The DJI Mavic 3 is the latest consumer drone released by DJI on November 4, 2021. It is jam-packed with features that come with a price. However, soon after its release, users have been experiencing a unique GPS issue on their new Mavic 3s.
Users have been complaining on forums that their new Mavic 3 takes a long time to acquire enough satellites to establish a home point before it could take off. The time it takes to establish a connection is even longer when the drone is turned on after a long time i-e on a “cold start”.
A lot of people have been comparing the Mavic 3 satellite acquisition time to previous DJI flagships like the Mavic Air 2. The acquisition time is as long as 8 or even 10 minutes for some users. Some users have also complained that it gets all the satellites only after getting to a high altitude and not before that.
Is it a hardware or software issue?
Users were worried that this slow acquisition might be a hardware issue and cannot be fixed with a firmware update. The good news is that it is not.
DJI has confirmed that they are aware of the issue and it is indeed an issue with the drone’s firmware and hence fixable with an update.
While the actual technical cause of the issue is currently unknown, people have been blaming the new satellite constellation the Mavic 3 is using along with the standard GPS.
All previous DJI drones were using GPS (USA constellation) + GLONASS (Russian constellation). However, with the Mavic 3, DJI switched to BeiDou (Chinese constellation) + GPS. This however is just speculation and DJI has not confirmed if the BeiDou constellation is causing the delayed GPS acquisition.
The problem is worse on a cold start
A cold start is when you turn on your drone after a long time, and there is no previous positioning data inside the memory. In such a case, the drone takes a long time to get a fix on the GPS satellite.
Every satellite transmits a message every 30 seconds, and it takes up to 25 messages to get the full location information of the entire satellite constellation. On a cold start, the drone has no data about the current location and time of the constellation and has to wait for enough messages to get a fix.
If you are starting warm (i-e restarting your drone after a few hours of flight session), the drone retains location and time information about the constellation from the previous session and hence gets a fix within a minute.
Having an active internet connection also helps the drone get a quick fix because the satellite almanac (information about the location and time of each satellite in the constellation) is downloaded over the internet. But if you are starting without an internet connection, it can take longer.
Read this article to further understand how drones acquire satellite connections.
DJI knows about the issue
After users started complaining about the issue on online forums and some approached DJI customer care, the company took notice and acknowledged the issue.
DJI released a firmware update on 23rd March 2022 to address the GPS delay issue. After the update, some people find improved GPS connectivity but the problem largely remained the same. Users were still finding it difficult to get a GPS fix on cold start.
Another firmware update is coming
In a conversation with DroneDJ, the company representative said that they are aware of the issue, have tracked down the cause and another fix will arrive in two months’ time.
Thanks for your patience.
I got feedback from engineers.
The latest firmware 0600 optimizes most satellite search and signal interference problems to improve the user experience. However, we are aware of user concerns regarding DJI Mavic 3’s slow satellite search upon powering on and have already located the problem.
We have noticed that it takes additional time for some users’ Mavic 3 to connect to satellites in some high-latitude areas. We have located the cause of this issue and will address it directly in a firmware update within the next two months.
It is worth noting that satellite acquisition time, also known as time to first fix (TTFF) is also affected by internet connection. If the aircraft is not connected to the internet, a cold start of its GPS receiver will result in a TTFF of approximately one to two minutes under ideal satellite signal conditions. A cold start can be avoided if the previous flight was within 40 minutes. In general, TTFF is significantly reduced when the aircraft is connected to the internet.
User satisfaction is alwavs at the heart of our work. We will continue to improve vour experience.
Once again, sorry for all the inconvenience caused.
Thanks for choosing DIl products. Have a nice day!
If you are facing the same GPS issue and have found a workaround, please let us know in the comment section below. Meanwhile, we hope that the hardworking engineers at DJI will push a firmware update to fix this once and for all.