DJI FPV is on sale for $999 (regularly $1299). Should you buy it? Here are my thoughts as a licensed drone pilot who has been flying FPV for a couple of years.
If FPV is hard, why do people fly FPV?
Many people are familiar with DJI drones such as the Mavic, which are generally very easy to fly. FPV (first person view) drones are completely different because you wear goggles that enable you to see from the drone’s perspective. The other huge difference is that FPV drones are usually flown with manual controls. The pilot has to manage the throttle, and manually control the attitude of the drone (its pitch, yaw and roll) to move in the direction they want. That might not sound very complicated but it is actually quite difficult and takes a while to learn. I would say it is comparable in difficulty to learning a moderately difficult instrument such as the violin.
But if FPV is so difficult, why do people fly FPV at all? There are many reasons. First, when you fly with FPV goggles, it creates the illusion that you are flying. I would describe it as like an out-of-body experience without drugs. Second, from a filmmaking perspective, the video you get from an FPV flight is totally different from the video from a photography drone like the Mavic Air. Whereas Mavic videos look like they were shot on a wirecam, FPV videos look very organic and seem like they were shot with a bird. Compared to boring videos on a Mavic, FPV videos are exciting, which is why they are being used increasingly in ads and movies.
Here’s an FPV video shot with a 360 drone.
DJI FPV as the best of both worlds?
Is it possible to get the gracefulness of an FPV drone with the convenience of something like a DJI Mavic? That’s the premise of the DJI FPV — a complete FPV drone kit that also features the option to fly with GPS. When you turn on GPS assistance, you can fly it as easily as a Mavic. On the other hand, if you want a more organic looking flight, you can switch to full manual mode. And if you lose control in manual mode, it also has a panic button that will switch the drone to stabilized flight in just a couple of seconds.
In addition to being easier to fly, DJI FPV comes complete with everything you need to fly — best-in-class FPV goggles, FPV controllers, battery, and charger, which you would otherwise usually have to buy individually for a conventional FPV drone. The drone comes paired with the goggles and controllers, and even if you later have to pair them, pairing is extremely easy and convenient. Charging the battery is also as easy as charging a camera or your other gear — no need to worry about monitoring the batteries’ voltage, or calculating the number of amps to use for charging.
DJI FPV disadvantages
Although DJI FPV seems compelling for beginners, it does have some disadvantages. First, it is relatively large and is not easy to fly in small spaces. You’ll need to have an open area to be able to fly this as a beginner.
Second, its body is mostly plastic and not as durable as thick carbon fiber frames of FPV drones. And FYI, it is very common to crash an FPV drone if you are doing anything exciting.
Third — there’s very little room for customization. On a regular FPV drone, you can choose all the components — the camera, the frame, the motors, how the switches on your radio interact with the drone, the flight controller, even the software and tailor its flight characteristics exactly how you want. With DJI FPV, you can make some adjustments to the flight characteristics, and there are third party propellers, but not much else to customize.
Is it worth it?
There’s one more factor I haven’t mentioned, which is price. Even at the discounted price of $999, DJI FPV seems expensive. While it is true that you can get a RTF (ready to fly) kit for as little as $300, most RTF kits are not very good and you’ll soon need to upgrade from them, so query whether you really are saving money with a cheap RTF kit.
With DJI FPV, the goggles are best in class so you’ll never need to upgrade them (yes you can use them with other FPV drones equipped with DJI’s well regarded digital system). If you get a regular FPV drone and add the DJI FPV goggles to it, you’ll have to buy it for $569 in addition to the cost of a Caddx Vista or similar video transmitter, which will usually be another $130 or so compared to an analog FPV drone. So in a sense, you’re for paying just $300 or so for the drone (with built-in camera), controller (with decent range), battery, and charger, which I think is a pretty good deal, even before considering the DJI FPV’s unique option of switching to GPS flight anytime.
So if you’re thinking of getting into FPV, the DJI FPV Combo kit is a good way to start. It’s currently available for $999 on Amazon or if you want to get an instant rebate on your sales tax, you can buy it from B&H Photo with their Payboo card. If you want to see other options for FPV beginners, see here. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments.