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The DJI Mini 3 Pro is the latest in the Mini series and one of DJI’s best-ever drones. This drone has so many technologies, features, and benefits, it’s a miracle it weighs in at only 249 g.
This ultralight behemoth of performance is classed as a micro drone, and so doesn’t need to be registered or require a license to fly.
Up until recently, these sandwich-sized micro-drones were borderline toys, with short flight times and relatively low performance compared to their larger, heftier counterparts. Not any more.
The DJI Mavic Mini was good, the Mini 2 was very good, but the Mini 3 Pro, well, it’s great.
Since the Mini 2, DJI has added longer flight times, obstacle sensors, a better DJI RC remote, and arguably nothing more game-changing than the new Active Track 4.0.
This new and improved Active Track lets the user put up the drone, select themself, and hit record.
They are then free to hike, bike, drive, boat, longboard, snowboard, and just about any other activity you can dream up while recording from a host of options on the drone.
If Active Track is as good as it sounds, what exactly is it? How do you use it? When should you use it?
Keep reading to find all these answers and more.
What is ActiveTrack? #
Active Track 4.0 on the Mini 3 Pro (also called focus track) is a feature that lets the drone intelligently recognize a subject and follow it at different speeds, angles, and patterns.
This can be seen in several modes such as trace mode, parallel mode, point of interest, and spotlight modes (more on those later).
Each mode allows some pilot input while taking over most of the flying controls.
It automatically works with onboard sensors and GPS data to steer and maneuver the drone, while the 3-axis mechanical gimbal and the camera all work together to create a stunning video of a subject autonomously.
This is great when hiking, biking, driving, boating, and so many more scenarios that make great footage when the user is focused on something else.
The Active Track 4.0 is the same as that seen on the Air 2, and only surpassed by the 5.0 in the Mavic Series at over $1000 more.
This means that there are years of continuous and user-backed upgrades of the Active Track software.
When DJI added the first version of Active Track in 2016 to the Phantom 4 drones it was a big deal, as an advanced follow me with far more features and abilities.
Since then, Active Track has come a long way.
How to use ActiveTrack? #
How exactly do you use Active Track? It’s easy; you start just as you would every time you launch your drone.
It’s advisable to do a pre-flight inspection, and log your flight, weather, and location (keep in mind to look around for potential hazards, aircraft, people, cars, other drones, etc).
Now for the fun part. Press launch, and you are up.
There is no menu option, and you do not have to enable tracking – it will prompt a small + symbol above a subject it finds or you just select a box around yourself/your subject to be tracked.
Once you have successfully selected your subject, you will see a green box around it. At this point, you will see three mode selections at the bottom of the screen.
1. Active Track mode (two modes inside) #
This mode will follow usually from behind, or sometimes it will follow from the front if that is where you start from, but then it often finds its way behind you again.
Within Active Track, you will find Trace and Parallel mode. Trace is the one described above, and parallel mode will follow you from the side.
Although parallel can give a very cool movie-like perspective, keep in mind the Mini 3 Pro does NOT have side-facing obstacle sensors and so be sure the drone has a clear path in this mode.
With both trace and parallel, you can control zoom as well as some pan and height inputs to make the footage your own.
Pro Tip: Hit record before you press go, so you won’t miss a second.
2. Spotlight #
Spotlight is a really cool mode where you control left and right movements as well as forward and backward movements.
The drone will control panning to keep the subject in frame constantly. This will get buttery smooth shots where your subject always stays in the frame.
I find it works best when following boats or other large predictable vehicles.
3. POI (point of interest) #
Point of interest is maybe the most useful tracking feature.
It will orbit around the subject perfectly and smoothly. You can also control orbit speed and direction.
This setting is very easy to use and very accurate.
Once set, it will take almost all of the control so you can focus on what it is that you are doing and, of course, on getting those dreamy shots.
ActiveTrack and the creative element #
There is more to using active track than just the bare-bones technical guide laid out above.
Remember, if you are flying any drone, **you are a pilot. **So navigation, safety, and conditions should always be on your mind when using all these cool active track features.
