Just a few months after DJI officially announced its Mini 3 Pro foldable drone with improved obstacle avoidance, the company has followed up with another release for 2022: a radical redesign of the DJI FPV called the Avata, which is the company’s first drone with a propeller. complete. guards and is his second drone that focuses in a first person view. These features make it more suitable for flights where unplanned impacts are a real risk, which was ideal for a beginning pilot like me when I tried it out at the local park for this preview.
The original DJI FPV was a great starting point for the company, which has generally targeted its drones at content creators, selling them on its ability to capture compelling aerial footage that looks smooth and stable without requiring the skills of an RC with a line of sight. experienced vision. pilot. Instead, FPV catered to a growing market of drone pilots who are primarily interested in the thrill of flight and who instead climb virtually into the cockpits of custom-built quadcopters wearing live-streaming video goggles. from their drones. The DJI FPV was built for speed and performance, trading in the foldable design and fully stabilized camera of most DJI offerings for a design that wasn’t as portable.
With Avata, it seems that DJI is trying to bring back some of that portability, to make it easy to take the drone to unique shooting locations. At the same time, DJI is making its foray into first-person view drones even more appealing to novice pilots who want to get into the first-person view, goggle-style flight life without needing to build their own drone. own drone.
Like the DJI FPV, the DJI Avata places the drone body, including the single-axis gimbal camera (it can only look up and down) and the battery, on top of the propellers and motors. Most DJI drones invert that design so you can get better ground shots, but that’s not the focus here.
The most obvious upgrade to the DJI Avata is a fuselage with non-removable aerodynamic propeller guards that add strength to the fuselage and protect it, as well as the delicate propeller blades, from minor collisions. The DJI Avata can even automatically right itself if it lands upside down without any physical intervention.
The Avata is somewhere in the middle of the scale when it comes to weight, at least for small drones. It’s heavier than the Mini 3 Pro, which DJI specifically designed to weigh less than 250 grams, so when used for non-commercial recreational purposes, it wouldn’t have to be FAA registered. But while the DJI FPV weighed in at 795 grams, DJI managed to cut that almost in half with the 410-gram Avata. Depending on where you live, the drone may need to be officially registered with your local government, and in my case, a beginner drone license is also required to fly.
Custom FPV drones with built-in cameras (often called cinewhoops) typically boast flight times of a few minutes to 10 minutes depending on their size, but DJI promises flight times of up to 18 minutes with Avata. Will you really be flying for 18 minutes on a fully charged battery? No. Conditions such as the wind, the speed of your flight, and even how often you climb and dive will affect battery life. DJI also promises a 10-kilometre line-of-sight flight range with the Avata, so you also need to factor in the flight time needed for the drone to return to you. But during the handful of test flights I’ve done so far, where I was definitely taking it easy as a novice pilot, I was able to stay awake for well over 10 minutes, and potentially even longer if I wasn’t so wary of running out of power. . Of battery
Although the DJI Avata is potentially a more forgiving drone to fly thanks to its propeller guards, it doesn’t have the pair of obstacle avoidance sensors on its front like the DJI FPV: a victim of its extreme downsizing. But on the underside, it has an infrared imaging system and a pair of downward-facing cameras to help it precisely maintain its current position when its Emergency Brake and Hover mode are activated. These features can also improve indoor flights, where satellite navigation is not an option. The downward-facing cameras also aid Avata’s auto-landing functionality, ensuring the drone descends to a safe location and will alert the pilot when an alternate landing location is recommended. During my tests, it was never willing to land on grass, and the system will also detect when it’s flying over water and do its best to avoid a landing there.
Probably not the drone of choice if content creation is your priority, but the DJI Avata features a 1/1.7-inch 48MP CMOS sensor (larger than DJI FPV) capable of shooting 4K video at 60fps, or 2.7K Video at 120fps, through a lens with an f/2.8 aperture and a slightly expanded 155-degree ultra-wide field of view. The onboard storage has enough capacity for about 20 minutes of video at full 4K resolution, but it can be expanded with a microSD card.
Users can also activate two different modes of electronic image stabilization for smoother footage: RockSteady, which tries to eliminate all camera shake, and HorizonSteady, which tries to keep the image perfectly level. But with just a single axis gimbal, you will see the drone being pushed by strong winds during a flight.
Users have access to two different flight modes when using the DJI Avata with the optionally included DJI Motion Controller introduced alongside the original DJI FPV: Normal mode, where the speed of the drone is reduced and all safety features are active, and sport mode, where speed is increased and some of the safety features are disabled. When used with DJI FPV Remote Controller 2, a manual mode is also available, where users have full control over DJI Avata, including advanced maneuverability and speeds in excess of 145 km/h.
Also debuting today alongside Avata is the follow-up to the DJI FPV Goggles v2: a much smaller, lighter, and sleeker alternative now simply called DJI Goggles 2. They come with a simplified strap that simply goes around the back of your head. . Despite the smaller size, the DJI Goggles 2 now feature a micro-OLED screen with adjustable diopters, so, in theory at least, it may allow some people who wear glasses to use the Goggles 2 without them. The new headset now also streams video digitally from the DJI Avata at full 1080P resolution at 100fps with a latency of just 30 milliseconds, while its predecessor streamed at 1440×810 at 120fps.
While buttons are often the preferred option for accessing controls you can’t see and need to rely on muscle memory for, the DJI Goggles 2 doesn’t have any of them. Instead, on the right side of the earcups, you’ll find a small finger-operated touchpad. Using intuitive swipe gestures, you can access several different menus that slide on the screen and quickly exit any menu or settings window with a quick two-finger tap. It actually works quite well and becomes very intuitive to use over time, but since it’s only located on one side of the headset, right-handed pilots using the DJI Motion Controller will have to pause their flight to make quick adjustments.
Like the DJI FPV Goggles v2, the DJI Goggles 2 is based on an external battery that can be stored in a pocket while being physically connected to the headset with a cable. It helps keep the DJI Goggles 2 lighter and more comfortable to wear, but having the ability to mount this to the back of the head strap, as some headlamps allow, would certainly be welcome.
DJI Avata is available starting today from the DJI online store and most authorized dealers. For those who already have compatible controllers and video glasses, the drone itself costs $629 ($873), but there are also bundles available for those just starting out. The most expensive option is the $1,388 ($1,927) DJI Avata Pro-View Combo, which includes the drone, DJI Motion Controller, and the new DJI Goggles 2 (which don’t appear to be available on their own yet). ). For those looking to save a couple hundred bucks, the $1,168 ($1,621) DJI Avata Fly Smart Combo combines the DJI drone and motion controller with the older DJI FPV Goggles V2. Also recommended is the DJI Avata Fly More Kit, which adds two additional DJI Avata Intelligent Flight Batteries (costing $129 ($179) each) and a slim charging hub that holds four batteries for $279 ($387). . That adds quite a bit to the bottom line, but ensures your flying adventures aren’t limited to more than 10 minutes at a time.