DJI Avata is something special. I knew it the first time I flew.
I pressed the three power buttons, placed the drone on the table, put the goggles on my eyes, and grabbed the gun-shaped wand. A double tap and long press of the cherry red button launched the bird into the air. And then with a squeeze of my index finger and a literal flick of my wrist I was a bird, an airplane, Superman took off into the sky, swooped down to the earth below, flying across a field of grass so close I could almost feel itcornering so smooth and straight that it felt like a car being professionally drifted through the corner.
I couldn’t wait to go again. And I didn’t even have to – there was plenty of battery left.
Today, DJI announces Avata, its first cinewhoop-style drone. It’s not a flying camera that DJI has made before. Instead of folding arms like the Mavic or Mini, it comes factory-fitted with a full propeller shroud, four solid rotors that push straight down, and integrated feet that are just barely high enough to keep those propellers out of trouble. Instead of a three-axis gimbal and collision-avoidance sensors that allow it to fly and shoot in almost any direction, you’re expected to fly this drone forward like an airplane and have a first-person view of where it passes through the 1/1.7-inch, 4K/ 60fps or up to 2.7K/120fps camera. The only sensors you get are a pair of downward-facing cameras and infrared sensors, which do an amazing job of maintaining a constant height while zooming in close to the ground.
But if it’s cinewhoop, it’s not your average cinewhoop either. You get 18 minutes of battery life, which is several times what you’d typically see on an aerobatic bowling drone. And it’s not exceptionally light or small: it’s roughly the size of a Mini 2 with arms outstretched, but weighs almost twice as much at 410 grams, which means you may need to register and tag your drone and it’ll be tougher in a crash. . On the plus side, it has no exposed propellers or arms to break like the original DJI FPV.
However, the biggest difference is that Avata is No It’s primarily designed to pair with a traditional joystick-based controller, allowing you to fly the drone sideways or backwards, or do flips and flips. DJI won’t sell you a kit with one and couldn’t send it to us in time for testing. When we tried the one that came with the $1,299 DJI FPV — which DJI advertises as being able to put the Avatar into fully manual aerobatic mode capable of flying at 60 miles per hour (27 meters per second) — we couldn’t get it. to stay reliably paired.
DJI Unlock prices
|DJI Open||629 dollars|
|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 extra batteries, 3-battery charging hub)||279 dollars|
|DJI Motion Controller (part of the combo)||199 dollars|
|DJI FPV Remote Controller 2 (not included in any combo)||199 dollars|
|DJI Avata Intelligent Flight Battery (1 extra battery)||129 dollars|
|DJI Avata Battery Charging Hub||59 dollars|
|DJI Avata Propellers (Full Set of Four)||$9|
|DJI Open the top frame||19 dollars|
|DJI Avata Propeller Guard||29 dollars|
|DJI Avata ND Filter Set (ND8/16/32)||79 dollars|
It is also a bit expensive. Today, DJI is putting the Avata on sale in three different configurations: $629 for the drone alone, $1,168 with a pair of FPV goggles and a motion controller, and $1,388 with that controller and the new DJI Goggles 2. The latter include a micro 1080p OLED screen that streams drone footage at up to 100 frames per second, with just 30 milliseconds latency via DJI’s wireless transmission system, and these are the ones I used.
I briefly owned the original DJI Goggles and the original Mavic Pro in 2017 and damn that technology has come a long way. Back then, I really needed to fly the Mavic slowly and carefully, because the 1080p30 or 720p60 image wasn’t as clear and responsive, and the bulky PlayStation VR-sized headset kept pushing my nose. The new Goggles 2 aren’t perfect – I saw some distortion at the edges, and the 51-degree field of view still means you’re looking at a virtual TV screen rather than being fully immersed in something akin to VR. But they’re super comfortable, relatively sharp, small and light, have extremely easy-to-adjust diopters to adjust your vision, and even an unfortunately audible built-in fan that has kept my glasses from fogging up so far.
However, my colleague Vjeran Pavic, who you may know from our drone reviews and lots of great photos and videos, is not so sure about the new glasses. I’ll let him talk for a moment here:
This may sound like a very specific problem, but it’s worth pointing out: I’m someone who is nearsighted in my right eye and farsighted in my left eye. In addition, I have a very small, almost negligible astigmatism. I noticed that my left eye was struggling to adjust to the screen. I have problems with blooming white, not quite in focus center and very blurry corners. I even reduced the edges of the display to 70 percent (for context, I had the DJI Goggles 2 set to 90 percent), but despite the new micro OLED panel, interpupillary distance (56-72 mm) and dioptric adjustments (+2 to -8), Still I try to see it clearly.
But the headset also has other improvements. The head strap is smaller and feels tighter. DJI FPV Goggles V2 now have two foldable built-in antennas; no longer need to screw four separate ones. The clumsy joystick is now replaced by a touchpad that is very responsive and easy to learn. And there’s also a little plastic snap-on lens cap, which I really appreciate. You don’t want to leave them in the sun for too long.
When I combine these goggles with the included motion controller, it allows me to do things I would never normally do on my first try with a drone – like fly into a treetop to see a bird or under a volleyball net. It helps that you can see a real-time crosshair inside your goggles that shows where the motion controller is pointing—and that the drone automatically and smoothly brakes when you release the trigger.
So forgive me if this particular hands-on post doesn’t go into detail about camera quality, wireless range or survivability, or whether its speed will be limiting. (Generally, it’s 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 supply a C-to-A cable or a single charger in the box, the FPV goggles use a proprietary cable, the drone buries its port under the propeller — I could go on.
Bottom Line: The DJI Avata made me feel like I was flying, and we can save the rest for a future review.
Photo: Sean Hollister/The Verge
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