For the last year, I have been slowly working my way into FPV or First-Person-View drone piloting. Saving and buying a thing here or there.
I started with the goggles, and after thinking long and hard about it, I went with DJI. That meant that when the time came, I would need a DJI Air-Sense unit for the quad.
Next came the controller. Here again, I went with DJI FPV 1 controller. It’s the black one more like a phantom controller, as I like that style. Now I was ready for the quad or drone.
Most of the FPV pilots I know like freestyle and 5inch. So, that’s what I was eyeing. One of those Rotor Riot Skyliners by Ladrib. After all, if you’re going in, go all the way!
Then the rumor mill started producing rumors of DJI releasing a new FPV quad. A Cine-whoop this time. Well, I was intrigued, I must say.
Many of my fellow pilots took that dive into FPV some time ago and I have to admit watching them achieve these new skills and some of the amazing flight maneuvers they are able to perform, I’ve been a bit envious.
I know there’s the DJI FPV. Not for me, but a DJI Cine-whoop? Well, OK!
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When it comes to FPV, there is a lot of ground to cover, and it can be quite confusing. What are the best goggles, what is the difference between freestyle quads and Cine whoops? Which do I want to fly? What about the batteries these systems take, and how to charge them?
As a GPS pilot, I’m a bit spoiled, I suppose, where a lot of these questions don’t even need to be asked. Now, as someone who does quite a bit of realty projects, I saw the huge potential in FPV in the types of projects I do.
The one-shot fly-throughs are a game changer.
Gaining the skills necessary for such an endeavor takes time and dedication. Like the old joke goes, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice! Practice! Practice!”
It’s much the same for FPV piloting. You will need to practice, practice, practice in order to get good at it. I would never take a flight that I didn’t feel I could perform a hundred percent and conduct safely. So will there be one-shots in my future? Well sure. It’ll just be a while.
The DJI Avata is a recently-released cine-whoop drone. DJI seems to have thought most of it out pretty well. Not to say it’s perfect, but pretty well thought out for sure.
After having spent some time with it, I like it! I like it a lot. Enough so that I’m waiting with much anticipation for the one, I ordered (it won’t ship for another 3 weeks, so I’m waiting).
Right out of the box, I was able to get it in the air and fly it. Something I can’t say I was able to do with a 5″ freestyle quad. Don’t blame the quad, it was the pilot all the way. Really, it was crash after crash after crash, which takes some of the fun out of it for sure.
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That’s the thing, as a GPS pilot even with years of experience, FPV flying is so different from what I am used to, that I will freely admit not being too good at it.
That changed with DJI’s newest drone system, the Avata. In manual mode though, I didn’t fare as well, as it was more like Russ’s experience over at 51 Drones.
We both had mostly the same experience when attempting to fly in manual mode. I’ll get there. Just remember. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Let’s take a look at how the DJI Avata is being offered. The Avata is being offered in a few ways.
There is the DJI Avata Pro-view Combo. This combo comes with the Avata, the new Goggles 2, Motion Controller, a single Battery for both, and additional standard accessories like cables and a gimbal guard.
There is yet another package called the DJI Avata Fly Smart Combo that has all of the above and is nearly identical, minus the new Goggles 2. They have been replaced with the older V2 Googles instead.
Then there is a third option, and that is for just the DJI Avata itself. It has the Avata drone, a single battery, and a power adapter and is retailing for $629.
In case you may be wondering, I went with the third option, as I already have the V2 goggles and simply ordered the FPV 2 controller with the Avata.
We’ll get to all of that in just a few. There are some things to talk about for sure.
As we can see, this system will take a bit of an investment on the buyer’s part. It may not seem like it, but the pricing by DJI for these packages isn’t really off by too much if you are just getting into this style of drone flight.
On average, a decent set of goggles will run you right around $400 to $600, depending on which brand you choose. A pair of Fat Shark Dominator HD goggles will run around $450.
A decent quality controller runs on average anywhere from $100 to $400, once again dependent on which you go with. For example, the Radiomaster TX16S is currently running around $289.99.
Then there is the quad you select. Here we’re talking about the Avata, but if you were to go with an iFlight Bumble Bee retailing for $379.99 or say an iFlight Green Hornet that retails for $259.99, once you add up everything, DJI’s offering is right in the thick of it number wise.
By going with the DJI Avata though we do lose some of the versatility that true FPV quads have to offer, such as ease of repair and most importantly the ability to DIY it.
So, I can see where seasoned FPV pilots may not be all that interested in the Avata. We can be honest here, though and that’s not who DJI was aiming for.
