DJI’s latest drone is here and I’ve had the opportunity to spend a few days with it, so strap in for some first impressions of the DJI AVATA.
When DJI introduced their first FPV drone (review here), it was an interesting take on a growing segment of the drone industry. A product made by an OEM, showing what is possible when you have the technology, budget and some amazing engineers at your disposal. One criticism I heard was the size and cost of the FPV were on a different level than the typical hobbyist and even professional FPV drones.
Enter DJI’s second drone, known as Avata. I had to look up what Avata meant I believe means ‘to open’ which I can only imagine DJI used, as this drone is likely to open doors, and then fly right inside.
The Avata is such a very different take on an FPV drone than their original FPV. To begin, it’s smaller, lighter and features built-in prop guards for the first time. These guards give you confidence as a pilot to fly your drone in places you otherwise wouldn’t. These help protect your props, but also the environment around you.
After flying around my house and crashing a couple of times, the drone shows no signs of damage and thankfully neither do my walls, so I can certainly attest that the guards work.
There’s an awful lot of real estate videography happening with drones right now and to enable indoor drone work, you typically need an excellent pilot, as FPV drones typically lack the intelligence to avoid crashing into objects.
DJI doesn’t make dumb drones, so as you’d probably expect, the Avata does offer some collision avoidance, featuring downward vision sensors and a ToF infrared sensing system for obstacle avoidance and positioning. Remember, if it all goes wrong, just remember, you have prop guards and a pause button.
What’s great about the Avata is that it’s built incredibly well, the chassis is constructed with a really rugged body, built like a skeleton to protect the vital organs inside (being the battery and camera module). The exterior features almost no flex, and is finished in a matt grey, almost military-like colour, providing further confidence this thing is ready for business.
With a lightweight body, the drone offers up to 18 minutes of flight time, although this varies depending on wind etc and you should commonly expect a little over 10. If you opt for the fly-more combo, you’ll get an additional 2 batteries, but here’s the strange bit, the Avata Battery Charging Hub actually has 4 charging slots, up from the 3 found with their other products. This could be designed to help charge 2 batteries each if you and a friend both get Avata’s, or an extra long shoot of 4x 18 minutes of flight time.
One of the craziest features is Turtle mode. This is helpful if you manage to crash the drone, it has the ability to flip itself over if it is grounded upside-down. I think this is another trick they borrowed from the enthusiast market, as I’ve seen a few hobbyists do this with their DIY drones.
When you are flying, you’ll have 2 options to record from the drone. You could record using an on-board microSD card (just make sure its a super fast one), or by using the goggles where you’ll also capture flight telemetry like your speed measured in m/s.
To that point, the fastest speed possible with this is an impressive 27 m/s if you squeeze the trigger all the way, let it out and the drone hits the brakes, it’s really quite a thrill if you have the space to fly at top-speed, even better if you can learn to corner at those speeds.
When you do hit record, you’ll be able to capture 4K/60fps video from the 155° ultra-wide-angle lens. It is also possible to drop the resolution and increase the frame rate with recording options at 2.7K/100fps and 1080p/100fps.
The camera offers just 1 direction of rotation and no, doesn’t rotate 90 degrees for TikTok videos like the Mini 3 Pro, but does offer really stable, really smooth video.
All of this is captured using a 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor at an f/2.8 aperture. This allows the drone to capture decent video in relatively low-light conditions, but don’t expect miracles, you may see some graining.
When it comes to flight modes, the DJI Avata offers three to choose from, suitable for different scenarios and user experience levels:
- N mode: same flight mode used on other DJI drones. Suitable for users with little or no experience flying drones.
- S mode: simplifies FPV flying for a thrilling and intuitive experience. It’s a hybrid setting that mixes normal and manual mode. Suitable for users with some experience flying drones.
- M mode (only with the DJI FPV Remote Controller 2): the full FPV flight control mode. Fun and challenging mode that is suitable only for users with experience flying FPV who know what they are doing. Suitable for flying in open areas.
