Last week, DJI made quite a splash with the Mavic Mini releasing, and most YouTube and write-ups proclaiming it didn’t need to be registered. Most consumers saw the giant headlines and assumed it meant the DJI Mavic Mini could avoid all FAA regulations. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
How the DJI Mavic Mini is a Fine Waiting to Happen
Let’s focus on the weight first. On the body of the DJI Mavic Mini is the label of ultralight and listing the weight as 249 grams. That does place it under the takeoff weight, which would require registration. However, there are three issues consumers do not realize, and DJI is not educating first-time pilots on the potential legal issues.
- On the order page for the Mavic Mini is the option to purchase a $15 creative kit. It includes a pack of six stickers made with 3M Scotchcal Film. A square meter of the film weighs 120 grams, and the dimensions of the top of the Mavic Mini are 140×82 mm or .01148m2. That works out to an additional 1.3776 grams placing the Mavic Mini over the 250-gram registration requirement.
- Next is the Fly More Combo for the Mavic Mini, which includes propeller guards. These weigh in at 26.1 grams, pushing the drone well above the 250-gram takeoff threshold.
- An alarming conversation with DJI’s online support team.
Yes, neither product is needed to fly the Mavic Mini, but this wildly ignores DJI’s marketing. It’s not a professional drone, and the $399 price tag shows it is meant for kids and people getting into the camera drone hobby. The Creative Kit will be a hit among kids, while the propeller cage is a near necessity due to the lack of object avoidance for new pilots.
Then there’s the problem of DJI’s live chat team. They are either unaware of the weight of the product or marketing in spite of the Mavic Mini’s weight being so close to the registration requirements in not only the United States, but Canada, Australia, and the U.K.
Here’s a conversation I had last week with a member of DJI’s live chat support asking about the weight of the Mini and if it would need to be registered. **I’ve blurred the name of the Support Agent.**
The propeller cage and props are not the weight of paper as DJI’s own product page clearly states the weight of the prop guards as 26.1 grams. Note the agent left to check the weight to ‘make sure’ it was under 249 grams.
That’s not a good look for the company which has spent the better part of 2019 battling it out with DHS and now the Department of the Interior. That conversation I had needs to be addressed immediately before another regulatory agency joins the fray.
Having the weight at 249 grams is being too cute for its own good, and the usual blast of YouTube influencers and press all trumpeted it as the drone to avoid FAA registrations. Those same titles are laced with the insinuations of avoiding regulations, which is even more dangerous.
Most clarified the drone would need to be registered with the prop guards, but most made no mention of the other accessories. The issue is consumers are headline-driven and not watching the full video or reading the entire piece. Here’s what the wave of press looked like on the launch date.
That’s the problem with clickbait. It’s all fine and good for the author or creator. Technically they are in the clear, but they owe their respective communities and readers a bit more than that. It’s the consumer slapped with a massive fine for a sticker or failing to follow all flight regulations for hobbyists. We need to do better. We love the camera drone hobby, so we should do everything we can to educate newcomers.
Register the Mavic Mini
At the end of the day, DJI is poking the bear by sliding under the 250-gram threshold by one gram. Yeah, it’s funny trolling to a point until you realize the kid with the Creative Kit has no idea his or her parents can be hit with a hefty fine. DJI knows better, and the product page should be changed to reflect the reality of the add-ons to the Mavic Mini.
What can consumers do? It’s $5 to register with the FAA. That’s it. Also, the 249-gram weight does NOT mean pilots can avoid flight regulations. Every hobbyist regulation must be followed. Period. There are zero exceptions.
Part 107 license holders need to register the Mavic Mini regardless of its weight if there are plans to use it for any commercial activity. This includes monetized YouTube videos. Notice a problem with the reviews that hit when the Mavic Mini announced. There weren’t many registration numbers which must be clearly visible on the drone in the videos and previews I watched.
The consumer drone industry is under the microscope with several bills in the Senate promising to clamp down on the use by potentially returning the regulatory framework back to municipalities over the FAA.
Do we want hundreds if not thousands of laws governing our hobby? I’m positive most of us would pass on our camera drones becoming a paperweight. Is the Mavic Mini a technological marvel? Absolutely. The fact it’s that light with the battery life of Mavic 2 Pro is stunning.
However, the United States-China trade war isn’t ending anytime soon, and DJI poking at regulators with the weight could spell a misstep the company regrets. It should remove the ultralight label listing the weight and focus on what makes it the best beginner drone on the market.
Why poke regulators? Trust me, they poke back, and the best lobbyists D.C. can buy can’t win against a bunch of annoyed regulators and elected officials.