I’ve been flying drones since there were drones, but I’ve never experienced anything like this.
The DJI Avata looks like a fairly traditional flying camera, but has two key differences: a first-person view (FPV) goggle that lets you see what the camera sees, and a motion-sensitive controller that lets you can perform amazing feats of aerial acrobatics.
The end result is an out-of-body thrill ride previously only available to birds. I enjoy it so much that I hardly want to take the time to write about it. The kit is expensive (just under $1,400) and not exactly suitable for beginners, at least in terms of assembly, but it’s definitely worth it. Read on for my full DJI Avata review.
The Pro-View Combo consists of three main components: the drone itself, the DJI Goggles 2 and the DJI Motion Controller. There are other configurations available, including a slightly cheaper version with lower resolution glasses (spend more, trust me), but anyone new to the hobby will probably need the full setup.
Unfortunately, despite the package’s high price, DJI didn’t include a handful of fairly important items:
Arguably the worst oversight is a printed instruction manual or even a quick start guide. Admittedly, a tutorial video is a better choice for something like this, and luckily DJI offers one detailed Avata first use video to get you running (er, flying). I highly recommend watching it at least once, perhaps even before purchasing the kit, to get an idea of what it’s all about.
For this reason, I will spare you a detailed description of the basic structure. However, keep in mind that you will need both your phone (with the DJI Fly app installed) and a standard charging cable to connect it to the goggles. (DJI only provides an adapter cable.) You’ll probably also want a chair to sit in, especially if you’re prone to motion sickness. (Yes, but I found that I could fly the Avata without any problems as long as I stayed seated.)
Another note on setup: the Avata requires FAA registration, and both the drone and the goggles must be “activated” via a connection to your phone. You’ll also almost certainly have to wait for firmware updates before you can take to the skies. Combined with the time it takes to charge the various batteries, it can literally take hours between unboxing and the actual flight.
DJI Avata: What it’s like to fly
As mentioned, I have flown countless drones, but this was my first ever experience with FPV goggles. The DJI Goggles 2 are comfortable to wear, although they are not designed to accommodate glasses. Luckily, thanks to the independent lens adjustment, I was able to see clearly even without my progressive lenses, which was remarkable in itself. And since the glasses produce 100 frames per second at 1080p resolution, the images looked crisp and showed no noticeable lag to me.
This is without question the secret recipe of the DJI Avata. It’s one thing to look at drone footage after the fact; It’s quite another to see it in real time in your field of view (which in this case spans an impressive 155 degrees). After putting on the goggles, starting the engines, and getting off the ground, I was no longer sitting in my chair; I was the tiny pilot of an amazingly nimble plane.
The motion controller makes flying incredibly easy, even for absolute beginners. Instead of fiddling with a pair of joysticks, you simply hold the controller upright and tilt it in the direction you want: up, down, left, right. A trigger switch controls your speed; Let go and the drone will hover in place. In normal flight mode you can reach 18 miles per hour; In Sport mode you can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. These aren’t speeds like racing drones, but trust me when I say they feel fast – especially when you’re zooming close to the ground or weaving through obstacles.
The goggles’ head-up display not only shows data like speed, altitude, battery life, shooting status, etc., but also an ever-present augmented reality “H” that guides you back to home base (i.e. where you started from ). . This has kept me from getting lost on more than one occasion after I was already half a mile away after just a minute or two. Seriously, once you get the hang of it, you won’t be able to resist the temptation to explore far and wide – which you can, thanks to Avata six miles Range. To be clear, the effective range can be much shorter, especially if there are trees or other obstacles in the way. However, if you have an open area, you should be able to walk quite a distance.
I pause here to repeat myself: This. Is. Incredible. It’s the closest thing any of us can get to flying like Superman. (Honestly, I just want to lie on my stomach and point a fan at my face to get even closer to that feeling.)
DJI promises up to 18 minutes of flight time on a charge, but in my experience it was closer to 15. Of course, there are variables that can affect this, including wind, but it makes you want at least one extra battery (even if they are expensive ). The good news is that you’ll get notifications when power is running low, and the Avata will eventually fly itself home to avoid getting stuck (or worse, crashing).
Another safety measure: the drone has solid propeller guards, meaning a collision with an object (or, even worse, a person) won’t necessarily result in damage. And if the Avata falls somewhere far away or not easily accessible, you can activate turtle mode (!) and it should be able to right itself. That’s pretty awesome.
DJI Avata: What I don’t like
DJI has been making drones for so long that some Avata issues seem particularly confusing. For example, the glasses connect to an external battery via a coiled cable, but there is no obvious (or logical) place to place this battery. The ground is too far away; The cable pulls too hard on the glasses. So I mostly just left it on my lap, which is uncomfortable.
The drone’s microSD slot and USB-C port, on the other hand, are very difficult to access as they are located behind one of the propellers and have a stuck rubber plug that has to be removed and reinserted every time. I was constantly worried that I would damage the propeller.
Another consideration: DJI is currently on a US government blacklist for some questionable business practices. You must decide whether you want to support the company by purchasing its products.
Should you buy the DJI Avata?
Aside from that unfortunate wrinkle, the DJI Avata is an incredibly entertaining cinematic drone that’s well-built and easy to fly, at least once you get past the lengthy setup process. There are many drones that can capture crisp 4K video, but the combination of DJI goggles and motion controller makes this a completely different experience. Whether you want to enjoy the thrill of flying or increase your filmmaking skills, the Avata is a revelation.
However, it is definitely a product for responsible adults; I would caution against purchasing this for children as there is real potential for harm. This applies to any drone, but this is not a toy and should not be viewed as one.
This is of course immediately reflected in the price. It may be years before you can buy such an FPV drone for less money. So if you can afford it now, don’t wait. You will miss out on too much fun.