Reviews |DJI AVATA

DJI AVATA Review

Review

Price when reviewed

£989

$934

Our Verdict

A new breed of immersive drone or simply a far more friendly update to the aggressive styled DJI FPV launched last year. The new DJI AVATA is an all-new drone that promises plenty of fun, although battery power is slightly lacking.

While DJI taut this new FPV drone at creators, and there’s no doubt that the imaging is good, the small camera is limited, especially when you compare it against the DJI Mini 3 Pro as a rival

The AVATA is FPV in almost every way, except you don’t have to build it yourself. The camera is excellent, and while it may not feature a gimbal the camera does tilt up and down and features Rocksteady stabilisation, the same as we saw in the DJI Action 2.

Ultimately the DJI AVATA is great fun and far faster and more agile than standard DJI drones. When coupled with the Goggles V2, which enables a drone eye view of the world, and the game-style Motion Controller, you do get a truly immersive drone experience.

For

  • Small
  • Fast
  • Good quality footage

Against

  • Short battery life

Build and Handling

Compared to the often pilot-built FPV drones you see racing, the AVATA is a very finely designed DJI machine. It’s small and extremely well made, with a tough plastic frame that protects the electronics and battery. The props unlike other DJI drones are protected by a guard that sits under the drone’s main body. On the table, it looks more like a micro hovercraft than a drone.

Checking over the drone and its design is simple and compact; no bits are sticking out that could get broken, and the overall feeling is robust. This drone may weigh in at 410g but accidentally crash it, and I’m sure it would have a better than the most chance of survival. What’s more, having a look at the accessories that will be available with the drone, most parts can be purchased separately. A few screws hold the drone together and repairing it should be relatively straightforward if a crash does happen.

Everything about the drone is tight and compact. When it comes to the small camera it is squeezed in at the front with the ability to tilt up and down. The camera’s position is fixed; there’s no mechanical image stabilisation.

The battery fits in the open frame and slots in behind the camera, giving the drone instant balance. Once in place, the battery is firmly held in place into the frame by two compression clips. Once in, there is no way the battery will come out without human assistance. The battery’s connector can then be plugged in with a firm push.

The props are all surrounded by a single-piece prop guard. This guard is not like the ones you see supplied with other drones; it’s thick and solid, more like a bumper than a guard.

Specification

  • Sensor: 1/1.7-inch CMOS
  • Effective Pixels: 48 MP
  • Lens : FOV: 155°
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • ISO Range : 100-6400 (Auto)
  • Video Resolution: 4K @ 50/60fps, 2.7K @ 50/60/100fps, 1080p @ 50/60/100fps
  • Max Video Bitrate: 150 Mbps
  • Color Mode : Standard D-Cinelike
  • EIS : Supports RockSteady and HorizonSteady Can be disabled
  • Takeoff Weight: Approx. 410 g
  • Max Speed : 8 m/s (Normal Mode) 14 m/s (Sport Mode) 27 m/s (Manual Mode)

Setting up the DJI AVATA

Setup is quick but also highlights just how compact this drone is. Before starting, a new MicroSD card is inserted into the drone’s MicroSD card slot. There’s one on the drone and another on the headset, Goggles V2 if you have them.

Inserting the card into the Goggles V2 is easy; push it in, and you’re done. Inserting the card into the DJI AVATA is fiddly as the slot is inside the drone prop guard. This means you must pull aside the rubber port protector, move the prop out of the way, and wiggle in the card without the rubber flap and prop getting in the way.

If you have small hands, then I’m sure you’re laughing; if you have medium hands, it’s a challenge and if you have large hands, find someone with smaller hands to do it. Likewise, if your eyesight is anything less than 20:20, get someone else to insert the card.

Once the cards are in place, all the parts can be plugged in and connected. In this review, I’m looking at the DJI AVATA drone, the Goggles V2 headset and the Motion Controller. I also have the DJI Fly App that seems quite limited at this stage.

First of all, the AVATA battery is popped in and plugged in. Next, the Goggles V2 is plugged into an external power source, and my iPhone contains the DJI Fly App which is again plugged into the Goggles V2.
Once that’s all done I’m ready to fly with everything installed and firmware for everything updated including the batteries.

