Another big theme of the DJI Avata livestream was safety. You’ll still need to be pretty careful when flying this thing (and follow your region’s drone laws, of course), but the Avata does have some impressive skills to give you a hand.
DJI said that the drone’s built-in propellor guard “allows you to be more daring with your maneuvers”, although I’d still be nervous to try the classic ‘through the legs’ shot demoed in DJI’s video. DJI also said that if Avata hits an object, “it bounces back and maintains its altitude”.
There’s also an “emergency brake button” on the Motion Controller, which I can imagine relying on a lot, and the standard return-to-home function, helped by the downward-facing sensors (shown above).
Time to round up some of the DJI Avata features that weren’t in its many leaks, but did just appear during its launch. There are a few that stand out.
Firstly, the Avata has 20GB of onboard storage, which is pretty generous and a handy backup if you’ve forgotten your microSD card. It also supports the D-Cinelike profile. This isn’t a completely ‘flat’ profile, but will give you a good starting point for color-grading videos (if that’s what you’re into).
One of the Avata’s key features in its FPV battle with GoPro is its built-in electronic stabilization – DJI just confirmed that its new drone will have both RockSteady (which we saw on the DJI FPV) and also HorizonSteady, which it debuted on the DJI Action 2.
This sounds like a great combo for smooth videos straight out of the drone. But will it be able to match, for example, a GoPro Hero 10 Black Bones combined with using ReelSteady in post-production? That’s a comparison I’m looking forward to seeing soon.
One feature I’m particularly pleased to see confirmed – the ability to shoot slo-mo 2.7K video at 120fps. Combine that with the Avata’s smooth flying skills, and that could be a really fun new creative tool – even if you can’t just fly right in front of a theme park log flume, as the livestream suggested.
Some of the videos in that livestream, including a mix of outdoor and indoor shots, were extremely cool. Although notable was the disclaimer at the end of the video – “performed by professionals, do not attempt to imitate”. This is a drone that’ll still need a lot of practice and planning to master.
That’s why DJI went pretty big on the safety aspects in its livestream – including the inclusion of downward-facing sensors, return-to-home and… turtle mode! This will apparently let the Avata flip over if it lands upside down. Worth crashing just to see that in action.
The basics: the DJI Avata is a palm-sized FPV drone with propellor guards that can shoot 4K/60fps video and comes with powerful electronic stabilization (including both RockSteady and HorizonSteady) both shooting both indoors and outdoors.
In many ways, it feels like the Avata is what the original DJI FPV should have been…
Well, that zoomed by faster than a speeding drone. The DJI Avata is official and there was some fascinating stuff in that short livestream, which we’ll break down now.
Right, here we go – time for the livestream to start. The DJI Avata leaks have told us a lot, now it’s time for DJI fill in the missing pieces (and also tell us how much we’ll need to raise from selling old gadgets)..
Just 15 minutes to go until the DJI Avata launch and the drone fans are starting to gather in the YouTube comments section of the livestream (opens in new tab).
Among the standard ‘take my money’ cries are some interesting questions – will the Avata shoot 10-bit video, will it actually be more expensive than the DJI FPV, and will you be able to plug a GoPro hero 10 Black Bones into its battery? We don’t know for sure yet, but we will in only ten minutes.
As if we needed any more evidence that today’s ‘Born to Fly’ event – which kicks off in just over 20 minutes – is for the DJI Avata, this teaser posted by @OsitaLV (opens in new tab) all-but-confirms it.
I’m interested to see exactly how DJI sells the drone in its livestream – this image shows the Avata flying outdoors through a narrow canyon, but many people will be looking to use it for indoor fly-throughs. Where does DJI think people will use it the most? We’ll get a good idea in the videos we see during the launch.
A common limitation with FPV drones is battery life. If you’ve ever been on an FPV shoot, you’ll be familiar with the bag of spare batteries that pilots usually bring with them to hot-swap into their drones, which typically last for anything between 3-7 minutes in the air.
Fortunately, this promises to be one of the DJI Avata’s strengths – the drone’s FCC filing last month (above) showed it will have a battery with a 35.71Wh capacity, which apparently translates to around 18 minutes of flight time. As always with DJI drones, this is likely an optimistic estimate that’s dependent on conditions – still, factor in the return-to-home trips and we should still get at least 10-12 minutes of flight time.
