The DJI Avata is something special. I knew it the first time I flew.
I pressed three power buttons, placed a drone on a table, pulled the goggles over my eyes, and grabbed the gun-shaped wand. A double tap and long press of a cherry red button sent the bird flying into the air. And then, with a squeeze of my index finger and a literal flick of the wrist, it was a bird, a plane, Superman taking off into the sky, plummeting down to the Earth below, skimming a field of grass so close you could almost taste itbanking into a turn so smooth and level it felt like a car professionally swerving around a curve.
Couldn’t wait to go again. And I didn’t have to, there was plenty of battery left.
Today, DJI announces Avata, its first cinewhoop-style drone. It’s not like any flying camera DJI has ever made before. Instead of folding arms like a Mavic or Mini, it comes factory-equipped with a full propeller guard, four fixed rotors that push straight down, and integrated feet just barely high enough to keep those propellers out of trouble. Instead of a three-axis gimbal and collision-avoidance sensors that let you fly and film in almost any direction, the expectation is that you’ll fly this drone forward like an airplane, and you’ll have a first-person view of where it passes by your camera. 1/1.7-inch, 4K/60fps or up to 2.7K/120fps. The only sensors you get are a pair of downward-facing cameras and infrared sensors, which do an amazing job of maintaining a constant altitude as you zoom in above the ground.
But if it’s a cinewhoop, it’s also not your average cinewhoop. You get 18 minutes of battery life, several times what you usually see in the kind of stunt drone you might fly around a bowling alley. And it’s not exceptionally light or small: It’s about the size of a Mini 2 with arms outstretched, but it weighs almost twice as much at 410 grams, which means you may need to register and tag your drone, and it’ll hit harder in a accident. . On the plus side, it doesn’t have any exposed propellers or arms that can break like the original DJI FPV.
However, the biggest difference is that the Avata is No Mainly intended to be combined with the traditional joystick-based controller that allows you to fly a drone sideways or backwards or do somersaults and spins. DJI will not sell you a kit with one and was unable to send one to us in time to test it. When we tested the one that came with the $1,299 DJI FPV, which DJI advertises as being able to take the Avata into a full manual aerobatic mode capable of flying at 60 miles per hour (27 meters per second), we couldn’t quite get it. to remain paired reliably.
DJI Unlock Price
|DJI Avata Pro-View Combo (DJI Goggles 2, Motion Controller)||$1,388|
|DJI Avata Fly Smart Combo (DJI FPV Goggles V2, Motion Controller)||$1,168|
|DJI Avata Fly More Kit (2 additional batteries, 3-battery charging hub)||$279|
|DJI motion controller (included in combos)||$199|
|DJI FPV Remote Controller 2 (not included in any combo)||$199|
|DJI Avata Intelligent Flight Battery (1 additional battery)||$129|
|DJI Avata Battery Charging Hub||$59|
|DJI Avata Propellers (Complete Set of Four)||$9|
|DJI opens the top frame||$19|
|DJI Avata Propeller Guard||$29|
|DJI Avata ND Filter Set (ND8/16/32)||$79|
it’s also a bit expensive. Today, DJI is listing the Avata in three different configurations: $629 for the drone, $1,168 with a pair of FPV Goggles and the motion controller, and $1,388 with that controller and the new DJI Goggles 2. The latter feature a micro of 1080p. OLED screen that transmits images of the drone at a rate of up to 100 fps, with a latency of only 30 milliseconds over DJI’s wireless transmission system, and they are the ones I used.
I briefly owned the original DJI goggles and an original Mavic Pro in 2017, and the technology has come a long way. Back then, I really needed to fly the Mavic slowly and carefully, because the 1080p30 or 720p60 picture wasn’t as clear and responsive, and the bulky PlayStation VR-sized headset kept pressing down on my nose. The new Goggles 2 aren’t perfect: I did see some edge distortion, and the 51-degree field of view still means you’re looking at a virtual TV screen rather than fully immersed in something akin to VR. But they feel super comfortable, relatively sharp, are small and light, have extremely easy-to-adjust diopters to dial things in for your view, and even an unfortunately audible built-in fan that has kept me from fogging up my glasses so far.
However, my colleague Vjeran Pavic, who you may know from our drone reviews and loads of great photos and videos, isn’t so sure about the new goggles. Here, I’ll let him talk a bit:
This may sound like a very specific problem to me, but it’s worth noting: I’m nearsighted in my right eye and farsighted in my left. On top of that, I have very slight astigmatism, almost negligible. I notice that my left eye is struggling to adjust to the screen. I’m having issues with blooming whites, not very sharp center, and very blurry corners. I even reduced the edges of the screen to 70 percent (for context, I had my DJI Goggles 2 set to 90 percent), but despite the new micro OLED panel, the interpupillary distance (56–72mm), and the settings for diopters (+2 to -8), I’m still struggling to see it clearly.
But there are other improvements to the headphones. The head strap is smaller and feels sturdier. DJI FPV Goggles V2 now has two foldable built-in antennas; no need to screw four separately anymore. The awkward joystick is now replaced with a touchpad, which feels very responsive and easy to pick up. And there’s also a little snap-on plastic cover for the lenses, which I really appreciate. You don’t want to leave them out in the sun for too long.
When I combine those goggles with the included motion controller, it allows me to do things I would normally never do on my first try with a drone, like fly to the top of a tree to see a bird or under a volleyball net. It helps that you can see a real-time reticle inside your goggles that shows where the motion controller is pointing, and that the drone automatically brakes smoothly when you release the trigger.
So, excuse me if this particular how-to post doesn’t go into detail about camera quality, wireless range, survivability, or if your speed will be limiting. (Usually half the speed of the larger DJI FPV.)
Or… the fact that DJI has some of the most annoying USB-C ports I’ve ever used. The controllers refuse to charge via a C-to-C cable, DJI doesn’t ship a C-to-A cable or single charger in the box, the FPV goggles use a proprietary cable, the drone buries its port under a propeller – I can go on.
Bottom line: The DJI Avata made me feel like I was flying, and we can save the rest for a future review.
Photography by Sean Hollister/The Verge