What do you do when you live in San Francisco without a car, and you want to fly drones? Between the massive wind tunnel down Market Street, the fact that the Golden Gate Bridge, west side beaches and the Presidio are off-limits due to it being a ‘National Recreation Area,’ and the fact that there are people everywhere, the answer often feels like, ‘you don’t fly drones here.’ Sure there are certainly places you can fly drones in San Francisco, but it often feels better to be in a far more remote area than a city if you want to fly drones That is, unless you’re flying DJI Avata.
DJI Avata is the drone maker’s newest drone, and it’s a fresh take on DJI FPV, which launched in 2021 as a first person view drone to target the racing crowd. But while DJI Avata is also an FPV racing drone, it provides a completely different experience than the DJI FPV drone, which still was largely for outdoor flying. This drone, which is just 405 grams and is just 180×180 mm (about the size of a #2 wood pencil) is perfect for flying inside.
Sure, it works great outside in most cases. It’s got Level 5 max wind resistance, meaning it can fly in wind speeds ranging from 19 to 24 miles per hour (which is about the equivalent of winds that generate moderate waves at the beach). And if it does flip over to the point where it lands upside down, a new Turtle mode allows it to flip back up and take off again.
But you might just fly it indoors, through door frames and under tables, making those dramatic turns and tight fits into unique architecture, whether an abandoned building or perhaps just a parking garage. the footage set to come out of Avata will be much like that charming, Cinewhoop style footage. But thanks to the high-quality camera and ease of flight that comes with Avata, we’ll likely see not just a lot more of that style of footage, but at a higher quality, too.
Who is DJI Avata for?
It’s designed for racers of any level, or at the very least, the racing-curious. Perhaps a camera drone pilot was watching the DRL Championships and wants to try their hand at racing. Maybe a racer wants a sturdy drone that can fly out of the box. That’s what Avata is.
Pair Avata with the DJI Goggles 2 and the DJI Motion Controller, and you have an incredibly engrossing flight experience — whether you’re a newbie to FPV or an experienced pilot. It also works with the old model DJI Goggles and the existing DJI FPV Remote Controller 2, for folks who like to control drones the traditional way.
While it’s certainly not for “kids,” (unless you would give an $1,000 item to a kid), it is likely much safer than any other DJI drone thanks to the built-in propeller guards, which both make the drone itself more durable, while also mitigating safety risks. Other safety features include a dedicated Emergency Brake and Hover feature, as well as a Failsafe Return to Home, which is triggered either when you press a button or in the event that transmission is lost or the battery reaches a critically low level.
The video is high quality, so it’s an ideal product for someone looking to make clips for social media. And for everyone (and if you’ve flown FPV before, you already know this), Avata provides quite the out-of-body experience.
DJI Avata in a nutshell: the key specs
Here’s a quick overview of some key specs:
Size: Avata weighs 410 grams, which is double (well, slightly less than double) the weight of the DJI Mini lineup of drones (which all weigh less than 250 grams), but about half the size of the 895 gram DJI Mavic 3.
CineWhoop generally refers to small drones that are ideal for flying indoors and that can fit through small spaces, like under table legs. This drone isn’t quite as small as your standard CineWhoop drone (a typical size for a Cinewhoop is 3-inch propellers), but the spirit is there.
Flight time: It flies up to 18 minutes on one charge. The battery is a bit unique in its design, in that it has an extra ‘hook’ of sorts to clip in — presumably given the more extreme nature of flying this drone.
Internal storage: While you can (and should) record footage to a microSD card, you don’t necessarily need one. Thanks to 20 GB of internal storage space, you can still capture video sans memory card.
Price: Avata starts at $629, though it runs as high as $1,168 if you opt to add in the highest-end DJI FPV Goggles V2. And, throw in another $279 for the DJI Avata Fly More Kit, which gets you every bell and whistle like spare batteries, propellers and more.