No, they were targeting people just like me. Someone who hasn’t taken that plunge down the side of a skyscraper yet and was still on the fence about doing so, and they got me with this one.
There were a lot of questions about the durability of the DJI Avata. With almost every other FPV quad being made from carbon fiber frames, it is a valid question to ask.
Did I crash my friend’s Avata? Well sure I did. Mostly not intending to – mostly.
It held up surprisingly well I must say, with it never getting to the point where it needed any actual repair, although I did have to order him some new props.
As far as any breakage goes, nope, nothing. Even though it’s constructed of plastic, it’s some tough plastic, I can say.
Now I can see where there are some weak points in the design, and I am not saying it’s indestructible by any right.
Although I wanted to fly it straight into a wall at full speed, it was not mine to do so with, and if you saw some of the looks I was getting, you wouldn’t have either.
The new Goggles 2
Here I may meet with some disagreement, but in my opinion, the new version of goggles provided a hands-down great view. They did!
The reception on them is just phenomenal. They didn’t fit very well, and I did have some light leakage, which sort of tainted the wonderful experience they do provide.
I also found the touch screen to be somewhat difficult to use. Maneuvering from one menu to the next was a process, and having come from the V2 Goggles, I simply prefer the buttons over the touch screen. That’s me, but it is something I have heard from other fellow pilots.
The new form factor of the Goggles 2, the small size, and the lightness of the goggles themselves were quite surprising. Not even sure how they shoved everything in there.
Which leads us to the things that are missing. I liked having a dedicated HMDI, and I would need to purchase new cables to use the USB-C port as an HMDI. That cable could have been included at least.
This is one where you just have to say, why DJI, why? This, and the lack of any sort of anti-fog. The new Goggles 2 were fogging up on me nearly constantly. So, it ruined the flying experience some, having to deal with that issue. An issue I’ve never had with my V2, by the way.
Another thing, just to get it out of the way – DJI, what is with the naming of these products lately? You seriously couldn’t have just called these the V3 goggles, or something? Or are you just trying to be confusing. I mean, really!
The Motion Controller
Here I was somewhat surprised. The motion controller was fun to play with. It really was. Is it something you’re going to want to actually fly with? No, absolutely not.
It’s much the same as when DJI first introduced it, a gimmick. It seems to have been somewhat improved from the original with a better reactivity but still suffers some lag, and if you want to have a good solid connection and control of the drone, the FPV 2 controller will be required.
In a roundabout way, this is another one of those “Why, DJI, why?” moments!
None of the packages being offered for the Avata has the controller. Even though the folks over at DJI knew good and well one would be required. Now, I’m saving the rant for the end but COME ON!
Also, if you knew you were only going to make it compatible with the one controller, shouldn’t you have had those in stock? Anyway, we’ll get to that.
Back to the motion controller. Although it does pain me to say so, it is a great way of introducing new people to the hobby, as just about anyone with a two-minute rundown can fly the Avata with the motion controller.
So, from that viewpoint, pure genius DJI. Kudos. The question remains, though, why not a real controller?
Overview: Experience immersive flight like never before with the DJI Motion Controller, which allows the aircraft to maneuver based on your natural hand motions.
What You Get: DJI Motion Controller × 1, Lanyard × 1
The flight time, of course, is not the 18 minutes that DJI states. This is to be expected, though, and it was no surprise when we weren’t able to get an 18-minute flight in. It was more like 12 to 13 minutes, actually, and what a 12 to 13 minutes it was!
For me, I got lucky, and we also had the Fly More Combo.
Of course, like all DJI products, they offer a Fly More Combo for the Avata. It includes two additional batteries and an upgraded charger.
Here, I even recommend it, with each battery retailing for $129. The extra cost to get the upgraded charger is well worth the Fly More Combo, which DJI offers for $279. That three-battery charger comes in handy.
Overall, the flight times were right along what I would have expected. As a friend of mine says, “Give it the beans.” There were times on those flights when I did just that.
The battery for the goggles held up well also. It was hot on the days we were flying the Avata, and that always has some effect on your batteries. I can say that a single goggle pack outlasted all of the Avata batteries I had.
The Avata Camera
The footage that came out of the Avata was awe-inspiring, and it’s here that the Avata may even tempt the seasoned FPV pilot into wanting one or at least the 03 Air Sense system when it comes out.
The 03 system’s footage is sharp and crisp, and the wider 155-degree field of view is just stunning. DJI seems to have stolen some things from the action camera world on this one as well, and they nailed it.
