It’s a few years since I first tested a drone, and they’ve changed radically, for the better over the intervening time. Early drones were delicate, most had trouble dealing with even small gusts of wind and the flight-time because of battery capacity ensured flights were short.

The company who led the way over the last few years in the advancement of drone technology was DJI, who remain the world’s biggest drone-maker. Their professional drones are used on movie sets and their First-Person-View or FPV high-speed drone is as much fun as it is tricky to fly.

The DJI Mini 3 however is their offering that’s squarely aimed at the rest of us. It’s a small, light drone with a good camera that’s ideal for newcomers or those who want to pack a drone for day out or even to bring on holiday. It’s available with a few different accessory options at time of purchase.

The drone with it’s crucial accessories starts at €389, but you’ll most likely want to add a controller, with or without a screen which bumps the price up to €479. 

The Mini 3 arrives with the required cables for charging but usefully also included are spare propellers, screws and a gimbal protector. When you unpack it, you realise it really is a mini-drone and with the propelles unfolded ready for flight it measures just 251x362x72mm. They can be folded for storage and it obvious then that packing this, even in hand luggage for the holidays is easy.

With the intelligent flight-battery attached, and an SD memory card fitted, the weight of the drone is just 248g. That’s an important weight, as drone registration in many countries is only required for drones over 250g.

However, in Portugal if a drone has a camera you must register as a drone operator. That’s easily done, and the National Authority of Civil Aviation of Portugal or ANAC, have an excellent website where you can register and find the drone flight rules for recreational flyers.

if you’re visiting Portugal from another EU country, and have registered as a drone operator in your country of residence or main place of business you can fly your drone in Portugal. The unique drone operator registration ID, which you will be issued with, can be used on your drone’s throughout all EASA Member States resident. More information on the EU regulation regarding traveling with drones in the EU is available at the Europa website here.

In the past, some drones required a bit of effort to set-up and launch, but DJI have done a great job of making the Mini 3 easy to set-up and power-up, ready for flight. Firstly, you just need to unfold the propeller arms and ensure the battery is fitted firmly. This new battery on the Mini 3 will give you a flight time of up to thirty-eight minutes, but I do think it’s useful to have a spare for quick changes.

There’s an option to buy a DJI remote controller with a screen and that is probably the best option if you expect to do quite a bit of drone flying. However, if you opt for the better value controller without a screen you can attach your phone to it and the drone’s camera feed will be displayed there.

Before you get airborne though, you will need to download the free DJI Fly app for iOS and Android, and set-up an account. The app handles things like software upgrades and the required drone activation, so it’s a good idea to get to know the app features at this stage.

Once set-up you’re ready to go, and the first flight of a new drone is always fun, but also somewhat trepidatious. I needn’t have worried, as the Mini 3 is a joy to fly. It’s incredibly well balanced and despite it’s small size is equipped with wind-resistance to keep it steady, and on track.

The camera is excellent, and while you can shoot still images, in JPEG and RAW, the video is the reason most people buy a drone. There are various recording modes, including 2.7K and FHD up to 60 FPS however, the 4K footage, at 30 FPS is excellent. The camera mechanism has also been upgraded since by last drone, and you can now film vertically down, which creates wonderful, patterned imagery of the country-side.

On the downside, as a drone for newcomers, it doesn’t have collision avoidance, so you always need to be alert. Also, it still remains a little pricey, if you need to add the controller accessory.

Overall though this is a tremendous first-time drone. The ease of set-up and flight controls are easy and intuitive and the photos and video footage are really pleasing. Even if you don’t plan on being a weekly flyer, for holidays or that trip of a lifetime, this is a great companion to have around.