How much is the DJI Avata going to cost? It can’t exactly be classed as an essential purchase during a cost-of-living crisis, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be tempted. The latest leaks from DroneXL suggest the drone itself will cost $629 (around £535 / AU$775). Not too bad, but then this doesn’t include a headset or controller.
If you’re starting from scratch, a Fly Smart Combo (including the current DJI FPV Goggles V2 and Motion Controller) will apparently be available for $1,168 (around £995 / AU$1,700). And if you want that fancy new DJI Goggles 2 headset, then you’ll likely be looking at around $1,388 (around £1,180 / AU$2,015) for a ‘Pro-View Combo’. Crikey. That’s pricier than the current DJI FPV and well beyond the home-brewed creations that are typical of FPV drones. For most people, it’ll need to be pretty versatile to justify that.
Avata in stock and ready for sale.Obviously, it’s not mine… pic.twitter.com/B1GOcysaAPAugust 23, 2022
Another question I’m expecting to DJI to answer today – will you be able to buy the Avata with a standard controller, as opposed to DJI’s Motion Controller? So far, leaks like the one above from @OsitaLV have only shown boxes that just contain drone itself, or bundles with the joystick-style Motion Controller.
While the latter is certainly a fun way for beginners to fly first-person view drones, it does have its limitations – which is why most FPV pilots prefer to use console-style pads like DJI’s FPV Remote Controller 2. In the Tweet above, @OsitaLV suggests you’ll simply have to buy this separately if you don’t already own one rather having the option of a bundle – we shall see for sure in just under an hour.
Another helpful leak from @DealsDrone yesterday (above) has given us a good idea of the DJI Avata’s potential specs. It looks like the FPV drone will have a 1/1.7in sensor, which would be larger than the 1/2.3in one in the DJI FPV, and will be fronted with an f/2.8 lens with a 155-degree field of view.
One of my main questions about the DJI Avata is whether or not you’ll be able to see its props in the video footage, which is something that slightly irked me about the DJI FPV. Given its camera appears to be placed well above its guarded props, this seems unlikely – but we’ll see how its wide-angle lens performs in that regard when we see some more sample footage.
How DJI Goggles V2 working #avata #DJIAvata pic.twitter.com/KPtMf4cF5AAugust 24, 2022
We’re not just expecting to see a new FPV drone today – the leaks suggest DJI will also be introducing a new Goggles headset with a highly confusing name. The new DJI Goggles 2 (which you can see in the leaked video above) look like a smaller alternative to the current ‘DJI FPV Goggles V2’. Not at all confusing, DJI.
Earlier leaks from the likes of DroneXL (opens in new tab) suggest that the new Goggles 2 will have Micro-LED screens (rather than the LCD ones on DJI’s current version) and offer superior brightness and dynamic range. Helpfully, it looks like they’ll also be adjustable, both movable lenses and a diopter adjustment, which should make them a more comfortable experience for glasses-wearers.
DJI Avata from our wechat groups pic.twitter.com/iC29dWOgJjAugust 24, 2022
We could spend hours watching FPV drone videos, but with the DJI Avata launch just 80 minutes away, it’s time to look at some of the latest leaks. You can get a good round-up of all the rumors from recent weeks in our guide to the everything we know about the DJI Avata, but more leaks are still raining in.
One of the best sources for Avata leaks has been @DealsDrone (opens in new tab) on Twitter and they revealed one of the clearest shots yet of the drone above. It appears to confirm that the drone won’t fold like DJI’s other drones, but will have a large battery that slots in beneath a replaceable frame.
Time for one more FPV video before we dig into the DJI Avata leaks and rumors. The incredible biking one-shot above was spotted by our Phones Editor Alex-Walker Todd and really shows the kind of dynamic videos that are possible with FPV drones, in the hands of the right pilot (in this case, FPV Gonsi (opens in new tab)).
It isn’t yet clear what kind of top speeds the DJI Avata will be able to hit, but it’s highly unlikely to be capable of shooting Rad Race-style videos. Still, I’m looking forward to at least trying to recreate something similar with the family dog at the local bark park.
More recently, we also saw this falcon-like tour of Tesla’s Giga Berlin factory hit the big time on YouTube. DJI actually had a hand in making this video, which was created using a combination of the DJI/Caddx Vista Digital FPV System, DJI FPV Goggles V2 and a so-called ‘naked’ GoPro, which has been de-cased and stripped down to its most basic features.
