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DJI Avata review: FPV drone adventures made easy

The DJI Avata flying over a boulder field.
DJI Avata
MSRP $1,390.00
“FPV drones are often intimidating and challenging, but the DJI Avata opens the FPV door to anyone — and knocks it out of the park while doing so.”
Pros
  • Extremely fun and intuitive flight experience
  • Good camera
  • Durable and safe
  • Backwards compatible with older accessories
  • Small and compact
  • Fast, easy setup
Cons
  • Produces a particularly loud and irritating noise
  • Susceptible to strong wind

The DJI Avata is an exciting departure from DJI’s traditional faire of photography-focused camera drones. It’s an FPV drone designed to offer a more exciting, action-focused flight experience previously only available to dedicated hobbyists. The Avata can slip through minuscule gaps and pull off stunning acrobatic stunts, all at breakneck speed. Does it offer any advantages over DJI’s previous FPV drone, and can it appeal to beginners and high-level pilots alike?

DJI Avata: Design

The DJI Avata Pro-View Combo.
Andy Zahn / Digital Trends

The DJI Avata is a small, Cinewhoop-style drone. Unlike DJI’s camera drones, the Avata doesn’t have any folding limbs and only features a single-axis gimbal camera. This camera is situated inside of a protective cage, behind which the battery is mounted. I love this design because it requires practically no setup or takedown, and the drone is just ready to go as soon as you pop off the lens cap and power it on. The new DJI Goggles 2 are also compact and portable, and paired with the diminutive motion controller, the Avata is both convenient and easy to carry with you.

DJI Avata: Camera

DJI Avata vs DJI FPV Drone vs DJI Mavic 3 vs DJI Air 2S - Video Quality Comparison

The DJI Avata features a 48MP 1/1.7-inch sensor camera, a 155-degree field of view, and an f/2.8 aperture. This provides excellent image quality, and I was quite happy with the footage I was able to capture with the drone. It can capture 4K video at up to 60fps, or 2.7k video at up to 120fps, which is stabilized with RockSteady and HorizonSteady electronic image stabilization. This is the same impressive tech as is found in DJI’s Action 2 camera, and it works great in the Avata to keep the footage looking smooth.

Video is sharp and vibrant, with decent low-light performance. It’s not as fantastic as what you’d get from a camera drone like the DJI Mini 3 Pro or the Mavic 3, but it’s great for an FPV drone where stellar image quality isn’t as imperative. It’s comparable to a high-end action camera, which is what drones such as this typically carry anyway. In addition to the standard video profile, D-cinelike is available for those who want to do extra post-processing.

DJI Avata: Safety and durability

The DJI Avata perched on a boulder.
Andy Zahn / Digital Trends

The nature of FPV drones and how they are typically flown puts them at a far greater risk of mishap than less madcap drones. Fortunately, the Avata has a number of tricks up its proverbial sleeves to keep itself and everything around it intact. First and foremost are the built-in prop guards and roll cage. These both protect the most vulnerable parts of the drone from damage in case of collision and keep dangerous spinning blades from harming innocent bystanders.

Furthermore, the Avata has a number of smart features to help keep it safe. In terms of obstacle detection, it not only has downwards-facing sensors for landing assistance, but it also has GPS and return-to-home capability. Additionally, the DJI Avata has an emergency brake that brings it to an almost instant halt, and Turtle mode actually allows it to take off and fly upside down if you happen to crash and flip over.

If your drone does fall and can’t get back up, the Find My Drone function utilizes ESC beeping and light flashing, among other methods, to help you locate it. Also, I very much appreciate the Home Point AR display in the goggles, which makes it easy to find your way back to the takeoff point if you get a bit lost while doing loop-de-loops.

DJI Avata: Flying experience

The DJI Avata flying beside a cliff.

The DJI Avata is an incredibly nimble little drone, and an absolute joy to fly. I felt very confident piloting it, even in situations in which I’d normally balk with any other drone. From the moment I took off, I was immediately tearing along under low-hanging branches, threading gaps between trees, and buzzing close over the forest canopy. I took it to an empty playground, where I flew through monkey bars and swing sets. Under a bridge, I zipped through a complex network of girders and flew in a tiny gap between branches to brush past a waterfall and shoot out just inches from a cliff face.

I felt very confident piloting it, even in situations in which I’d normally balk with any other drone.

There are three separate modes to use when flying: Normal, Sport, and Manual. Normal is close to what you’d find in your average camera drone, while sport is faster and more challenging. Manual mode takes the training wheels all the way off and throws you in at the deep end. It transforms the Avata into a true FPV drone for all sorts of acrobatic action. Fortunately, if you own an iOS device such as an iPhone, you can connect your goggles and fly in a simulator before you try the real thing.

The O3+ transmission featured in the Avata is in part responsible for the excellent flight experience. It has a mere 30ms transmission delay and a maximum transmission distance of 10 kilometers. The 50Mbps bitrate of the image transmission enables a high-quality video stream from the drone to the goggles.

DJI Avata - Endless Accelleration

The one caveat to flying the Avata is that it seems to be highly susceptible to wind. On several occasions, I really had to fight to keep it on course in conditions that larger, heavier drones would have easily brushed off. Most of the time, it wasn’t a big deal, but I did have a pretty scary experience one time with the Avata flying up a canyon over a raging river. The gusts picked up when I was in the air, and the drone began listing to the side dramatically. The moral of the story is that you need to be very aware of conditions when flying the Avata.

Wind isn’t really an issue indoors, and the Avata is very much at home in confined interior spaces. You typically don’t want to fly a drone in the house, but I felt fairly comfortable flying around inside, thanks to the high degree of fine control that’s possible with the Avata, as well as its small size and prop guards.