Here’s a full cost breakdown:
- Avata (standalone): $629
- DJI Avata Pro-View Combo with DJI Goggles 2: $1,388
- DJI Avata Fly Smart Combo with DJI FPV Goggles V2: $1,168
- DJI Avata Fly More Kit: $279
What the DJI Avata camera is like
This is probably not the drone you’re going to want for most types of cinematography given the unconventional nature of FPV flight, but it still does produce pretty high-quality video.
And CineWhoop video is delightfully charming, which is what Avata is set to shoot.
- 1/1.7” CMOS sensor
- 48 million effective pixels
- Films at 4K/60fps and slow-motion footage at 2.7K/50/60/100/120fps.
- f/2.8 aperture
- Ultra-wide-angle lens with a viewing angle of up to 155°
- D-Cinelike color mode for a broader color palette that enables detailed chromatic adjustments
Unlike most camera drones that keep footage stable through a gimbal, Avata is more unique in that it does not have a gimbal. Instead it relies on software to ensure video is smooth. RockSteady 2.0 was a game changer with the launch of the DJI Action 2 camera, and similar technology now exists in this drone.
In fact, this drone relies on DJI’s two flagship stabilization technologies: DJI RockSteady (which eliminates overall picture shake) and DJI HorizonSteady (which keeps the picture oriented toward true level).
And in turn, this is the kind of footage you’d share to social media to wow your friends. A clever cinematographer might even use it for a movie. Unless your friend group is all FPV pilots themselves, they’ve likely never seen footage like this before.
DJI Goggles 2: everything you need to know
FPV usually means goggles, and these ones are fancy.
There were DJI Goggles, which pilots used with the DJI FPV drone (and a subsequent racing edition version of the goggles). But DJI Goggles are no longer in production (thus no longer sold on DJI’s website). Now, it’s all about the DJI Goggles 2.
This headset is smaller, lighter and generally more comfortable than the old model of DJI Goggles.
With it comes a crystal clear Micro-OLED screen, making for detailed video at 1080p/100fps with H.265 decoding. Adjustable diopters make it so that — even if you normally wear glasses — you won’t need to have them on when wearing these.
The stuff on the screen is controlled by a touch panel on the side of the goggles, which lets you swipe with your finger on the side of the goggles to control goggle settings.
Transmission is all thanks to DJI’s O3+ transmission technology. Latency is incredibly minimal, with a transmission delay of a minimal 30 milliseconds. And, it can transmit over distances of up to 10 kilometers. DJI Goggles 2 also offers a Wireless Streaming function to view the live feed from your mobile phone or computer on the goggles screen.
The one annoying part of the Goggles is the battery placement. It’s an external battery, that — unless I’m missing something — sort of just hangs down. Make sure your dress has pockets on any days you fly DJI Avata, as you’ll want to tuck the battery in there.
DJI Motion Controller: everything you need to know
The primary way DJI wants you to fly this drone is with its DJI Motion Controller. This is a device that you typically hold in just one hand, and it kind of resembles the blaster guns used in Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, for all you Disneyland fans out there.
But it’s more like a magic wand than anything else, allowing you to make motions with your hand to control the movement of the drone. It is a bit tough to get used to at the beginning — especially if you just want that standard RV in your hands — but it’s surprisingly intuitive after a few moments.
That said, if you prefer the more standard RC style of controlling the drone, Avata is compatible with the DJI FPV Remote Controller 2, which you can buy for less than $200.
What flying DJI Avata is like
The flight experience with Avata is far different than what people familiar with DJI’s camera drones are used to. For starters, you’ll likely put on those FPV goggles, which is a bizarre experience if you’re used to physically spotting the drone and always having it in your line of sight (you should still fly Avata with a second person as a spotter).
Then, you’ll hold the Motion Controller, which is far different than what you’re used to. That said, you’ll still need the DJI Fly app as well.
There are a few different flight modes, based on your abilities. They are:
Normal (N) Mode: This is best for newbies. The drone hovers in place (thanks to satellite navigation and/or visual positioning systems (VPS) on the bottom of the drone), making it incredible safe and easy to fly. It only moves when you trigger it to, and even then, it just flies and then hovers in its new spot.
Manual (M) Mode: Once you’re ready for that FPV experience, you’ll move to this mode, which allows you to customize parameters. Note that it only works with the DJI FPV Remote Controller 2.
