The DJI Avata is something special. I already knew it when I first flew.
I pressed three power buttons, placed a drone on a table, pulled goggles over my eyes, and grabbed the pistol-shaped wand. A double tap and a long press of a cherry red button lifted the bird into the air. And then, with a pinch of my index finger and a literal flick of the wrist, I was a bird, an airplane, Superman flying into the sky, descending to the earth below, shaving a lawn so close I could almost taste itinto a bend so smooth and flat it felt like a car was being driven professionally through a bend.
I couldn’t wait to go again. And you didn’t have to – there was plenty of battery left.
Today, DJI announces the Avata, the first cinewhoop-style drone. It’s not like a flying camera that DJI has made before. Instead of folding arms like a Mavic or Mini, it comes factory fitted with a full propeller guard, four fixed rotors that push straight down and integrated feet that are barely high enough to keep those propellers out of trouble. Instead of a three-axis gimbal with sensors to avoid collisions so it can fly and film in almost any direction, you’re expected to fly this drone forward like an airplane, giving you a first-person view. from wherever it goes through its 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 a great job of maintaining a constant height while zooming just above the ground.
But if it’s a cinewhoop, it’s not your average cinewhoop either. You get 18 minutes of battery life, several times what you generally see with the kind of aerobatic drone you could fly through a bowling alley. And it’s not exceptionally light or small: it’s about the size of a Mini 2 with arms outstretched, but weighs almost twice as much at 410 grams, meaning you may need to register and tag your drone, and it’ll hit harder at 410 grams. a crash. On the plus side, it has no visible propellers or arms to break like the original DJI FPV.
The biggest difference, however, is that the Avata is not primarily intended to be combined with the traditional joystick-based controller that allows you to fly a drone sideways or backwards or do flips and rolls. DJI won’t sell you a kit with it and couldn’t send us one in time to test. When we tried the one that came with the $1,299 DJI FPV – which DJI advertises can push the Avata into a full manual aerobatic mode that can fly 60 miles per hour (27 meters per second) – we couldn’t get it to reliably to remain linked.
DJI Avata Prices
|DJI Avata Pro-View Combo (DJI Glasses 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|
|DJI Motion Controller (included in combos)||$199|
|DJI FPV Remote Control 2 (not included in a combo)||$199|
|DJI Avata Intelligent Flight Battery (1 extra battery)||$129|
|DJI Avata Battery Charging Hub||$59|
|DJI Avata Propellers (Full Set of Four)||$9|
|DJI Avata top frame||$19|
|DJI Avata Propeller Guard||$29|
|DJI Avata ND Filter Set (ND8/16/32)||$79|
It is also a bit pricey. Today, DJI is putting the Avata on sale in three different configurations: $629 for the drone itself, $1,168 with FPV goggles and the motion controller, and $1,388 with that controller and the new DJI Goggles 2. The latter have a 1080p micro OLED. screen that streams footage from the drone at up to 100 fps, with a latency of just 30 milliseconds through DJI’s wireless transmission system, and they’re the ones I’ve used.
I briefly owned DJI’s original goggles and an original Mavic Pro in 2017, and damn the technology has come a long way. At the time, I had to fly the Mavic really slowly and carefully, as the 1080p30 or 720p60 image wasn’t as clear and responsive, and the bulky PlayStation VR headset kept pressing on my nose. The new Goggles 2 aren’t perfect – I noticed some distortion around 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 feel super comfortable, are relatively clear, are small and lightweight, have an extremely easy-to-adjust diopter to set things up for your eyesight, and even an unfortunately audible built-in fan that kept me from wearing the goggles until now. to fog up.
However, my colleague Vjeran Pavic, who you may know from our drone reviews and lots of great photography and videography, isn’t so sure about the new goggles. Here, I’ll let him talk for a second:
This may sound like a very specific problem to me, but it’s worth pointing out: I’m someone who is nearsighted with my right eye and farsighted with my left eye. In addition, I have a very small, almost negligible astigmatism. I notice that my left eye has trouble adjusting to the screen. I’m having issues with white blooms, not quite sharp in the center and very blurry corners. I’ve even reduced the screen bezels 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 diopter adjustments (+2 to -8), I still struggle to see clearly.
But there are other improvements to the headset. The headband is smaller and feels firmer. DJI FPV Goggles V2 now has two foldable built-in antennas; it is no longer necessary to screw in four separate screws. The cumbersome joystick has now been replaced by a touch panel, which feels very responsive and easy to learn. And there is also a small plastic snap cap for the lenses, which I really appreciate. You don’t want to expose it to the sun for too long.
When I pair those goggles with the included motion controller, I can do things I wouldn’t normally do on my very first drone attempt — like flying into the canopy of a tree to see a bird or under a volleyball net. It helps that you can see a real-time reticle in your goggles that shows where the motion controller is pointing – and that the drone automatically and smoothly brakes when you let go of the trigger.
So forgive me if this particular practical post doesn’t go into detail about camera quality, or wireless range, or survivability, or whether the speed will be limited. (It’s generally 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 does not provide 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 a propeller – I can keep going.
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