DJI Mini 3 Teardown: Stellar Design, One Major Fail

DJI Mini 3 Teardown: Stellar Design, One Major Fail

The Mini 3 is DJI’s latest offering to the drone market, and it seems to be hitting quite the sweet spot. DJI’s Mini 3 Pro, released back in May of 2022, quickly became the go-to choice for consumer-grade drones. Part of this success can be attributed to the obstacle avoidance system and high quality 4K optics. Both of which make it appealing as an entry level device for first time pilots and as a compact backup for professionals. The only drawback: Price. At $759, the Mini 3 Pro was not a cheap device.

Thus the Mini 3 was born. For $559, you get most of a Mini 3 Pro with a few exceptions:

  1. The camera is knocked down to 12 MP from 48 MP.
  2. The Mini 3 doesn’t have any onboard storage where the Pro has 1.2 GB onboard. 
  3. The Mini 3 uses the OcuSync 2.0 communication protocol instead of OcuSync 3.0 on the Pro, potentially reducing the maximum range.
  4. You lose the front and back obstacle avoidance systems.

Losing obstacle avoidance is probably the biggest knock the Mini 3 takes when compared to the Pro. It’s also an excellent reason to look at repairability because, like it or not, this drone is far more likely to crash.

The first thing to note about DJI drones is that the spare parts eco-system is very locked down. You can’t find OEM parts unless those parts are on eBay, salvaged from another drone. What’s more, parts like the camera gimbal are either paired to the flight controller or require calibration with software that DJI does not make public. The camera will still work, but you’ll get a gimbal IMU error.

Despite that disappointment, the device is fairly easy to get into, just a few stubborn clips being my biggest grievance. But hey, for a device that needs to be under 250 g, they didn’t use glue and that’s a huge win. And that 250 grams is a significant threshold; anything over that becomes subject to additional rules and regulations in jurisdictions worldwide.

Considering this is primarily a hobbyist drone with a best-in-class camera, it’s pretty impressive that they can match that weight. It certainly seems that DJI’s engineers have gotten drone building down to a fine art. Case in point: the camera’s front lens. The two wires leading to the glass are connected to a resistive element which heats up the surface of the lens and prevents condensation at altitude. Bye-bye foggy lens, and hello super cool birdseye footage. Now that’s damn clever.

It’s a great drone, I certainly enjoyed flying it around, but I’d only ever use this thing when out backpacking, hiking, or traveling. That means I’d want to be able to fix my drone on the road and a lack of OEM parts means that I can’t easily pack any spares. Getting a motor arm, camera gimbal, or anything other than replacement rotor blades means buying and parting out an entire busted drone. Forgive the pun but for me, that’s just not going to fly.