- Advanced Safety Features: Emergency Brake and Hover, Return to Home, Takeoff & Landing Assistance.
We really need to talk about the new DJI Googles 2. After having spent a considerable amount of time in the FPV Goggles, I was really impressed by the visual quality of the per-eye displays and low-latency of video transmission from the drone to the goggles. There was of course one thing that wasn’t great and that was the size.
Thankfully DJI engineers have put it the overtime, refined what was already a great vision system and come up with Googles 2. These still cover your eyes, but feel about half the size of the FPV version.
Googles 2 offer a really high-quality digital video stream from the drone’s camera, which is a strong contrast to the traditional FPV experience that used analog transmission (resulting in poor quality) as it prioritised low-latency above image quality and everything else.
Flying an FPV really feels like the closest thing we’ll get to being a bird and being able to fly. There’s something very magical about it and only with a video transmission system like DJI O3+ can the visuals stay sharp, while the latency stays low. Often when you’re flying FPV, you need to be precise and make split-second inputs to avoid disaster.
The DJI Avata offers 1080p quality video at 100fps and ultra-low latency. DJI says the actual transmission range is as much as 10km with a max bitrate of 50Mbps and if you use the Goggles 2, you’re talking about a sub-30ms latency.. wild. I never once felt delayed in the responsiveness of input to reaction from the drone, really nice job DJI.
If you buy the DJI Avata Pro-View Combo, you’ll not only get the drone and the goggles, but also the Motion Controller.
Given the drone is attempting to provide an easier on-ramp to new drone pilots, this makes flying the drone, incredibly easy. Most people will get this in seconds and while I think I love the control of the DJI RC, I used the motion controller and really started enjoying the point and shoot simplicity, particularly when navigating around objects indoors.
To start flying, you first charge everything up, insert your microSD cards, then attach the battery and power on all 3 devices. The drone is quite straight forward (but does use new Avata batteries), the motion controller is also straight forward, but the Goggles need to be attached to the external battery, via a stretchy USB-C cable.
DJI has done a couple of smart things here. Firstly the springy cord ends in a USB connector with a clip that latches on to the battery. This means if you get too excited while flying, the battery is really securely attached to the cable coming from your Googles and in most circumstances won’t go crashing to the ground.
With the battery attached to the Goggles, you power on the battery, strap the goggles to your head and the displays come on, showing you a live feed from the drone’s camera. To control the recording, options etc, you simple use swipe gestures and taps on the touchpad to the right side of the goggles. After a few minutes, it’s fairly intuitive and once you’re set-up, you’ll mostly just be starting/stopping recording, which means most of your energy can be spent plotting interesting routes through indoor and outdoor scenes.
For those wondering about the sizing of Goggles 2, you can adjust the velcro head strap at the rear to tighten them to almost any sized head. What you also need to do for each pilot that straps in, is adjust the 2 sliding knobs at the bottom of the goggles, sliding them left and right to accommodate for the differences in distance between our eyes. You will then rotate these to adjust the focus of each side until you can read the text. Some with glasses may struggle, thankfully that’s not me, at least not yet.
The second FPV drone from DJI is honestly so much fun. It’s a seriously great entry to the growing list of drone options and shows DJI really are listening to feedback from their customers. I think the features and capabilities of this drone, really make it a great option for those looking for fun, or for capturing indoor videography.
If you’ve seen the growing trend of businesses hiring drone operators to fly through their facilities, then this drone could be the perfect option to do that for your business, just make sure you clean up first and tidy up any loose paperwork as the downdraft can be significant.
If I had one mild complaint, it is the awkward positioning of the micro-SD card slot and USB-C port on the drone. It is located on the body, on the inner ring of one of the props, making it very fiddly to get to. When the battery is made so accessible to slide in and out, it would have made way more sense to house it in a far more convenient location.
I’ll definitely be spending a lot more time with the Avata and report back after more experiences with it, but for now, enjoy this video of my first indoor flight with the drone Avata.