DJI Mini was a game-changer in the drone industry as it introduced a whole new market for high-end but smaller lightweight drones. DJI Mini 2 became the best-selling drone in DJI’s inventory after its release in Nov 2020.
Seeing the success of DJI Mini 2, the US drone maker Autel Robotics decided to enter the mini drone market with their own version of a sub 250g drone called Autel Nano. Today, we are going to do a comprehensive Autel Nano vs DJI Mini 2 comparison and see which one stands out.
Autel announced the Nano series back in September 2021 in an apparent move to rival the Chinese drone giant DJI. Seeing the popularity of the DJI’s Mini series, this was expected sooner or later.
The Nano drones are being unveiled during the ongoing CES 2022 (Jan 5 – Jan 8, 2022) and the shipping is soon going to start. They come in two versions – Autel Nano & Nano+. The Nano+ variant has a better camera while other features are similar to the Nano version (more details below)
Autel Nano vs DJI Mini 2 – Head to Head Comparison
Let’s have a look at both the lightweight sub 250g drones and see which one has the best features for the price tag. While we compare, it is important to remember that the DJI Mini 2 was released last year and is over a year old now, while Autel Nano is the new kid on the street.
A fair comparison will be between the Autel Nano & the rumored DJI Mini 3 when it is released in April 2022. But for now, the best sub 250g drone in the market is the Mini 2 and Autel Nano, so let’s get to it.
If you are in a hurry, here is a quick comparison table of major features in both drones. For a more detailed overview, read the entire article.
|Features||DJI Mini 2||Autel Nano/Nano+|
|Size||Folded: 138×81×58 mm (L×W×H)|
Unfolded: 245×289×56 mm (L×W×H)
|Flight time||31 min||28 min|
|Camera||1/2.3” CMOS, 12 MP||1/2” , 48MP (Nano)|
1/1.28” , 50 MP (Nano+)
|Obstical avoidance||No||Yes, 3-directional|
|Follow me mode||No||Yes|
|Transmission range||6.2 miles (10km)||6.2 miles (10km)|
|Wind resistance||Level 5||Level 5|
|Price (base model)||$449||$649|
Weight & Size
First of all, let’s compare the one thing that makes both these drones unique from other high-end drones in the market i-e their weight.
Both drones are less than 250g to comply with the no-registration requirement of FAA and other aviation authorities. But, the take-off weight of Autel nano is 249g while the DJI Mini 2 is 239g. This difference in weight might make a difference.
Since the DJI Mini 2 has an additional margin of 11 grams, you can safely attach any additional payload without violating the weight limit. These payloads can be prop guards, colored stickers for visibility, or even a strobe light for nighttime flying. For example, the lume cube strobe light is just 10 grams and can be used with Mini 2 but not with Autel Nano.
The slightly heavier Autel Nano might provide better wind resistance but the difference will be quite minimal. [Drone wind resistance levels explained] Apart from these two points, the difference in weight is negligible.
Apart from the weight, the Autel Nano is slightly larger in size than the DJI Mini 2 as well.
VERDICT: Size and weight-wise, both drones are quite comparable. The slightly lighter Mini 2 might let you add some additional gears. That’s it.
Now, for the most important reason, people get a drone in the first place – aerial photography. Both the drones pack impressive cameras and gimble sets and will deliver astonishing results from the sky straight to your screen. But the devil is in the details. So, let’s see what both got.
The older DJI Mini 2 has 1/2.3” CMOS with a 12 MP sensor. It can shoot 4K videos @ 30fps and has 4x digital zoom when shooting at 1080p. This is not a top-of-the-line camera but for amateur aerial photographers, it’s more than enough in a budget price range.
On the other hand, Autel Nano packs a slightly bigger -1/2” CMOS 48MP sensor. It can record videos at 4K 30fps like the Mini 2. (To be honest, I was expecting a 4K 60fps from Autel considering the higher price tag that we will discuss below)
But the real magic happens with the Autel Nano+ camera which has a much bigger 1/1.28″ CMOS sensor (almost twice the size of Nano & Mini 2). While both the Nano & Mini has an aperture of f/2.8, the Nano+ has a bigger f/1.9 aperture. This gives Nano+ better noise reduction in low light conditions and sharper contrasts.
