DJI Mavic 3 Obstacle Avoidance [Full guide]

The DJI Mavic 3 is the newest drone from DJI, and it comes packed with features. One of these features is obstacle avoidance. Obstacle avoidance keeps the drone from flying into things like trees, power lines, and other obstacles. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the obstacle avoidance feature on the DJI Mavic 3. We’ll also discuss how well it works and what you can do to improve its performance.

The DJI Mavic 3 features an infrared sensing system and 360° vision systems. This allows the drone to fly indoors and outdoors safely. It also facilitates automatic returns home features and other artificial intelligence safety features to keep your drone safe.

One of the features that has everyone talking about this drone is the new and improved obstacle avoidance technology.

Can it beat the best obstacle avoidance systems currently on the market?

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at this feature and how it can benefit you.

What type of obstacle avoidance does the Mavic 3 have?

The DJI Mavic 3 has two types of obstacle avoidance systems:

  1. infrared sensing
  2. vision systems

The vision systems act like binocular vision. Using two cameras offset laterally, the drone can estimate distances.

The drone comes with an advanced pilot assistance system 5.0, which helps the drone pilot avoid obstacles in every direction. We’ll be talking more about that later on in the article.

The forward, backward, lateral, and upward vision systems will automatically activate when the aircraft is powered on, and the drone is in normal or cine mode. The obstacle avoidance should be set to bypass or break in the DJI fly app to ensure it operates well.

Here are all of the automatic actions the drone will take in different intelligent flight modes:

Spotlight modeThe aircraft will hover in place when the vision systems are working normally no matter if the behaviour is set to bypass or break in the DJI fly app.
Point of interestThe aircraft will bypass obstacles in the mode irrespective of the settings in the DJI fly app.
ActiveTrackThe aircraft will bypass obstacles regardless of the settings in the DJI fly app.
Master shotsThe drone will break and hover in place if an obstacle is detected.
Quick shotsThe drone will break and hover in place if an obstacle is detected

Mavic 3 Obstacle avoidance warnings:

There are some instances and situations where the DJI Mavic 3 obstacle sensing is disabled, and you need to pay special attention to your flight.

Sport mode

In sport mode, the obstacle sensing is disabled, and the maximum flight speed is increased to 21 m/s. If you are in this mode, you need to fly with extra caution.

The systems that are disabled include the forward, backward, lateral, and upward vision systems, which means that the aircraft cannot see any obstacles.

Vision systems unavailable

Sometimes the drone is unable to detect obstacles if the vision systems are unavailable. They may be unavailable due to low light or other un-desirable environmental conditions.

Be careful if your drone is undergoing return to home or any other automatic flight features without the vision systems available. Always monitor your drone remote control and live video stream for any warnings that may tell you that the vision systems are not working as expected.

Sensing system

This table will tell you everything you need to know about the sensing system available on the DJI Mavic 3. It includes the measurement range, effective sensing speed and field of view.

Sensing SystemOmnidirectional binocular vision system, supplemented with an infrared sensor at the bottom of the aircraft
ForwardMeasurement Range: 0.5-20 m Detection Range: 0.5-200 m Effective Sensing Speed: Flight Speed ≤ 15m/s FOV: Horizontal 90°, Vertical 103°
BackwardMeasurement Range: 0.5-16 m Effective Sensing Speed: Flight Speed ≤ 12m/s FOV: Horizontal 90°, Vertical 103°
LateralMeasurement Range: 0.5-25 m Effective Sensing Speed: Flight Speed ≤ 15m/s FOV: Horizontal 90°, Vertical 85°
UpwardMeasurement Range: 0.2-10 m Effective Sensing Speed: Flight Speed ≤ 6m/s FOV: Front and Back 100°, Left and Right 90°
Downward  Measurement Range: 0.3-18 m Effective Sensing Speed: Flight Speed ≤ 6m/s FOV: Front and Back 130°, Left and Right 160°
Operating EnvironmentForward, Backward, Left, Right, and Upward: Surface with a clear pattern and adequate lighting (lux>15) Downward: Surface with a clear pattern and adequate lighting (lux >15). Diffuse reflective surface with diffuse reflectivity>20% (e.g. wall, tree, person)

The sensing system is certainly more than enough for most photographers and videographers. I started my drone flying journey with the DJI Mavic Air, which has no left or right sensors. I have found that I rarely need to rely on the senses as long as I keep a visual line of sight of the drone.

