The advent of the first-person view drone for cinematography has created a brand-new category of UAVs. Dubbed the “cinewhoop” drone, this style of drone is known for its dramatic, yet fluid aerial images both inside and outdoors, with tight turns and banks. And the new DJI Avata FPV drone may be the design that takes this type of filmmaking mainstream.
But this isn't DJI's first foray into the FPV drone space. Is the Avata different enough to stick with cinematographers?
The Avata's 4K camera sports a 48-megapixel 1/1.7-inch image sensor and an ultra-wide 12.8mm f/2.8 lens with a 155° field of view, making it capable of capturing 4K video at 60 frames per second, as well as slow motion 2.7K video at 100 frames per second. The drone supports H.265 video codecs at 150 Mb/s and has DJI's D-Cinelike color mode for a broader dynamic range and color palette.
Tiny Sensor, 4K ResolutionCredit: DJI
Avata's camera also enjoys the use of RockSteady and HorizonSteady image stabilization to eliminate camera shake while keeping the image oriented to a level horizon.
Video footage is written directly to the 20GB of storage built on board the UAV, without the need for a microSD card installed. That is plenty of storage to capture video during the drone’s 19-minute rated flight time before the need to swap out batteries.
The optional DJI Goggles 2 display goggles are compact, light, and designed for comfort. With tin antennas, they can maintain a crisp 1080 HD video display at 100 frames per second through DJI’s O3+ transmission protocol. The ultra-low latency of the video stream to the optional DJI Goggles 2 is about 30 milliseconds, and the drone can maintain that signal to a maximum distance of up to 10 kilometers.
2nd Generation DJI GogglesCredit: DJI
How Not to Be a Criminal
It’s important to remember, however, that FAA regulations require all drones to be kept within a visual line of sight. Government regs notwithstanding, the strong video signal enables the operator to maintain control of the drone at all times, which is the important takeaway.
If the drone does lose connectivity, there is a GPS mode that will automatically bring the Avata back to its original departure point. By then, the operator should be able to reacquire the drone signal and either regain control or allow the drone to land where it began.
There are three different flight modes. Normal mode is controlled by satellite navigation and positioning. Manual mode provides increased freedom and control. Sport Mode provides the best of both worlds—high-speed maneuvers with positioning protection.
Motion ControllerCredit: DJI
Control options include using the DJIs joystick-esque DJI Motion Controller and DJI FPV Remote Controller 2 but can also be controlled through the DJI Go 4 app. The motion controller works in concert with the Goggles 2 to create a deeply immersive flight experience, which is as close to flying as one can get without actually flying. Skydiving doesn't count, as that's just falling with style.
Users can also use the DJI Fly simulator app, which mimics the Avata’s flight profile and familiarizes new pilots with the drone’s flying envelope in a risk-free environment while giving users the ability to test out the joystick style DJI Motion Controller for its feedback.
Many advanced users complain that the joystick design of the motion controller is laggy and doesn’t provide a valuable experience for veteran users, but it may be that DJI developed the controller with the beginning pilot in mind, who will be more embracing of the first-person viewpoint without having to unlearn the conventional method of controlling the UAV.
Like flying a plane in VRCredit: DJI
The Beauty on the Outside
The drone is guarded against impact with a unibody, ducted fan propeller design that absorbs serious impact and keeps it flying. The drone also has downward binocular vision and infrared sensing for even greater safety. These sensors detect obstacles below and allow Avata to perform low-altitude or indoor flights.
The sensors can also distinguish between water and ground, providing valuable telemetry for choosing a suitable sight for landing. There’s even a special “turtle mode,” which will flip the drone right side up if it crashes and ends up on its back. You can go back to flying right after.
An array of sensors looking downCredit: DJI
Should You Get It?
DJI's new offering isn't like your run-of-the-mill drone. It's like trading in your aerial dana dolly for an adrenaline junkie in a wingsuit hopped up on Red Bull and a GoPro taped to the helmet. The types of shots you'll be able to get won't be the same. If that's what you're looking for, then this drone definitely needs a place on your shortlist.
The DJI Avata is available at a retail price of $629 for the drone only, and $1,399 for the Pro-View combo, which includes the drone, DJI Motion Controller, and the Goggles 2. There’s also the Avata Flight Smart Combo for $1,168, which includes the older Goggles V2 instead of the Goggles 2. A bit confusing, to be sure, but if users already have invested in V2, it’s good to know that they will be compatible.
- Close-Up Filming Indoors or Outside
- Ultra-Wide 4K100p Stabilized Video
- Propeller Guards for Safe Flying
- Up to 6.2-Mile Video Transmission Range
- Downward Sensing Obstacle Avoidance
- Emergency Brake & RTH Safety Features
- Up to 18 Minutes of Flight Time
- 3 Speed Modes from 17.9 to 60.4 mph
Lastly, there’s the Fly More Accessory kit for $279, which includes two DJI Avata Intelligent Flight Batteries and one DJI Avata Battery Charging Hub.
Those considering the Avata, but still need more, may also be able to qualify for DJI’s SkyPixel Product Tryout Program, which enables users to “try before you buy” the drone for a limited time. Details can be found on the DJI Skypixel website.