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TESTED: Air 3 air dropper hindered by bottom sensors


Well-Known Member
Premium Pilot
Nov 17, 2019
Rockville, MD
Some disappointing results using my new Air 3 air dropper, an accessory I've mightily enjoyed using with my Mavic Air 2 (including extensive tests to learn how to drop a beer using a parachute). The Air 3 dropper itself is great, and works fine:


It straps on nicely and has a photoelectric cell that pulls the pin and drops the payload when the auxiliary light on the bottom is turned on with the Air 3's remote. They did a nice job building it.

But it looks like the downward sensors of the Air 3 are a lot more sensitive than the Mavic Air 2's. On the Air 2, I can hang a beer can with any sort of string just inches below the airframe, and it will not trigger any sensors. Not so with the Air 3.

My Air 3 dropper came with this:


...and it wasn't out of the goodness of their heart that they provided it. Attach anything with a shorter string, or a thicker string, and the Air 3's downward sensors kick in and make the aircraft almost unflyable.

In practice, what this means is that the aircraft constantly thinks it's less than a foot off the ground, so it tries to rise up at all times – slowly. The only way to bring it down is to put it in landing mode, which is also very slow. You could fly off somewhere with this to deliver a refreshment (or a life jacket, I guess, if you wanted to be less helpful...), but you have no effective vertical control – you're constantly either rising or falling, extremely slowly.

Moreover, when you drop your payload, instead of losing a few inches of parachute cord tied to the pull tab of the beer can, you lose the whole rig that's pictured above.

None of this is fatal. It wouldn't be the end of the world to buy a bunch of little rings and some cord and have a bunch of rigs ready to go. And I think it's safer to have a payload close to the aircraft so you don't get a pendulum effect going, but hanging stuff 18 inches below might be OK. But I'd prefer to do neither.

All of this also makes me wonder whether it'll be difficult to build an Insta360 Sphere for the Air 3 that doesn't interfere with the bottom or side sensors, which would be a shame. I may just have to keep my Mavic Air 2 around for quick deliveries and 360º video.

None of this should be taken as a knock on the Air 3's collision-avoidance sensors, which I adore, and I'm so happy they're there, and I hope they and I spend many happy years avoiding crashes together. They're just making this secondary activity somewhat less convenient than it was with the Mavic Air 2.
If you turn off collision avoidance do the downward sensors stay active? I'm guessing they are active in all modes for landing etc.
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They seem to. I flipped it to Sport mode and there was no change.

I can play with that a little more; thank you!
They seem to. I flipped it to Sport mode and there was no change.

I can play with that a little more; thank you!

I've got the same dropper on the way to me from Ali Express. Only ordered a few days ago, so probably weeks away at this stage.
I’ve have a similar dropper for my Mavic 3. Likely, made by the same company. It never triggers the OA. It is a disappointment that it does trigger OA on the Air 3.

I wonder what would happen if you cover the downward vision sensors with tape on the Air 3?
I had the same experience you had with an Air2S.

I don't remember exactly what I did but in the end, I managed to fly it without the sensors going crazy.

I also wanted to use the dropper for toy parachutes.

I too, am leery of swinging a long cord beneath lest it swings too far upwards and hits the propellers.

I kep thinking of a way to wrap the whole parachute in order to pinch it closer to the dropper and the aircraft, but couldn't come up with any ideas on how to accomplish this. Perhaps, attaching an empty toilet paper roll to the dropper.

Pierce it in such a way that when the dropper's pin moves, it would release the parachute enclosed in the toilet paper roll.

A toilet paper roll, is the only thing I could think of that is light enough but, alas, it is too long and the diamater, might not fit into the dropper mechanism.

Finding a way to do this is essential if you want to fly with a parachute at a distance and avoid the airspeed or wind buffeting the parachute and swinging it upwards into the propellers in flight.

Just raising the drone vertically works but again, if the wind changes speed, it could swing it up into the propellers.

I now own an Air3 and would like to try a dropper again.
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