While flying, I have mostly received warnings from the forward and backwards-facing sensors as I zoom in and out of a particular framing.

This sensing system is extremely useful for beginner and intermediate pilots who may not have the skills or experience to avoid obstacles on their own.

It also comes in handy when flying in tight spaces or crowded areas, where many potential obstacles could cause a collision.

One of the most impressive things about the Mavic 3’s obstacle avoidance system is that it can be used in all modes, including ActiveTrack, TapFly, and Sport Mode. This means you can fly confidently, knowing that the drone will avoid any obstacles in its path.

Advanced pilot assistance system 5.0 (APAS 5.0)

The advanced pilot assistance system is a mode that is available in normal and cine mode.

When enabled, the drone will continue to respond to user commands whilst also planning its path according to the flight environment.

This mode makes it much easier to avoid obstacles and obtain smoother footage whilst navigating complex 3D environments.

When this system is enabled the aircraft can be stopped by pressing the flight pause button on the remote control or by tapping the screen in the DJI fly app.

To enable this system you need to open the DJI fly app enter system settings then click on safety and unable the APS by selecting bypass.

There are two modes:

  1. normal
  2. nifty

Nifty mode allows the drone to fly faster and smoother but also closer to objects to obtain better footage whilst avoiding obstacles.

Unfortunately, nifty mode also increases the likelihood of crashing so you must fly with caution. Make sure that you do not use nifty mode when there are thin obstacles such as powerlines or trees.

The sensing system works best when:

The DJI Mavic 3 obstacle avoidance system works best under a few simple conditions. If you are flying outside of these conditions, I recommend that you pay extra attention to your surroundings and stay further away from any potential obstacles.

Clear texture

The vision systems and infrared systems only work in certain scenarios. The downward vision system may not function properly when the aircraft is flying over water and when the aircraft is flying too fast.

You mustn’t fly over surfaces that are:

  • one colour – pure black, white, or any other colour
  • highly reflective surfaces
  • transparent surfaces such as water
  • flying over moving surfaces or objects
  • flying over obstacles with a small surface area, such as tree branches and wires
  • flying over surfaces with repetitive textures such as tiles
  • and flying over surfaces that strongly reflect or absorb infrared radiation, such as mirrors.

Extra care should be taken if flying over any of these types of surfaces.

Lots of light

There must be sufficient light for the obstacle avoidance system to work properly. If the lighting changes frequently or dramatically, there may be an issue in determining the distance of an object. Avoid flying over extremely dark or bright surfaces.

The altitude of 0.5 – 15 m

Once you fly over 15 m, the downward-facing sensing system can no longer detect the ground. If the forward obstacle is more than 15 m away, the bar will be grey, and you can proceed with caution.

You must look after the sensing system very diligently as it will be your last lifeline should you lose concentration and fly towards obstacles.

Caring for the Mavic 3 Obstacle Avoidance system

Keep the sensors clean and don’t mess with them or try to alter them. If you’re flying in an area with dust or humidity, you should wipe the sensors’ glass as soon as possible. Avoid areas where there is a lot of dust, or there is a lot of dampness.

If the warnings encourage you to do so after an accident, you must calibrate the cameras. Regular calibration of the obstacle avoidance system, on the other hand, will ensure that your drone remains as safe as possible.

Before each flight, you should check for stickers or other obstructions over the infrared sensing system or other visual systems.

Use a delicate cloth to clean the systems, and avoid using any cleanser that contains alcohol since this might cause the sensors’ surface to get hazy.

Contact DJI support if you have any problems or if the infrared sensing system or vision detection system glass has been damaged.

Wrapping up

If you’re new to drones or have ever had a close call with an obstacle, then you know how important this feature can be.

With the Mavic 3, you can rest assured knowing that your drone will avoid obstacles automatically. This frees your attention to focus on flying and getting great videos and photos.

Remember that the obstacle avoidance feature will act differently depending on what mode your drone is currently in, so be prepared for it to either break and hover or bypass an obstacle.

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!