Features

Before I launch into the performance of the AVATA drone, let’s take a quick look at the specs, starting with the camera and what’s available. This is more of a fun FPV drone than anything that would be the first choice for image creators. However, I do see the potential for some incredible shots. 

DJI AVATA Camera

The small camera is mounted on the front of the drone and has the ability to tilt up and down. You can do this with the motion controller by simply tilting the controller up or down when the drone hovers. When you start to fly, tilting up and down makes the drone go up and down.

The camera features Rocksteady and HorizonSteady, so the horizon will appear straight and the footage should look silky smooth. This is especially important when using the Goggles V2 headset to fly as without that stabilisation it will make you feel sick.

The camera features a 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor with 48 effective pixels. The lens fronting this sensor offers a 155º field-of-view with a 12.7mm equivalent focal length (actual focal length is 2.3mm). The lens has a large f/2.8 aperture and a focal range of 0.6m to infinity. As the FOV is relatively wide, there is the option to correct the distortion in normal, wide and ultra-wide camera modes. 

Ensuring plenty of scope for filming in all light conditions, the sensor offers a range of ISO 100-6400 in auto and 100-25600 in manual. 

Despite the small size, there’s plenty of scope for the shutter speed range of 1/8000-1/50s.

As we start to dip into the rest of the camera specifications, you can see the imaging limitations. Firstly the stills photo mode is a single shot, and that’s it with a maximum resolution of 4000 x 3000, so a 4:3 aspect ratio, although you can change this in the settings. 

Images are captured in JPEG format for stills and MP4 for video, although a plus point here is that you can capture in standard or D-Cinelike colour profiles. What is a step up is the ability to capture video at 150MB/s, which is high for this type of camera. 

Regarding resolutions and framerates, the key points are 4K@60fps, 2.7k@120fps and 1080p@120fps.

DJI AVATA Flight Features

Flight modes are simple, Normal and Sport, Normal is easy to use and gets you used to wearing the Goggles V2 and understanding orders shouted at by your spotter. Then there’s Sports mode which is quite a bit faster. Another mode that is less directly used is Manual which essentially enables you to override most settings and push the speed of the DJI AVATA to 27 m/s, which is incredibly fast. 

Flight times are short, between three and eight minutes flat out, but you can hover for up to 18 minutes. DJI say that between 3 and 8 minutes is normal depending on what you’re doing, the conditions, wind, whether you’re using the camera and what mode you’ve selected as these will all affect the battery life. 

Performance

Before starting the flight, you must brief your spotter if you’re using the Goggles V2. Your spotter is your line of sight and is required for you to meet the UK drone laws. Once they are briefed and reassured that the batteries won’t last that long. It’s time to take off.

https://youtu.be/XQ513SoNfOo

Take-off and landing are all easy enough. Double tap the red button on the motion controller, and the drone is armed; a long hold takes off, ready for flight. The Motion Controller 2 features a trigger that works as an accelerator or goes forward button. Pull it back, and the AVATA goes forward release and stops.

With the drone hovering after launch, I try the usual checks, tilt left, and the drone rotates left, tilt right, and the drone rotates right. Then tilt the controller up and the camera moves up, tilt down and the camera tilts down. So far, so good.

Using the Motion controller, you can’t fly left or right; the control design is meant to be more intuitive, but switching from a dual stick to this motion control system will take a bit of getting used to.

Still hovering, it’s time to get some height, I’ll state now that like the FPV this isn’t a sudate and quiet drone but it is less threatening than the FPV. With a small pull on the trigger, the drone edges forward, tilt back, and the drone starts to rise, tilting the controller to 90º so that its horizontal enables an almost vertical take-off. I’m currently in Normal mode with only a slight trigger press. As I increase the trigger pressure, the speed of the AVATA increases as it ascends.

Once above tree height, I do a quick lap of the field, and it’s obvious through talking to my spotter that the latency between the goggles and the drone camera is minimal. Getting a little more confident, I increase the speed and start to raise and lower the drone; this feels far more like a game than actually flying a drone.