This is a pretty complex, expensive system and the video above demanded some expert piloting skills from DJI’s Ferdinand Wolf. But it’s the kind of cinematic effect that DJI is surely looking to bring to the masses with the DJI Avata – and taking high-end filmmaking techniques into the mainstream is what DJI’s been doing for the past few years, with its drones and cameras like the DJI Pocket 2.
To get an idea of the kind of videos the rumored DJI Avata will likely be designed to shoot, let’s have a look at some of viral FPV ‘fly-through’ videos that have hit the social media jackpot in recent years. The one that often sticks in my mind is ‘Right Up Our Alley’ by Jaybyrd films (above), which went viral last year and now has almost 2.3 million views on YouTube.
Aside from the choreography, what’s particularly impressive about this video is the sound design. The popularity of one-shot videos like this also comes down to their uniqueness – it isn’t really possible to shoot them in any way other than with an FPV drone. And aside from the supreme piloting skills needed to shoot them, drones like the DJI Avata are promising to make this effect far more accessible than even a few years ago.
The ReelSteady software co-developed by Robert McIntosh, and used to stabilize the video below, is now used by most FPV and cinewhoop drone pilots. It was so good that GoPro bought ReelSteady in March 2020, further ensuring that GoPro action cams would become the default choice for FPV drones. GoPro even launched the GoPro Hero 10 Black Bones in the USA this year, which we used to shoot the video above.
How exactly will the DJI Avata attempt to break GoPro’s stranglehold on FPV drones? The rumors suggest the drone will have both RockSteady stabilization (which we saw on the original DJI FPV) and HorizonSteady, which was debuted on the DJI Action 2 action cam and promises to automatically keep the horizon in your videos flat. This is important because the Avata is only expected to have a single-axis gimbal. We’re looking forward to seeing how well this combo compares to ReelSteady and GoPro action cams.
FPV drones have grown out their hobbyist origins back in the early 2010s. But the popularity of the so-called ‘cinewhoop’ sub-genre is a little more recent. These small, nimble drones are, as their name suggests, built for the more cinematic possibilities of FPV drones. Their physical hallmark is some guarded propellors, which allow them to fly safely indoors and in tight spaces.
But equally significant is their flying style – smooth, slow and controlled – which you’ll have seen in a number of viral ‘fly-through’ videos in recent years. One of the most notable of these is the one above, which arrived back in 2017. It was shot by Robert Mcintosh using a custom-built drone, a deconstructed GoPro and some stabilization software that he co-created called ReelSteady. This had big implications for ‘cinewhoop’ drones that has ultimately led to today’s DJI Avata launch.
So, why exactly is DJI making another FPV (first-person view) drone? After all, its original DJI FPV (above), which arrived in March last year, hasn’t exactly set the world on fire and remains in the shadow of standard drones like the DJI Mini 3 Pro. The answer is a combination of that drone’s limitations and a spike in the popularity of ‘cinewhoop’ drones, which are sub-genre of FPV.
FPV drones differ from standard flying cameras by giving their headset-wearing pilots an on-board view from the drone. The downsides this brings (cost, complexity, latency challenges, looking ridiculous) are balanced out by the benefits: a much more precise control of the drone’s flight and an immersive flying experience. This makes FPV drones great for two things in particular – racing and shooting cinematic videos. And it’s the latter that ‘cinewhoop’ drones, like the incoming Avata, are particularly good at.
Hello and welcome to our DJI Avata liveblog. I’m Mark and I’ll be piloting you through the launch, as we fly over the glorious peaks of the latest leaks and rumors about DJI’s incoming FPV drone. And there’s certainly a lot of those to go through. DJI has again shown its sieve-like ability to hold onto key info ahead of a big launch, but there are still some crucial details missing, along with answers to some of the broader questions.
Because FPV drones are still something of a niche, we’ll start by exploring some of those bigger issues. Why are FPV drones suddenly a big deal? Who exactly has DJI made the Avata drone for? And what is a ‘cinewhoop’ drone? Then we’ll tuck into some of the leaks and rumors to build a picture of what we can expect to see at 9am ET / 2pm BST / 11pm AEST. Oh, and if you haven’t yet figured out your plan for tuning into the launch, check out our how to watch guide (or bookmark DJI’s YouTube video below).