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    REVIEW: DJI Avata 2 is the closest you’ll get to actually flying. New Goggles 3 integrates video pass-through and battery pack

    DJI is famous for its high-quality, high-tech drones that offer some of the best camera technology around. Today the company has officially introduced their latest, the DJI Avata 2.

    The Avata 2 is the third FPV drone we’ve seen from DJI and the second iteration of the Avatar series, boasting some serious upgrades over its predecessor, showing DJI’s relentless ambition to improve, regardless of what the competition is or isn’t doing.

    While the Avata is not a cheap drone, it is an easy and approachable drone. Often with FPV hardcore drone people can get familiar with all the intricacies of building and flying in fully manual mode, but the average person wants to fly and have fun and maybe capture some cool shots while they’re doing it. For these reasons, the DJI Avata 2 is a seriously compelling product.

    Just under two years ago, we helped people embrace and explore the almost out-of-body experience of FPV flight.

    DJI Avata 2 builds on this by offering everyone the chance to fly like a pro with easy flips, rolls and drifts. We’re looking forward to giving users one of the best FPV experiences available with next to no effort needed on their part.

    Ferdinand Wolf, Creative Director at DJI.

    Design

    For new buyers, there’s not a real shock factor to the design, it’ll all feels pretty logical, providing all the necessary components to FPV, a drone, headset and controller(s). For those who have history with the previous generations, it’s a great opportunity to appreciate just how far we’ve come from the previous model in a very short period of time.

    The Drone
    The DJI Avata 2 drone chassis is completely different, so this is more revolution than iteration. The drone may still feature 4 props, but virtually everything else is new.

    The original Avata was made up of a protective cage that housed the battery and camera modules, bolted to the propellers. With the Avata 2, all that changes with the chassis now integrated, with a lower piece spanning the bottom of the drone, which now houses not only downward sensors, but combined with the front camera are now two new rear-facing cameras for additional collision avoidance.

    The battery now slides in from the rear of the drone and when removed, it still looks like you have a drone, as compared to a hollow skeleton.

    The USB-C charging and data port, along with the micro-SD card slot is now relocated into a more convenient tab on the side. This addresses a key issue with the last gen Avata that housed the micro-SD card slot inside one of the prop guards, making it very difficult to access. This is a dramatic improvement in usability, allowing rapid access to the storage.

    The Goggles
    DJI added two more cameras to the third generation of their goggles, known as Goggles 3. These front-facing cameras create something called ‘Real View’ which is ultimately video pass-through, available by double-tapping the side of your goggles. This switches you view from what the drone’s camera sees, to what your goggles see.

    Many casual observers may question the usefulness of this, given you can just slide the headset off your head to see the real world, but personally, I used it often and loved it. I leveraged this feature when replacing the battery pack on the drone when catching the drone at the end of a flight when checking something on the controller and event checking my phone. By leveraging pass-through, you avoid having to reposition your headset, particularly important if you spent considerable time dialing it in to be perfectly positioned.

    The headset is amazingly clear, offering your eyes two micro-OLED screens to view a 10-bit enhanced display, at up-to-100Hz refresh rate and ultra-low-latency transmission.

    There is also an option to superimpose the live feed from the aircraft at the same time as looking through the googles to the real-world. This helps provide you with situational awareness without needing to remove the goggles.

    Gone is the touch-pad controller on the side of the headset, instead replaced by a joystick and button on top of the device. This works well and is slightly more reliable on its inputs compared to the touchpad.

    The Controller(s)
    I got two controllers to review as part of the DJI Avata 2. The first is the second generation of the motion controller, as well as the latest DJI FPV Remote Controller 3.

    The motion controller is really familiar and absolutely brilliant for those who want a more casual FPV experience. There are some changes to the location of buttons on this version and once you learn to press these without looking (record is in a particularly challenging location), you can fly like crazy.

    What I love about the motion controller is the point-and-shoot nature of it. In the goggles, you see a circle indicator that you control and move by rotating the controller in your hand. This feels incredibly natural and you simply pull the trigger to make the drone fly to that location.

    With a bit of practice, you can fly through an environment with ease, and I particularly love the ability to exploit the Y axis. Flying up and over trees and buildings is amazingly easy and having the video pumped into your eyeballs, provides an experience that I think is the closest you can get to flying.

    With this generation of the motion controller, they added an end to the trigger that allows you to not only pull the trigger but push it. Pushing the trigger slows the drone like a brake, or even moves it in reverse (at very slow speeds). Again, it’s a subtle, but important, well-thought-out change that makes flying easier and that’s always welcome.

    If you want to do all the fun stuff and really challenge yourself as a pilot, you’ll want to go for the Controller 3. This is a very familiar form factor, almost identical in design to the Controller 2, but now comes with silver thumbsticks, rather than black.

    The biggest change by far is to the top of the controller, gone is the big antenna handle, instead replaced by a comms stack integrated into the controller surface. All of the other features like a lanyard hook, adjustable thumbstick, record/photo button, air brake, mode selection, and vertical camera control are all there and very fun to use.