It is important to understand their limitations, such as no side sensors, trees, or other obstacles that the drone could collide with or that it may just lose track of the subject.
And just as important as flying is filming or taking photos.
Since Active Track can be turned on and set with only a few clicks, this can be a great opportunity to focus on your photography/videography techniques.
Active Track can be better used with these specific settings/features/locations.
Amazingly, the Mini 3 Pro can shoot in 4K/60FPS shooting modes which many people like to do, and then drop it to 30FPS in editing to create the smoothest quality footage.
You can also take 48MP raw photos, which allows for tons of creative freedom in the post-production process.
Pro Tip: Think about some basic photography and filming techniques to take your active track from ok to amazing.👉 Composition👉 Rule of Thirds👉 Exposure👉 Storytelling
» MORE: What Is Drone Photography?
When to use Active Track #
Now that you know what Active Track is and how to best use it, when should you use it? It is completely up to you!
I like to use it when mountain biking, driving on private roads, and when out boating on the lake.
You can find epic videos online of DJI drones following every sport there is, from dirt biking to surfing. It can pretty much do it all.
Whether just trying to see it from the air, as a tool to catch new angles, to tell new stories, or to catch the perfect aerial photo from above, all are good reasons with endless possibilities.
I have found when used in hiking/running or walking, it can be an excellent tool to move a story along, and when tracking action sports, it is more than exciting enough as the main content of any film/photo shoot.
It is always challenging to catch larger vehicles and boats but worth it. Just be sure to follow any laws, and keep safety in mind.
Remember larger subjects work from higher up than smaller ones, and tracking is best used when in a plain field of view, such as a boat on a lake or a person in a field.
Another thing I have noticed is that on a bike/skateboard/surfboard and most small vehicles is that the drone is tracking YOU, so if you get off and start running, it will often keep following you.
This, I think, could be used as a great way to transition what you are filming.
The list is endless on what you can track, but I’m sure whatever you track, the DJI Mini 3 Pro will rarely let you down.
Pro Tip: Try using different tracking modes like P.O.I. but instead of always tracking yourself, try tracking on a point of the ground that you will be walking through for buttery smooth, zero jitter footage. This can also at times give you even more movement in your active track shots with the ability to move out of frame. This trick can also work when the subject is too small to trace, such as a car from high up or far away.
Some potential limitations of Active Track #
Although the DJI Mini Pro 3 has one of the best active tracks I have flown, there is definitely room for improvement.
No side sensors mean there is a vulnerability in left to right movements.
This is not necessarily an Active Track issue but will affect the performance and real-life use of Active Track nonetheless, so DJI, please put sensors on the side for the Mini 4 Pro. (They definitely read my stuff.)
Next is the lack of fine controls such as speeds, heights, and maneuvers which I would like to see in an Active Track menu to create a personalized Active Track mode to be set before the flight.
The drawbacks of automation are if you don’t use it, you lose it. Practice makes perfect, and that is just to say that sometimes it can be good to track in manual mode.
It keeps you sharp on your flying movements and your ability to capture anything you could think of, such as orbits with ascending and descending, changes in speed, or even having the subject centered and moving from one side of the shot to another.
Lastly, the most important limitation of Active Track 4.0 in the Mini 3 Pro is when your subject becomes lost under some trees or bridge or some other obstruction of view.
Although I will continue working around this for now, I believe in the future DJI can fix this with a little A.I. magic or predictive tracking.
What it means & where it’s going (the future of Active Track) #
All and all, Active Track was missing on the Mini 2 completely, and having this amazing feature on the Mini 3 Pro will help bridge the gap between ultralight mini drones and medium to large drones.
There is now that much more you can do with a mini drone. This will improve the experience for new pilots and make it more accessible for new pilots to start flying.
The Active Track 4.0 could not be easier to use. It has a simple interface and real-life useful modes.
It creates buttery smooth footage (and extremely high-quality photos) with less input from the pilot than ever, allowing you to focus on whatever else it is you do.
It will help bring new pilots into the fold and give them great footage right out of the box while adding to the workflow of experienced and even professional pilots who use it every day.