DJI Avata: Noise

The DJI Avata flying in a forest.
Andy Zahn / Digital Trends

The biggest problem with the Avata is the noise it produces, which is both very loud and extremely irritating. If you’re used to flying other Cinewhoop-style FPV drones, then the noise probably won’t surprise you, but for someone like me who typically flies drones like the Mavic 3 and Air 2S, the Avata was quite shocking the first time I took off.

Drone Noise Test - DJI Avata vs DJI FPV vs DJI Mavic 3 vs DJI Air 2S compared

The reason this is important is that, when you’re flying a drone, it’s essential to take other people and wildlife into consideration. You really want to avoid irritating other people, and it’s vital that you avoid harassing wildlife. I found that friends and family couldn’t stand the sound of the Avata, and I’ve noted that wildlife finds it particularly alarming. For example, the swallows living on my farm went absolutely crazy and started trying to attack the Avata as soon as I took off. In my experience, birds usually just ignore drones, but they absolutely hate the Avata.

The bottom line here is that when flying the Avata, you’ll need to be very careful if you are to avoid bothering the living things around you — be it people or animals. This is something the DJI FPV drone handles much better, though at the expense of a bulkier and less convenient design.

DJI Avata: Headsets

View of the interior of the DJI Goggles 2.
Andy Zahn / Digital Trends

The DJI Avata is compatible with both the older DJI FPV Goggles V2 and the newer DJI Goggles 2, and both are available as part of different bundles with the Avata. This naming scheme is very confusing, so from here on out, I’ll be referring to the DJI FPV Goggles V2 as the “old headset” and the DJI Goggles 2 as the “new headset”.

The new headset is an improvement in almost every way. The old headset just kind of balances on my face, lets a ton of light leak in, and is both bulky and awkward to wear and store in a bag. The new headset fixes all these problems and more. It clamps down tight, so it stays firmly in place, and it seals nicely so there is no light leak. It’s a fraction of the size of the old headset, and the antennae now fold down so that it’s even easier to pack away. It also features micro-OLED screens that are bright and vivid and provide an incredibly realistic view through the drone’s cameras.

Those screens are also much more adjustable now, so it’s easy to fine-tune them to your eyes. The new headset even includes adapters for users with corrective lenses. The new headset also greatly improves the power delivery system. It still includes a battery at the end of a long cable, but now the cable clips securely onto the battery, and it is coiled. It’s far less likely to come unplugged accidentally or get snagged on things, which were both serious problems with the old headset.

The DJI Goggles 2 next to the DJI FPV Goggles V2.
Andy Zahn / Digital Trends

The new headset uses a touchpad to navigate the menu system, rather than a button and joystick system like the old headset. Both systems work great after a little practice, and for me, it’s a toss-up as to which I prefer. I’m always a proponent of physical, tactile controls, but the new touch-based system is really fluid and easy to use. However, I would give the edge to the old tactile controls, because they are easier to find just by feeling with your hand while wearing the goggles. The touch controls blend in too much, and it takes a while to build the muscle memory necessary to find them quickly.

It’s also worth noting that the image transmission isn’t as strong in the new headset as in the old, which would make sense due to the more minimalistic antennae array of the new headset. In most situations, this wasn’t particularly noticeable, but if I happened to dip behind a rock or other solid obstacle, the older headset was more likely to provide a reliable connection than with the new headset.

One final advantage of the new headset is that it comes with a simple plastic eyepiece protector for storage that wedges firmly inside the goggles. This may not seem like a big deal, but it really helps prevent accidental smudging of the lenses and helps protect them during travel.

DJI Avata: Battery life

rear view of the DJI Avata on an old picnic table.
Andy Zahn / Digital Trends

The Avata only has 18 minutes of battery life, which isn’t much compared to other DJI drones. However, it’s a lot better than most FPV drones, which typically offer half that flight time at best. I was able to get several flights out of each battery, and I was never overly limited by the capacity. As with any other drone, I recommend also picking up at least one spare battery.

DJI Avata: Price and availability

The fly more kit for the DJI Avata.
Andy Zahn / Digital Trends

The DJI Avata is available now at a variety of different price points. On its own, the Avata costs $630, while the Avata Pro-View Combo — which includes the newer DJI Goggles 2 — will set you back $1,390. You can also get the Avata Fly Smart Combo, which includes the older DJI FPV Goggles V2, for $1,170.

Also available is the Fly More Kit for $280, which includes two spare batteries and a charging hub. Each battery costs $130 on its own, and the charging hub costs $60, so the Fly More Kit offers an attractive discount. In my experience, you always want to have a couple of extra batteries with you, and I always buy the Fly More Kit when I buy a new DJI drone.

The DJI Avata is one of the best FPV drones around

Side view of the DJI Avata flying in a forest.
Andy Zahn / Digital Trends

The DJI Avata is pure, distilled fun. Racing around, dodging through tiny gaps, and buzzing sprinklers and waterfalls, feels amazing. It provides a highly accessible entry point to what was once a niche hobby with a high learning curve. The Avata has something to offer everyone, from those totally new to drone flying to those already heavily invested in FPV.

In short, you should absolutely buy the DJI Avata. If you have been wanting to dip your toes into the adrenaline-fueled world of FPV drones, the DJI Avata is a terrific way to start. And even for seasoned FPV pilots, it’s worth considering thanks to the high quality of the flight experience when using the DJI Goggles 2. Regardless of your experience, this is a drone everyone can and should consider.

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