    Once you get experience, you’ll really want to kick into Manual mode, turn off attitude limits and enjoy the freedom to roll and flip and where that goes wrong, you’ll rely on the chassis and prop guards to save your drone. The camera’s bright orange surrounds may catch the eye, but they are also designed to protect the lens in the event of a crash.

    Features and Performance

    Improved Image Quality

    Featuring a bigger image sensor than its predecessor, the Avata 2’s 1/1.3-inch CMOS Super-Wide-Angle 12MP Camera expands the dynamic range available and handles low-light conditions with greater effect.

    The ultra-wide-angle lens with a viewing angle of up to 155° enables unique perspectives and really tight shots, differentiating them from traditional camera drone footage. The camera captures the world in HDR at up to 4K/60fps, and for those most impressive gaps, you capture in 2.7K quality at 120 frames per second.

    While flying the drone may be fun, often FPV video is finding its way into video productions and for that reason, the 10-bit D-Log M Color mode will be important to many content creators (and/or their editors). The DJI Avata 2 enables rich detail in highlights and shadows to be captured, brought out in post-production and streamlined colour grading.

    Stablisation

    DJI’s Avata 2 keeps does a great job of keeping your video sharp and stable with a powerful stabilisation algorithm. There is however limits to this, even with DJI magic, you simply can’t overcome physics and in high winds, you will feel it in the controller.

    DJI RockSteady does a great job at reducing overall picture shake even while flying at high speeds. DJI HorizonSteady ensures the captured footage remains locked on the horizon even if the drone turns sharply or sways dramatically.

    Furthermore, when the EIS setting is off, Avata 2 supports Gyroflow so that footage can be further stabilised in post-production.

    Safety technology

    Avata 2’s updated integrated propeller guard is lighter, enabling more agile and freer navigation in tight spaces.

    Pilots can fly with peace of mind knowing that with just one press of the RC Motion 3 lock button, the drone comes to halt almost instantly, often avoiding what feels like an inevitable crash. As is the case with almost every DJI drone, there’s an automatic Return to Home (RTH) function which is initiated when the drone’s battery is low or in case of signal loss (unlikely given the improvements to transmission), adding an extra layer of security.

    In the event that you do crash the drone and it lands upside drone, Turtle mode can be engaged in the menu to automatically flip the drone back into takeoff position when upside down.

    I actually had a chance to test turtle mode, after a maneuver went a little wrong, and it worked a treat. The drone was able to flip itself, I restarted the props and was able to take off and fly it back to me. I will note that while the drone survived the incident without issue, the recording was corrupted. This could be avoided by also recording to the headset.

    Longer Flight Time

    The Avata 2 boasts an impressive flight time of up to 23 minutes and the batteries support fast charging so that it can be recharged and backed up in the sky as quickly as possible.

    I got the Fly More bundle which includes a Two-Way Charging Hub and space for up to 3 batteries to charge. This has a feature that allows you to transfer the power remaining in one or two batteries to a third. This may be the difference between having to call it a day or being able to fly again. This is a feature we seen on Tesla’s Mavic range and it’s great to see it filtering down.

    Avata 2 uses a new O4 video transmission offering up to a crazy 13 km of video transmission range, far more than you’re allowed to fly, but it’s impressive that it could. In my experience, the video feed to the Goggles 3 was incredible, really latency, as low as 24 ms, and 1080p quality at 100fps using a max transmission bitrate of 60Mbps. When you’re flying through tight spaces, having the detail in the video to spot things like wired fences is critical and that is possible with the Avata 2 (and quick reflexes).

    The drone uses two-transmitters, four receivers, and a four-antenna design to ensure strong anti-interference performance and lets pilots fully focus on their flights without additional concerns. I certainly found that I could fly much further with the Avata 2 than the original.

    Sharing is Caring

    Sharing the excitement of FPV just got easier. The DJI Goggles 3 live feed from Avata 2 can be viewed on the DJI Fly app and transmitted to another device up to 5m away. Additionally, a cable can be used to share the live feed to a display or to different Goggles 3 headsets via the ‘Audience mode’.

    Capture and Edit Seamlessly

    Avata 2 comes equipped with 46GB internal storage, capable of storing approximately 90 minutes of 1080p/60fps video, ensuring the best parts of each flight can be captured. While 46GB may seem like a strange storage size, having on-board storage is fantastic, especially if you ever left your microSD card at home by mistake, you can still capture footage and lots of it, before needing to transfer it off.

    Most of my flights were transferred to my PC for editing, however many will take advantage of Wi-Fi connectivity which enables fast file transfer to smartphones, post-editing and sharing of finished work, highly efficient.

    LightCut visual effects

    When DJI Avata 2 is connected via Wi-Fi to the LightCut app, Sky VFX can be added to the footage based on the flight trajectory captured in the footage.