After familiarising myself with a few short flights of around five minutes a piece, I’d burnt through the three batteries, so I stopped for lunch and left the batteries recharging, which proved optimistic as an hour later only one bar on one battery seemed to be alit. As each battery is depleted, the goggles show a warning the RTH will activate in so many seconds. In all cases, I left the drone to make it’s way back to the take-off spot.

Once the batteries had recharged, which took slightly more than nine hours for the three batteries, about 3 hours each, it was time to test the use of the goggles. Again with the spotter at the ready, I used the Motion Controller to navigate through a gate and through the garden; the live view feed and the over-enthusiastic spotter guided me through the environment without issue. This is like playing a VR computer game rather than being outside in the real world.

Controlling the drone this way with the Goggles and Motion Controller is on another level compared to stick controllers. The use of Motion is intuitive and easy to understand once you make the break, and the potential is massive.

Seeing the live view through the goggles you have a small dot in the centre of your vision, essentially you tilt and rock the controller while pulling the trigger to get the drone to go where you want it to go. It’s like pointing your finger in the way you want it to fly and it does.

Again battery was out, and it was time to test the recording; the first outing with the AVATA had already shown that flying as fast as you can while recording, wearing the goggles and using the motion controller while a lot of fun would burn through the battery at incredible speed.

However, with the main bulk of the test completed and quite a bit of recharge time, it was time to fire up the camera and film some top-notch 4K video at 60fps.

A quick take-off, trigger down, and the drone shoots up into the sky. I’m still not 100% proficient with the flight control using the motion controller, so there’s quite a bit of spinning involved through the take-off.

Once at a decent height and checking, the spotter can still see the thing; it is small, after all, I completed what I hoped was an ultra-speedy lap of the field from above.

After a quick circuit and mess/play around in the sky, the battery low warning appeared, and RTH kicked in. Land, battery swap and again into Sports mode and a few more laps, which is incredible fun, before low battery and RTH, about five minutes this time, but it felt like 30 seconds, battery swap, take off, and this time normal mode and 4K quick lap or two, battery low and RTH.

The total time out for most outings with three batteries is 45 minutes, that’s arriving, setting up and flight and packing away. Whereas I’m quite sure I get close to that with one battery with the Mavic 3 Pro.

There is a difference, of course, between the Mavic 3 Pro, Mavic Mini 3 Pro and the DJI AVATA. The other two are creative, serious drones for imaging people, the DJI AVATA is not. The DJI AVATA is fun, it shoot great footage, even if that footage is short because the battery runs down quickly, but essentially that’s not the point.

Final thoughts

I hadn’t flown a true FPV for a while aside from the DJI FPV which I feel is something else. And that’s it with the AVATA, it may be far more polished than many FPVs but switch it Sports mode and even manual and you have to have lightning-fast reactions to fly. Flying at the base level with the AVATA is fun, flying in Sports mode is challanging but entertaining but flying in manual mode takes real skill and commitment like a true FPV.

The AVATA brings much of the enjoyment I used to get flying FPVs but at a slower and more stable pace. Roll to the left or right, and the AVATA rolls to the left or right; it doesn’t do an FPV and flip in a full 360º in every direction, which is frankly a relief.

As a drone to have some fun with in the back garden, surrounding space and restrictions allowing, the AVATA is great fun, more so than any of the Mavic drones launched.

Regarding imaging, this drone also has potential in the right hands. Want to fly it around a building? Then the agility of the flight will enable you to do that, and the quality of the build will see it through the inevitable knock or two it gets along the way.

You could, of course, do these shots with the Mavic Mini 3 Pro or a Ronin RS3 Pro, but where is the fun?

What I like is the image quality. The small sensor enables the capture of superb quality footage, well beyond what you would expect with this type of drone and the ease of use with the Goggles makes it easy to compose the shots exactly as you want.

At the end of the review, the DJI AVATA is not a drone I would recommend for imaging. However, it is a lot of fun and a great inroad into the world of FPV. Someone has to start a DJI AVATA Class FPV race circuit.

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