Is the DJI Avata good for beginner FPV pilots? I’ll give you a hint: I already have a couple of dozen FPV drones but I still ordered one because it has unique advantages. However, it has significant disadvantages that you also need to be aware of.
In the past few years, there has been a lot of interest in using FPV drones for shooting videos. Unlike typical DJI drones that seem to fly on rails, FPV drones fly gracefully and organically. They can also fly indoors, where the GPS on DJI drones don’t work reliably. The problem is that FPV is much more difficult to fly. But what if there was an FPV drone that was easy to fly? That was the premise of the DJI FPV drone released in March 2021.
Unlike most FPV drones, DJI FPV could fly with GPS assistance, making it as easy as a regular drone to fly. The GPS assistance could be turned off to fly it like a regular FPV drone, while having a “panic button” that would stabilize the drone in mid-air if you lose control.
At the time the DJI FPV was released, I thought it would be great if they had a smaller version that could fly indoors — a cinewhoop or a smaller FPV drone designed for indoor flights and is equipped with prop guards or ducts so that it can be flown more safely around people.
Fast forward to August 2022, with the release of the DJI Avata, which seems to fulfill my wish — an FPV drone that can fly with stabilization indoors. But it does have some disadvantages you need to know before buying it.
- Simplicity. Buying the gear for FPV can be very intimidating. You can buy pre-built FPV drones but you’ll still need to buy a controller, FPV goggles, batteries, and charger. And honestly, each of those choices has a lot of options. For a beginner, it can be overwhelming. If you buy the DJI Avata combo, it includes everything you’ll need to fly. Not only that but they will be pretty good quality components.
- Indoor flight. One of the key reasons for flying with a cinewhoop is to be able to fly indoors. Fortunately, the Avata is able to fly with stabilization indoors, thanks to GPS as well as TOF depth sensors that can control its height. Whereas flying indoors is normally takes months to learn to fly smoothly, Avata makes it possible for almost anyone to fly indoors. Here is a sample indoor flythrough video shot with Avata using the stabilized flight mode by OriginaldoBo.
- Panic button. If you make a mistake while flying on a regular FPV, you’re on your own and you’ll need to correct your mistake yourself. With the Avata, you can press an emergency stope button which will stabilize the Avata in mid-flight, which can save you from causing serious damage or injury.
- Flight time. Typical FPV drones fly for around 5 to 10 minutes. The Avata can fly up to 18 minutes, which is extraordinarily long for a cinewhoop. Longer flight durations mean less downtime switching batteries.
- Battery management. On a regular FPV, you have to manage the batteries, making sure that you don’t overcharge them. And if you use parallel charging, you need to make sure the voltages match. If you make a mistake, you could cause a fire. On the other hand, the Avata has an advanced battery management system (BMS) that makes it as easy to charge as a smartphone.
- Durability. The Avata has reasonably durable prop guards. If the prop guards break, they are designed to be user-repairable.
- Gyroflow vs. Reelsteady. Until now, cinematic FPV videos almost always use GoPro cameras, partly because GoPros can use Reelsteady stabilization. With the Avata, DJI worked with a Gyroflow so that if you choose, you could use Gyroflow to make your Avata videos about as smooth as Reelsteady videos.
- External camera. If you want to attach a GoPro to the Avata, you can. The Avata has enough power to lift a full-size GoPro.
- High cost. The upfront cost of the DJI Avata is a bit high but is fairly priced at $1168. By comparison, if you buy a similar FPV system, the cost would be around the same — about $1163 for DJI FPV Goggles v2 ($429), a digital FPV cinewhoop ($369), Crossfire controller ($215), batteries (about $50 for similar capacity worth of 4S batteries) and charger ($100).
- FPV controller not included. If you want to learn FPV, then you’ll need the FPV controller ($179), which is unfortunately not included. Adding the cost of the controller to the package makes a costly package even more expensive.
- Incompatibility. The biggest disadvantage of the Avata in my opinion is that it is not compatible with conventional FPV drones. The new goggles, motion controller, DJI FPV 2 controller, batteries and charger don’t work with any other drones. That means if you do want to add a conventional FPV drone in the future, you’ll be starting from scratch. The only exception is if you get the combo with the FPV Goggles V2, those can be used with FPV drones that use the DJI Air system.
- None of the regular DJI features. Avata doesn’t have many of the features that are present in DJI’s photography-oriented drones like the Mavic. Don’t expect it to do automated flight movements or other canned tricks like that.
Should you buy DJI Avata? Which one?
If you are more interested in FPV for freestyle flights, you’re better off buying a freestyle drone and buying FPV gear the conventional way. A freestyle quad will perform much better than either the DJI FPV or Avata.
If you are more interested in cinematic flights, especially indoors, the Avata will make flythroughs exceptionally easy. I might go so far as to say that it seems Avata can enable you to fly more smoothly indoors in its stabilized Normal mode than most FPV pilots can fly in manual mode. That’s why even though I already have a couple dozen FPV drones, I’ve also ordered the Avata.
If you have the DJI FPV, you can order just the drone itself ($629) and use the goggles and controller from DJI FPV. If you don’t have DJI FPV yet, you’ll have to choose between the combo with the old goggles ($1169) and the combo with new goggles ($1388). The new goggles are more compact and have head tracking, but in my opinion, the combo with old goggles is more practical because it can be used with other FPV drones that use the DJI Air system.