    With the added benefit of not needing to download the footage, the app also offers editing and, combined with ‌One-Tap Edit, allows the production of polished content, ready for sharing through your social channels.

    Increased Compatibility

    The new DJI Goggles 3 and RC Motion 3 are also available for Air 3 and Mini 4 Pro. Pilots with Goggles 3 can also use their existing traditional controllers, such as the RC 2 and RC-N2, to control the drone.

    Easy ACRO with the DJI RC Motion 3

    DJI are making it easier than ever to perform tricks with the Avata 2, by combining with the DJI RC Motion 3, new pilots are given the power to flip, drift and roll, performing difficult aerial acrobatics with ease.

    Whether soaring, diving or rolling, epic footage can be captured with a simple push on the RC Motion 3 joystick.

    • One-Push Flip: Add fresh twists to the footage with 360-degree front/back flips.
    • One-Push Roll: Give shots some mind-bending magic with 360 degree left/right roll.
    • One-Push 180 Degree Drift: Achieve dramatic visual effects with high-speed lateral drifts spinning 180° past objects and pulling swiftly away.

    Issues and Opportunities

    The Avata 2 offers serious improvements over the original Avata and is clearly leaps and bounds ahead of the original, much larger FPV, but there are some areas that could be better.

    The Avata 2 lacks the vertical orientation in its camera that we saw in the DJI Mini Pro series. While there’s likely plenty of quality in the footage to crop to 9:16, this would be nice to have native support to allow the correct framing.

    I also was a little surprised to learn that my controller from Avata 1 does not work with Avata 2, despite sharing effectively the same form factor. The only justification for this may be a change to the transmitter.

    The headset is an improvement and when things are configured correctly, your visuals are amazingly clear. It doesn’t take much in the way of movement, or seating to get fogging in the lenses and while I’m not sure there’s a perfect solution (this is an issue with all headsets), I hope DJI keeps trying to create the most comfortable, most reliable headset for FPV.

    Price and Availability

    DJI Avata 2 is available today from store.dji.com and most authorised retail partners in several configurations. The product is offered in a range of different combinations and extra accessories.

    DJI Avata 2 Fly More Combo (Single Battery)
    Includes the DJI Avata 2 drone, Goggles 3, RC Motion 3, and more. This combo lets you quickly get started with Avata 2 and experience the joy of immersive flight.

    DJI Avata 2 Fly More Combo (Three Batteries)
    Compared to the DJI Avata 2 Fly More Combo (Single Battery), this extended combo additionally includes one Two-Way Charging Hub, two batteries, and one sling bag, offering a more comprehensive setup that eases your range anxiety and lets you explore more flight scenarios.

    DJI FPV Remote Controller 3
    In addition to Normal and Sport modes, the DJI FPV Remote Controller 3 offers Manual mode, better suited for advanced pilots to practice and master more sophisticated skills.

    DJI Avata 2 ND Filters Set
    Comes with ND 8/16/32 filters to tackle various lighting conditions, ensuring appropriate brightness and contrast, giving your work high-quality results.

    Australian pricing

    • DJI Avata 2 Fly More Combo (Single Battery) retails for A$1,499 and includes DJI Avata 2, DJI Goggles 3 and the DJI RC Motion 3.
    • DJI Avata 2 Fly More Combo (Three Batteries) retails for A$1,839 and includes DJI Avata 2, DJI Goggles 3 and the DJI RC Motion 3, one Two-Way Charging Hub, two extra batteries, and one sling bag.
    • DJI FPV Remote Controller 3 retails for A$229.
    • DJI Avata 2 ND Filters Set retails for A$99.

    Overall

    The Avata 2 is a serious upgrade, a complete rethink of the chassis design and while it shares the same name, the number of changes and improvements here is really a credit to DJI engineers.

    Most products take a few iterations to get to maturity and if we include the first-gen FPV, this is the third first-person-view drone from DJI. The investments in iterative improvements have really paid off with the Avata 2 offering an amazing flying experience for new and experienced pilots.

    The whole design of the drone, the pass-through in the goggles and the controllers, make this such a compelling option that I think there’ll be quite a few Avata 1 owners that have their eyes on Avata 2.

    First-person view (FPV) drones do have their limitations in different states of Australia, as always, you should check local laws. Personally, I fly where there are no people around, in quiet, regional areas and don’t see an issue with FPV, it’s a fun, exciting, very different drone experience than the typical videography-focused alternatives like the Mavic lineup.

    My final thought is this, the carry bag that comes with the bundle is amazing, allowing you to pack all the necessary components of the Avata 2 in one concise package that can easily be thrown in the car and taken with you on your next road trip, in case you spot something with some vertical height you want to explore (and capture).

    If you want to try before you buy, then try downloading the DJI Store app, anyone can try out the Avata 2 virtually in the Virtual Flight section.

    For more information on all the new features, accessories, and capabilities, please visit https://www.dji.com/avata-2.

    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwrighthttps://techau.com.au/author/jason/
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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