DJI Avatar is something special. I knew this when I first flew.
I pressed the three power buttons, placed a drone on the table, pulled the glasses over my eyes, and held the pistol-shaped wand. A double-press of the cherry-red button and a long press lifted the bird into the air. And then, when I squeeze my index finger and with a literal flick of my wrist, I become a bird, an airplane, Superman soars into the sky, glides to Earth below, gliding across a field of grass so close that I could almost taste it.a smooth and straight turn that feels like a professionally drifting car around a bend.
I couldn’t wait to go again. And I didn’t have to do that – lots of batteries were left.
Today, DJI is announcing the Avata, its first cinewhoop-style drone. It’s unlike any flying camera DJI has made before. Instead of folding arms like the Mavic or Mini, it’s equipped from the factory with full prop guard, four fixed rotors that push straight down, and integrated feet barely long enough to keep those propellers out of trouble. Instead of a three-axis yaw and collision avoidance sensors that let it fly and shoot in any direction, the expectation is that you fly this drone forward like an airplane and have a first-person view of where it is. It goes through its 1/1.7 inch camera up to 4K/60fps or 2.7K/120fps. The only sensors you can get are a pair of down-facing cameras and infrared sensors that do a great job maintaining a constant altitude while zooming just above the ground.
But if it’s a movie theater, it’s not your average movie theater either. You get 18 minutes of battery life, which is several times what you typically see from the acrobatic drone genre. can fly out of a bowling alley. And it’s not exceptionally light or small: it’s roughly the size of a Mini 2 with arms extended, but it weighs almost twice as much at 410 grams, so you may need to register and tag your drone, and it will hit harder in a collision. On the plus side, it has no exposed propellers or arms to break like the original DJI FPV.
The biggest difference, though, is Avata’s notes It is primarily designed to be paired with a traditional, joystick-based controller that allows you to fly or somersault a drone sideways or backwards. DJI will not sell you a kit and was unable to send it to us in time for testing. When we tried the $1,299 DJI FPV, which DJI advertises can propel the Avata into fully manual acrobatic mode that can fly at 60 miles per hour (27 meters per second), we couldn’t get it. to stay reliably paired.
DJI Avata pricing
|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 centers)||$279|
|DJI Motion Controller (included in combos)||$199|
|DJI FPV Remote Control 2 (not included in any combo)||$199|
|DJI Avata Intelligent Flight Battery (1 extra battery)||$129|
|DJI Avata Battery Charging Center||$59|
|DJI Avata Propellers (full set of four)||9 dollars|
|DJI Avata Top Frame||19 dollars|
|DJI Avata Propeller Guard||$29|
|DJI Avata ND Filter Kit (ND8/16/32)||$79|
Also a little expensive. Today, DJI is offering the Avata in three different configurations: $629 for the drone, $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 OLED screen, which streams up to 100fps from the drone with a delay of as little as 30 milliseconds over DJI’s wireless transmission system, and these are the ones I use.
I briefly owned DJI’s original glasses and the original Mavic Pro in 2017, and the technology has come a long way. At the time, I had to fly the Mavic really slowly and carefully because the 1080p30 or 720p60 picture wasn’t that clear and responsive, and the bulky PlayStation VR-sized headset kept pressing against my nose. The new Goggles 2 aren’t perfect – I saw some distortion around the edges, and the 51-degree field of view means you’re looking at a virtual TV screen rather than completely immersed in something VR-like. But they’re super comfortable, relatively lively, small and light, super easy to adjust diopters to flip things over for your eyesight, and even have a built-in fan, which sadly has kept me from fogging up glasses until now.
My colleague Vjeran Pavic, who may you know From our drone reviews and lots of great photo and video shots, I’m not entirely sure about the new glasses. I’ll let it speak for a bit here:
This may seem like a very special problem to me, but it is worth mentioning: I am a person with myopic right eye and myopic left eye. On top of that, I have very minor, almost negligible astigmatism. I notice that my left eye is having trouble adjusting to the screen. I’m having issues with blooming whites, out-of-focus center and very blurry corners. I even reduced the screen limits to 70 percent (I set my DJI Goggles 2 to 90 percent for context), but despite the new micro OLED panel, interpupillary distance (56–72mm) and diopter settings (+2 to -8), I’m still having trouble seeing clearly.
But there are other improvements to the headset as well. The headband is smaller and feels more solid. DJI FPV Goggles V2 now has two foldable internal antennas; no need to screw in four separate pieces anymore. The bulky joystick is now replaced by a very responsive and easy to learn touch panel. There is also a small plastic snap cap for the lenses, which I greatly appreciate. You don’t want to leave the sun exposed for too long.
Combining these glasses with the included motion controller allows me to do things I would never normally do on my first try with a drone – like flying into the shade of a tree or flying under a volleyball net to see a bird. It helps you see a real-time reticle inside your glasses that shows where the motion controller is pointing, and the drone brakes automatically and smoothly 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 whether survivability or speed will be limiting. (It’s usually 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. Controllers refuse to charge over a CC cable, DJI doesn’t ship a C-to-A cable or a single charger in the box, FPV goggles use a special cable, bury the drone port under a propeller – I can go on.
Bottom line: The DJI Avata made me feel like I was flying, and we can save the rest for a future review.
Photograph by Sean Hollister / The Verge
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