The Nano+ also uses the RYYB color filter array which compared to the traditional RGGB filter in Nano and Mini 2, produces a better image in lower light conditions. The Nano+ also uses a combination of PDAF (phase detection auto focus) & CDAF (contrast detection auto focus) to better track fast-moving objects, especially in an active track mode.
VERDICT: Camera-wise, the Autel Nano has a slight edge on DJI Mini 2. However, the Autel Nano+ has a much better camera for low-light photography and active tracking. It also supports HDR.
Battery & Flight Time
The Mavic Mini 2 comes with a 2250 mAH Lithium Polymer (LiPo) battery that can fly the Mini 2 for up to 31 minutes under ideal windless conditions. The main reason the DJI was able to further reduce the Mini 2 weight compared to the previous Mini 1 model was the battery. The Mini 1 came with a heavier Li-ion battery instead. You can read more about the DJI Mini 2 battery.
The Autel Nano & Nano+ both come with an identical 2250 mAh LiPo battery. Since the drone is slightly bigger (more wind resistance) and slightly heavier, the flight time is around 28 minutes in windless ideal conditions.
The main difference is in the charging wattage and charging time. The Mini 2 battery charge at max 18 watts and take 1 hour 20 minutes (80 minutes) to fully charge. The Autel Nano battery charges at 30 watts and takes 90 minutes.
Despite higher charging power, the longer charging indicates a less efficient energy deposition. The DJI’s Intelligent battery management takes the edge here.
VERDICT: Both the Mini 2 and Autel Nano has the same 2250 mAh LiPo batteries. DJI Mini 2 can fly for 31 minutes and the Autel Nano flies for 28 minutes under ideal conditions.
Quick Shot Modes
Quick Shot modes are reprogrammed flight paths that you can activate with a few touches and let your camera record a great aerial view while you do you. If you have been flying drones before, you know useful they are when you are out on the beach or up in the mountains.
On the DJI Mini 2, there are 5 distance Quick shot modes that you can activate from inside the DJI Fly App:
Activating these quick shots is quite easy to master. You have to select a point of interest (POI) on the screen, select which type of shot you want to take, and press start, and the drone will take care of everything for you. I love making Circle videos where the drone fly in a 360-degree radius while recording a 4K video
These preprogrammed flight paths are also present in Autel Nano but instead of Quick Shots, they are called Cinematic Shots. You will find 4 different Cinematic Shots inside the Sky App:
VERDICT: In terms of Quick or Cinematic shot modes, both do a pretty good job. DJI Mini 2 has an extra mode but the Flick on Autel Nano is pretty impressive as well.
Transmission Range & Stability
Both the Autel Nano and DJI Mini 2 come with their own dedicated remote controllers with impressive transmission powers.
The DJI Mini 2 remote works over their proprietary Ocusync 2.0 transmission system and boasts an impressive transmission range of 10km in the FCC area (I have written about range limitations in FCC and other certifications in this article about DJI Mini 2 range) when there are no obstructions and interference.
The Autel Nano remote controller has the same transmission range of 10km in the FCC area. It operates on its own proprietary system called SkyLink. The slight difference compared to the Ocusync 2.0 is in operating frequencies.
While both the Autel Nano and DJI Mini 2 operate over 2.4GHz and 5.8Ghz, the Autel Nano supports one additional frequency set of 5.2Ghz. This slightly lower frequency will be helpful during urban flights when there are obstacles around (high rise buildings etc.)
In terms of video transmission, the DJI Mini 2 can only support 720p/30fps video live feed at all distances while the Autel Nano will stream 2.7K 30fps when the drone is near (< 1km) and 1080P 30fps when the drone is further away.
VERDICT: In terms of transmitting power, both remote controllers are the same and can go as far as 10km. The Autel Nano has a better video streaming capability of up to 2.7K 30fps while the DJI Mini 2 is capped at 720p 30fps.
Sensors & Obstical Avoidance
This is where Autel Nano takes the lead. It has one thing the DJI Mini 2 does not and it’s not a small one – obstacle avoidance.
