What is Active Track in DJI drones?
Tracking is a very popular feature with drones, it is a functionality that has been constantly improved in DJI prosumer drones over the years
Active Tack in DJI drones is the mode for autonomously tracking a moving target. It can follow a subject at a constant distance without an operator controlling the movement. It is therefore the ideal tool for vlogging or when driving, cycling, walking while talking, or for interviews
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What is Focus Track in DJI drones?
There is often some confusion between the terms Focus Track and Active Track
Focus Track is the name given to the three Intelligent Flight Modes of the Mavic 3 and 3 Classic. These modes are ActiveTrack, Spotlight, and Point of Interest. All three modes have some tracking capabilities, but Active Track is the only one able to track autonomously, in other words without the use of the remote controller
When tracking a target while operating the drone with the remote controller, the mode Spotlight is an excellent alternative to Active Track, as it maintains the target on screen allowing all sorts of moves using the two sticks of the controller and the gimbal wheel
How to set up Active Track in the Mavic 3 and 3 Pro
Before starting a tracking session, it is suggested to select the option Subject Scanning in the Control tab of the settings, so that the algorithm will identify trackable targets like people, cars, bicycles, and boats, and put a plus sign over them
The option for Object Scanning is not sticky, so it has to be selected every time a tracking session is started. It can only be activated with the aircraft flying
After Selecting a target by simply clicking on the plus sign we are presented with the usual box with the three functions of Focus Track
With the Mavic 3 and 3 Pro, after choosing Active Track on the lower part of the screen, an icon appears to select the desired direction of the drone relative to the target. The choice is from each side, the front, the back, or the intermediate directions in between. This is a new very useful feature
When starting a tracking session, after choosing the direction and hitting go, the algorithm in the first few seconds needs to evaluate the environments, it is better to keep the target clear of obstacles during that time
In this case, I tried to track from the right side and started the car right away with several trees between the drone and the car. The aircraft ended up losing the target, even though it can normally handle these sorts of obstacles quite well
This time I choose to track from the front to give it a clearer path while starting. After analyzing the environment, it makes its move toward the front of the car and glues to the target with ease
Several trees cover the target, but it is able to reconnect with the car as soon as the path is clear
There are some quite tall trees around the path, but there is no need to touch the remote controller, as the APAS system does an astonishing job. During the test, it went around obstacles of all kinds without the slightest contact
Here I choose to track from the right side. The drone switches very quickly to the new position and keeps tracking in spite of several trees between the camera and the target
Here the mountain road turns sharply to the left and I decided to move to track from the left to have the drone on the lower side. There are some very tall trees, so for a few seconds it remains on top of the car to avoid them, but as soon as the way is clear it moves to the correct position. Excellent performance!
Active Tack does an astonishing job of finding the target after being obscured by obstacles
How do I get the Mavic 3 and 3 Classic to follow me?
In some DJI models from some years ago, Follow me was an ancestor of Active Track, based on the GPS signal. Active Track is much more advanced and combines GPS data with visual recognition and is also able to track much closer to the target and at a much lower altitude
These days the term “follow me” is often used for vlogging situations, where the drone follows someone walking or cycling without the use of the remote controller
For a follow-me experience with the Mavic 3 and 3 Classic, after tapping on the plus sign over the chosen target, we select Active Track. We then choose one of the eight positions for the aircraft relative to the target. We position the drone at the desired distance and elevation. We can now put aside the remote controller and hit Go
We are in a different environment, let’s see how the Active Track behaves following me while walking on this beach
I start with the drone following from behind and it tracks me at constant distance and altitude. I then choose to track from the right and after a few seconds, it gets in the correct position. I then try tracking from the front and then from the front right, probably the most interesting positions when following someone
From all directions, the drone is able to maintain its position quite well and this is a huge improvement compared to the Air 2S where we could only choose between Trace and Parallel and the direction of the tracking was a bit random
So far I have let the drone follow me in a totally autonomous way. Let’s see now what happens if I use the sticks of the remote controller to modify the height and distance from the target. I lower the altitude to have the aircraft at the height of my head, the drone remains at a constant height and displays on-screen the distance from the ground. Now I get the aircraft closer to me and again it maintains the position
When I switch to the other side, it goes a bit further away from me and at a slightly higher altitude. It is also possible to modify the gimbal tilt. I then bring it much further away and higher up
As you can see in a follow-me scenario we have complete control of the behavior of the drone and the Mavic 3 maintains its position very well. Excellent performance!
Safety Tips for Active Track with The Mavic 3 and 3 Classic
The Mavic 3 and 3 Classic are the only two models of the DJI prosumer line to offer safe close-range tracking, thanks to the omnidirectional obstacle sensors. But some care is needed
Before using Active Track with the Mavic 3 or 3 Classic, double-check that Obstacle Avoidance Action in the Safety tab is set to Bypass or Brake, to activate the obstacle avoidance system. In case of troubles, in the Safety tab there is a useful Find My Drone option, showing the position of the aircraft in case of a crash to help retrieve it
More details on How to find a lost drone in my article
Obstacle Detection Using Active Track with the Mavic 3
Next to the beach, there is a wooded area with very thick shrubs and trees. Let’s see if the Mavic 3 is somehow able to track me, it is very difficult terrain, as there is not a real path
At first, I tried tracking from the side and the result was quite good. The drone detected me behind some trees, but when things got very thick it ended up losing me
Then I tried tracking from the front and for some reason, it works much better. The Mavic 3 manages to keep track of me in extremely tough situations. The drone manages to find its way through very thick trees and shrubs without touching a branch. An astonishing performance!
More details about the Obstacle Avoidance System in the Mavic 3 in my specific article