DRONE-MAKER DJI ANNOUNCED a new hobby aircraft today, one that weighs just a shade under a pound, fits in a jacket pocket, and is capable of flying itself.

The Mavic Air ships on January 28 for $799. At that price, it hovers in DJI's lineup between the $499 DJI Spark, the gesture-controlled flyer released last year, and the more capable $999 Mavic Pro.

The Mavic Air is tiny, half the size of a Mavic Pro, and about half the weight at just 15 ounces. When folded up, it's about the size of a paperback novel. At a press event in New York on Tuesday, DJI exec Michael Perry announced the Mavic Air by pulling it out of the pocket of his puffy Patagonia vest.

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Want to see some specs? The Air has them in impressive quantity. The drone's built-in camera shoots 4K video and 12-megapixel stills, and it can take 32-megapixel panoramas of your local park. That camera is mounted on a newly designed, three-axis stabilizing gimbal. Flight time is quoted at 21 minutes—impressive given the little folder's small size—and it hides antennas in the landing gear, giving the drone a flight range of 2.4 miles. The speed tops out at 42 miles per hour, a smidge faster than the Mavic Pro, and 11 mph faster than the Spark.






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Under the right circumstances, Amazon's dream for drone-delivered packages may cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Researchers found four-rotor and eight-rotor drones can outdo delivery trucks when it comes to low emissions, particularly in states like California in which more electrical power comes from renewable-energy sources. The findings are published in a paper published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications spotted by Axios.

"Although drone-based package delivery faces many technological challenges, safety issues, regulatory concerns and system uncertainties, in this initial estimate we find significant promise in the use of drones to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the freight sector compared with traditional pathways," the researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University, SRI International and University of Colorado-Boulder said in the study.

Specifically, in California, drones could deliver small packages weighing about a pound with 59 percent less emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. In Missouri, which uses more fossil fuel-based energy to provide the electricity that charges drone batteries, it's only 17 percent.

That's potentially significant, given that trucks cause 24 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from transit, according to the study. Apparently drones might offer more advantages than just speed when it comes to rewriting the rules of package delivery.

But for heavier packages, about 18 pounds, the drone only has 17 percent less emissions than trucks in California, and it has 77 percent more than trucks in Missouri, the study found.








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Hubasan a palm-size quadcopter with a low-res camera that can be picked up for less than $40 (or about AU$100 or £45). It has a paltry 5 to 7 minutes of flight time and I crashed it loads, but I was hooked and wanted to fly as much as possible.

This is why quadcopters, multirotors, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), drones or whatever you want to call them, have become so popular: Unlike radio-controlled planes and helicopters, the entry cost can be very low, the learning curve shallow and, depending on the size, they can be flown in your backyard or living room.

In the course of buying and maintaining my own and testing and reviewing drones for CNET, however, there are some things I've learned that you should consider before entering the hobby -- even if your plan is to just start with a toy drone like I did. But, before I get into all that, here are my go-to recommendations for consumer drones at the moment.



 

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