Since the original DJI Mini came to market, people have been talking about this essential feature of a beginner drone. When you have just started flying, you are bound to crash your first drone. Very few people learn to fly without crashing. So, having active obstacle avoidance is a need, not a luxury. The DJI Mini 2 does not have any obstacle avoidance at all.
On the other hand, the Autel Nano comes with forward, backward and downward sensors to provide 3-dimensional obstacle avoidance. This one features set the Nano apart from the Mini 2, and I would say Bravo to the design team at Autel Robotics for cramming in 4 additional sensors without compromising on the overall weight of the aircraft.
VERDICT: Autel Nano comes with 3 directional obstacle avoidance while the DJI Mini 2 lacks any sort of obstacle avoidance. The Autel Nano is superior in this aspect.
Follow Me / Active Track
Since the DJI Mini 2 has no obstacle avoidance sensors, they didn’t put in follow me feature you would otherwise find on all high-end DJI drones. It also lacks the Active Track feature where you select an object on the screen, and the drone follows it via imagine recognition.
Both these features require obstacle avoidance to work properly otherwise, you will crash the drone pretty quick. The DJI Mini 2 follow me feature can be hacked together using their quick shot modes but it is still a hack, not a proper solution.
Since the Autel Nano comes with a 3 directional obstacle avoidance system, it has an active track feature which Autel calls Dynamic Track 2.1. To enable tracking, you have to select a point of interest (POI) on the app screen, and the drone will start following the moving image around.
Like the DJI Mini 2, the Autel Nano also lacks GPS based follow me feature. I don’t know why they didn’t bother putting this feature inside since all the sensors required to make it work are already there. They have to implement the feature inside the software. Maybe they do that in a future firmware update; who knows.
I saved the biggest difference for the last. Here is how the Autel Nano, Nano+, and Mini 2 compares on the price table.
|Drone/Version||Autel Nano||Autel Nano+||Mini 2|
Fly More Combo
As you can see, the Autel Nano is $200 more than the Mini 2, and the Nano+ version is even more expensive. The Mini 2 and Nano/Nano+ features are quite comparable and do not justify such steep pricing. The only significant difference is in the camera and additional obstacle avoidance sensors.
If Autel proceeds with this pricing model, they will have to offer some strong incentives to pull customers away from DJI. It might be difficult because:
- DJI is a more established name and has a better online/offline presence.
- DJI’s ecosystem is better and more comprehensive than Autel.
- DJI has a better distribution network compared to the newer Autel
Keeping in view the above points, I am a bit skeptical about Autel competing with DJI in this tough market. One has to consider that most people looking at sub 250g drones are not pro fliers. They mostly want to get something to start with and see if they like it.
They don’t want to go through the registration and licensing process exactly because they are not fully into the hobby – yet. For such people, a hefty price tag of 650 USD for the basic model might not make sense, especially if they have a comparable option available from a much bigger and well-known brand for $200 less.
Autel Nano vs DJI Mini 2 Final Verdict
It’s always good to have competition in the market. It always benefits the customers, and so is the case here. For two years, the DJI Mini 2 was the sole player in the sub 250g category, and now we have a rather comparable alternative. To sum up the discussion so far, here are the main points.
- Both drones are comparable in size and weight. The DJI Mini 2 is slightly smaller and weighs less.
- Cameras on both Autel Nano and Nano+ are better compared to DJI Mini 2.
- The Autel Nano has slightly less flight time of 28 minutes compared to 31 minutes of Mini 2.
- Both drones support transmission up to 10km. Autel can live stream video feed at 2.7K3fps while Mini 2 can only do 720p3fps.
- Autel has obstical avoidance and active track while the Mini 2 lacks any obstical avoidance andy active track.
- Price wise, the Autel Nano basic model is $200 more expensie than the Mini 2 which can be a deal breaker for beginners.
I hope this on-paper comparison will be helpful in making up your mind if you are considering buying a sub 250g drone. I will soon receive my review sample from Autel, so I will be able to do an actual hands-on review and some flight tests. We will be able to see if the camera on the new Autel is as impressive as it seems on paper o not. Till then, fly safe!