Sport (S) Mode: This new mode sort of blends the two above M and N modes, by providing some of the dynamic movement capabilities that come with M mode but bringing in those safety features of N mode. Consider it the Goldilocks mode.
I’m far from a racing pilot, so I appreciate the N mode for the few days that I’ve been flying out Avata so far. Maybe in a few days, I’ll promote myself to Sport mode — and perhaps ultimately M mode. But the slow progression up to the real racing style is welcome, especially as you get used to the Motion Controller style of flying.
DJI Avata: how much does it cost?
The standalone Avata goes for $629, though you’ll pay as much as $1,388 for the Pro-View Combo with DJI Goggles 2. The Fly More Kit goes for $279.
Other accessories available for purchase a la carte include:
- Spare Intelligent Flight Battery: $129
- DJI Avata ND Filters Set (ND8/16/32): $79
- DJI Avata Battery Charging Hub: $59
- DJI Avata Propeller Guard: $29
- DJI Avata Upper Frame: $19
- Propellers: $9
That $629 entry point for the Avata 2 is more expensive than DJI’s lowest-cost camera drone available for sale on its site, the Mini 2, which starts at $449. Though, it’s less than the newer mini model, the Mini 3 Pro, which starts at $759 on DJI’s site, and also cheaper than the Mavic Air 2, which starts at $799. That $629 price also assumes you either aren’t flying with (or already have) the FPV Goggles.
DJI Care Refresh, which is DJI’s extended warranty plan that includes up to three replacements for a highly-reduced cost, depending on the plan you purchase, is also available for DJI Avata.
Buying the standalone drone only (no FPV goggles)
The standalone Avata 2 costs $629 which is great news for people who already own the DJI FPV Combo, which starts at $999 but comes with the DJI FPV Goggles V2.
But don’t be misled into thinking the Avata 2 is that low-cost. In a move similar to what DJI did with the launch of the DJI Mini 3 Pro, which started at just $669 for the standalone drone if you already had an existing, compatible controller, this drone is packaged similarly. To cut back on unnecessary stuff, and save you money, DJI also did something that I consider pretty generous for its loyal, returning customers. If you already own the DJI FPV Goggles V2, you can recycle it, of sorts.
If you currently have a DJI FPV drone, then you likely already have the DJI FPV Goggles V2. If you upgrade to the DJI Avata, you can save money by keeping your old goggles, as the DJI Avata with no remote controller retails for just $629.
But unless you already had the DJI FPV Combo which comes with DJI FPV Goggles V2 (or otherwise got your hands on those goggles), you’re going to need to pay at least $1,168, assuming you want the goggle (or $1,388 for the Pro-View Combo with DJI Goggles 2).
There is one freebie for Avata, and that’s the DJI Virtual Flight App, which is free simulator app that familiarizes new pilots with drone flying movements in an easy, fun and risk-free environment. The simulator allows pilots to fly DJI Avata in various settings using the dedicated controller.
What DJI Avata means for the drone universe
Avata is effectively DJI’s second move into the world of FPV flying. Given the popularity of drone racing, perhaps that’s unsurprising that DJI sees a new piece of the market to corner. In fact, the Drone Racing League told the Drone Girl earlier this year that viewership doubled in its latest season, adding that their races reached 250 million households in over 140 markets worldwide across the series.
But most racing drones are actually fairly difficult to get your hands on. Most of the best drones are actually homemade drones — and many of the ready to fly ones are more akin to cheap toy drones.
With Avata, DJI might be opening up a path for folks who might have been intimidated by the FPV flight experience in the past. With this comes a ready-to-fly version of FPV that embraces the core technologies that DJI has mastered, like its transmission tech and camera style.
And as far as the broader world, Avata might be what brings drone racing to the masses. It’s designed for social media sharing, thanks to its internal storage and its seamless connection. Upload your footage to Instagram immediately upon finishing your flight — and you’ve exposed all those followers to FPV life.
Avata looks like it could help DJI reach an entirely new audience. And in turn, entirely new audiences might finally be exposed to drones.
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