I was very impressed by the RockSteady 2.0. It did a fantastic job and seemed very intuitive with the movement of the Avata during flight. I did see a tiny bit of jumpiness when focusing on an object in near proximity while attempting to hover in the footage at post, but that was probably the pilot.
New systems take a little getting used to. Even the transmission signal to the goggles 2 was Sharp and crisp, and it was easy to see even tricky little branches that I probably would have missed altogether in my V2 goggles.
I fully believe that the frame rate and bitrate certainly do provide only a 30ms latency, as I really didn’t notice much latency at all.
Alright! Here it is.
I liked it enough to buy one. I purchased the Avata alone with Care Refresh for one year and the Fly More Combo.
After flying the Avata with the motion controller, it’s gimmicky, and I found no need to have one.
Care Refresh is just always good to have. With the Avata you can get one year for $79. One serious crash, like full speed into a wall, and you’ll probably need it. I wasn’t permitted to do that, and I understand that completely.
The Fly More Combo – well, one reason for it is the upgraded charger, plus I just know I will want more than a single battery at a location. So, the more packs, as they would be called by an FPV pilot, the better.
DJI, over the years as your customer, both consumer and enterprise, I have seen some things. Many have been let go since you have such a good track record and frankly make some of the best drone products out there.
Some, though, have left a bad taste in one’s mouth. Let’s not forget the Crystal Sky, ok?
The FPV Controller 2 is an absolute necessity for this system, you know that. I bought one, thanks. It’s on backorder. The least you could have done was to make sure you had some on hand. It may even affect this Avata launch to some degree.
The real issue, though, is why only one controller? There is no reason why the FPV 1 controller couldn’t have been an option. It has far better components than the FPV 2 controller.
I would hope that’s coming somewhere done the line. I will have both now, but I still don’t see any reason for the FPV 1 Controller not to be included, especially with how many are out there. That’s money left on the table, DJI.
That touch screen on the new goggles. Jee whiz, that could have been better thought out or just done away with. It’s hard to use and way too sensitive. Of course, there may be a way of turning the sensitivity down if I could get the right menus up ever.
Not the most pleasant of experiences and one of the reasons I’ll be sticking to my V2s.
Also, switching between camera modes on the goggles is insane. Why wouldn’t that be one of the very first menu options?
Oh! Oh, wait, yeah, why couldn’t these have been given a real name or just be the V3s. Even looking back through my own article here, it seems confusing.
Hey, that touchscreen didn’t replace the anti-fog, did it? After all, I would have kept the fan. That’s a real issue and does take away from the experience entirely. It’s possible it may not be so bad after someone comes out with new foam for the headset.
It’s not a good fit for all, especially around the nose area. Or I just have the wrong head. The V2s may be bigger, and a bit bulky, but the transmission alone just isn’t enough to warrant switching, that is, if you already have a set of V2s.
I will point out that is just my opinion. The view in the new goggles is certainly something to consider, and it is breathtaking.
If you have the chance to go between the two pairs, the V2s and the new goggles 2, you will see there is a huge difference between the two. Not enough of a difference, though, for me to take on the extra cost. They’ll work with the 02 Air-sense systems, and I do plan on that Skyliner at some point.
Now for the Little Avata itself. It runs hot, very hot. It sometimes turns off due to overheating.
Let me set the scene. It was hot out – in the mid 90’s – and full-on sun. Nearly all electronic devices will struggle in those conditions. We did have a few times where it just got too hot. It wasn’t moving or anything and was just sitting there powered on as we figured things out.
So, not all that surprising, but it does raise some questions for sure.
Lastly, what is up with the placement of the USB-C port and the memory card? DJI, are you messing with us? Was that really the only place it could go?
Inside the prop guard and then to decide that 5 props were needed, you couldn’t have at least used a three-prop blade to make it just a minuscule bit easier for guys like me with big fingers? You’re messing with us, aren’t you, DJI.
In conclusion, after flying it and getting some time with the new DJI Avata, I broke down and bought one. Just not exactly the way DJI wanted me to, hence the ship date three weeks out.
I’ll leave you with this. For me, I felt it can enhance my flying skills and help me to get across that bridge from just a GPS pilot to being an FPV pilot.
I also felt that at some point, with a lot of practice, it could be worked into my business as a service I can offer.
As a DJI drone system, it does have additional safety features that would not be found in a standard cine-whoop FPV quad. That and it was just fun flying that little bugger!
Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!
Image Credit: Keith Davis