DJI Air 2S tracking modes [Plus warnings]

Each iteration of drone technology comes with upgrades to tracking modes. Manufacturers have started to understand how consumers use tracking modes, and the DJI air IIs tracking mode selection is really powerful for beginner and expert pilots.

The DJI Air 2S tracking mode, FocusTrack, includes active track 4.0, Spotlight 2.0, and point of interest 3.0. All these tracking modes allow you to follow or fly around a subject automatically while sensing obstacles in its path.

The Air 2S tracking modes allow pilots to focus on capturing and framing the perfect photo or video without focusing on piloting the drone to match the velocity and location of a scene’s subject while it is moving.

I utilise tracking modes on my drone often, especially when tracking subjects such as boats, cars and people.

Here is the outcome of utilising active track with my drone to follow my friend who was sailing his boat:

Utilising the active track mode, I focused on framing the shot rather than piloting the drone and trying to match the location and speed of the boat as it was sailing.

Here is a full rundown on FocusTrack and how it is used.

FocusTrack

The DJI Air 2 also has several clever flight modes to choose from. Spotlight 2.0, active track 4.0, and point of interest 3.0 are among the intelligent flying modes available.

Air 2S tracking mode

ActiveTrack 4.0

In active track mode, you can draw a box over the scene’s subject, and the drone will actively track and follow the subject.

There are two types of active tracks:

  • Trace. The drone maintains a constant distance from the scene’s subject in this mode. In both normal and cine modes, the maximum flight speed is limited to 12 m/s. The maximum speed in sports mode is 19 m/s, and the aircraft cannot detect any obstacles because the visual positioning system and sensors have been disabled.
  • Parallel. The drone observes the scene’s subject at a constant angle and distance from the subject’s side in this mode. The maximum speed in normal and cine mode is 12 m/s; in sports mode, the maximum speed is 19 m/s. A word of caution: while in parallel mode, the aircraft cannot detect obstructions.

Spotlight 2.0

Spotlight mode allows you to manoeuvre the aircraft manually while keeping the camera focused on the scene’s subject.

The roll stick can be used to circle the subject, the pitch stick can be used to modify the distance from the subject, and the throttle stick can be used to change the altitude. You may also use the pan stick to change the shot’s framing.

It’s a very handy mode, and I’ve used it a lot to concentrate on flying the drone securely while still getting a nice photo.

Point of interest 3.0

Based on the radius and flight speed specified, the point of interest follows the subject in a circle. This mode is one of my favourites because it can handle static and moving items like cars, boats, and people.

If the subject’s height changes, the drone’s altitude will not change, and if the subject moves too quickly, the drone’s hold on the subject may be lost.

How to use FocusTrack

Using FocusTrack is very simple, and you can utilise it by following these simple steps:

  1. takeoff with the drone and hover at least 1 m above the ground
  2. using the first-person view screen, drag a box around the subject you want to track to enable FocusTrack mode.
  3. Use the bottom boxes to select between active track, spotlight, and POI. Spotlight is the default mode when you first enter FocusTrack. Active track will begin when the software detects a wave gesture. Users can wave with a single hand and elbow above the shoulder, allowing for selfie tracking mode.
  4. When using gesture to activate active track it is only the person who performs the first gesture that is tracked. The distance between the person and the aircraft should be 5 to 10 m.
  5. Tap the shutter or record button to take photos or start recording.

To exit FocusTrack, all you have to do is press. In the DJI fly app or press the pause button on the remote controller.

Who is FocusTrack for?

FocusTrack is a fantastic option for many drone users, from selfie vloggers to photographers having to capture complicated and fast-moving objects.

Vloggers

I used tracking modes mostly while I was blogging with my drone. I captured a range of impressive aerial photos and videos of me riding my bike whilst having my drone automatically follow me.

If you are a budding vlogger, there are plenty of opportunities to use FocusTrack and tracking modes on a drone to enhance your videos with impressive and professional-looking b-roll footage

Photographers capturing moving objects

flying a drone is a very complicated procedure. Not only do you have to fly the drone, but you are also required to frame and track subjects while moving through a complex 3D environment.

I have utilised my tracking modes on time-sensitive shoots with complicated movement subjects. Most of the time, the software provided by DJI is more than capable of tracking a subject, allowing me to worry about the creative aspects of drone flying.

Shots for social media

The automated drone flying modes make perfect social media ready photos and videos a breeze.

If you are posting a lot on social media and want your content to stand out, using tracking modes on your drone will allow you to stand out for all the right reasons.

FocusTrack warnings

Of course, FocusTrack isn’t always the best option for your drone flying adventure and here are some of the warnings that you need to be aware of if you are going to utilise FocusTrack to capture your photos and videos.

Airsense cannot be used

It is important to note that air sense is not active while you are using FocusTrack. Air sense is a mode that detects a manned aircraft. This mode allows you to avoid flying near any aircraft and significantly improves aerial safety. It can also not be used when you are recording at 4K 30 frames per second.

Do not use it in areas with people

It is important that you do not use FocusTrack when there are many people or animals nearby. Most jurisdictions require you to leave at least a 30 m space between and above your drone and the people you are filming.

FocusTrack doesn’t care about the local laws and regulations and you can inadvertently end up breaking a load of local laws and regulations by allowing the drone to get too close to people and private property.

In short there is nothing else nearby that the drone could bump into.

Does not work well in these situations:

There are number of situations where the FocusTrack will not work well and it could end up placing your drone in danger.

Object not moving on a level plane

FocusTrack assumes that the object you are tracking is moving on a level playing. If the object quickly steps up or down or runs up a steep incline, it could easily lose track of the object.

Subject changes shape

FocusTrack works best when the object remains the same size and shape. Sometimes the object is different when looking at it from a different angle and any extremes will cause FocusTrack to lose tracking ability.

The object moves out of sight

this mode does not work very well when the object you are tracking moves out of sight for a long period of time. The artificial intelligence is able to keep up with the object if it disappears for a quick moment behind a tree or other obstacle.

However, if the object moves out of sight for a long period of time it will lose tracking.

The object is on a snowy surface

Snowy surfaces are reflective and can cause FocusTrack to lose its lock on the scene’s subject.

Same colour as surroundings

If the objects you are tracking is the same colour as the surroundings the tracking can become confused and lose lock.

High or low light

Bright light can throw off the tracking mode. On the other end of the spectrum, really low light can also throw off the tracking.

Make sure that your subject will continue to be well lit throughout the entire scene and shot and that it doesn’t become too bright or too dark, confusing the tracking software.

Do not track another drone, model boat or car

The tracking software cannot keep up with anything with high acceleration, including another drone, a model boat, or a car.

If you are tracking an object with a high acceleration that is small and can quickly move out of the frame, I recommend that you learn to follow the subject manually.

May swap tracked object

The lock may switch to a similar object if there are many other similar objects in the scene while you are tracking.

This action is true in crowds of people and flocks of animals.

Disabled at high resolutions

It is important to note that FocusTrack is disabled when recording at high resolutions and frame rates such as 2.7 K 48/50/60 FPS, 1080p 48/50/60/120 FPS, 4K 48/50/60 FPS, and 5K 24/25/30 FPS.

You should learn how to fly your drone manually for all of these high resolutions to emulate the active track features.

Summary

This article has covered everything you need to know about the DJI Air 2S tracking modes that allow the drone to follow and track subjects in a scene.

It is a powerful addition to the software that DJI is embedding into its drones, and it will continue to get better with each drone release.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. His drone footage has been featured on TV and he has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drones. His favourite is still the DJI Mavic Air for the portability and functionality packed into a small and portable drone!