefully underpowered and while it would run the software, the drone had barely taken off before it complained about the lag and refused to continue. My new Pixel 4a does a much better job but for a complex curving route where the gimble is constantly adjusting to keep pointed at a specific object, there are noticeable glitches. For simple routes, it seems to do a good job.

Here’s an example of a “trucking shot”. Imagine someone driving along in a truck with a camera pointed out the side. I didn’t make a perfectly straight path so you can see some points where it turns but overall, there isn’t stuttering to the movement.

Now here’s an image of a more complicated route followed by the video that resulted.

You can see the stuttering as my phone tries to chug through all the commands in real-time. I suspect that if I had one of the flagship phones, that stuttering would go away.

For $20, I’m still happy with this purchase. I want to try to plan out a route that is simple enough to capture smoothly and then run it every week or so and try to stitch it together into a timelapse after the construction is complete. I’m guessing I won’t be successful but I suspect I’ll learn a lot in the process.