In many business activities, drones can substitute traditional methods of operation. In some industries, drones have even enabled new business models and opportunities. Drones have become part of daily operations across varied industries such as agriculture, security and inspection, journalism, and entertainment. Almost every video or movie you’ll watch today will have some drone shot. First-person view (FPV) drones have been a rapidly growing trend in the drone industry over the past few years. DJI, one of the world’s largest consumer drone manufacturers, has recently hopped on the wave with its debut FPV drone.
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The new DJI FPV drone is coupled with DJI’s Goggles V2 and a newly designed controller. The drone was developed for both FPV professionals and newcomers, who have been flying “ordinary” drones but are looking to venture into the FPV world. The price isn’t what you’d call cheap as it retails at $1,299 on DJI’s Amazon Store (prices may change). However, if you are looking to shop the FPV locally in Kenya, it will cost you between Ksh165,000 – 170,000. This difference comes in from the import and duty costs. This however is quite comparable with regular drones in the market which are often sold with Goggles, controllers, or cameras.
For those who are newcomers to FPV, like me, you might be wondering how different the FPV drones are from typical drones (I remember wondering the same). Firstly, an FPV drone uses specialized Goggles to deliver the full thrill of immersive flight. The camera setup also differs from that of regular drones where the camera stabilizes and levels with the horizon, in the FPV drones, however, it locks on one position. Second, any experienced FPV pilot will tell you that they are way much more fun to fly than regular drones. It was definitely a fun and unique experience for me. They can however be more challenging to fly. This is because they are much more responsive in the air and move at breakneck speeds.
DJI aimed for simplicity with the FPV. Unlike traditional drones, the FPV is plug & play equipment. This means that you don’t have to know how to build your drone, calibrate motors or transmitters, which was the case if you wanted to experience the FPV world. A few years ago, achieving an FPV drone was more of a DIY project. The DJI FPV is configured to automatically connect with the controller and the Goggles. Everything you need to get it to the sky is included in one box. Simply turn on the drone, activate it, activate the remote and goggles, and start flying.
The drone has a takeoff weight of approximately 795g which is slightly heavier than regular drones. This is attributed to the heavy-duty battery (2000mAh) which enables the FPV to achieve a flight time of up to 20 minutes and a hover time of approximately 16 minutes. I know 20 minutes doesn’t sound as much, especially if you’re used to Phantoms or Mavics. But this is a substantial upgrade compared to other FPV drones which vary from 3 minutes for the miniature drones to about 10 minutes for the large FPV drones. The battery is a huge selling point for DJI. DJI has also implemented the “intelligent battery” feature which means that it will discharge if not used to help maximize its lifespan and also prevent swelling.
Is DJI FPV good for photography?
The DJI FPV is a marvel for photography. It is so good in photography, you can shoot a movie scene using it. The FPV comes equipped with a 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor which is similar to DJI’s affordable Mini 2 drone (retails at $500+). This provides good quality but will not match DJI’s advanced photo and video-focused drones such as the FPV. The camera is ideal for daylight but shows lots of noise in darker environments. The FPV can film 4k: (3840 * 2160) at 60fps compared to the 24fps on the Mini 2 drone. This means that you can slow down the footage for exhilarating close calls. If you want it even slower, it is possible to shoot 1080p at up to 120fps.
The camera on the FPV is mounted on a single axis gimbal with an electronic roll axis which can stabilize footage when the aircraft is tilted at angles of up to 10 degrees. The camera offers a super-wide view of 150 degrees (FOV), f/2.8 aperture, and 1/50-1/8000s shutter speed. The maximum image size is 3840*2160 with a JPEG photo format. You can also choose between MP4 and MOV video formats.
Most entry-level FPV drones use analog transmission. Analog has a limited range of transmission but very high latency. DJI has considered this and uses digital transmission for the FPV. The FPV uses DJI’s OcuSync 3.0 technology which has proven reliable. The tech provides crystal-clear, low-latency, real-time video transmission even at distances of up to 10km. The video latency of the FPV is below 28ms and has a bitrate of up to 50 Mbps. The auto-switching between 2.4 and 5.8GHz frequencies significantly reduces stutter and compression artifacts. The FPV is fitted with three transmitters and four receivers to enhance the signal, resulting in a stable and reliable feed. If the signal gets disconnected, the FPV will automatically enable the fail-safe Return-To-Home (RTH).
DJI debuted the goggles in 2020 to be used with custom FPV drones alongside the DJI Air Unit. The goggles have 2 1920 x 1080p resolution displays for a crisp and detailed feed. The design is compact, comparatively lightweight (420g), and quite stylish. DJI approximates that the goggles’ battery will last for 110 minutes at 25°C while on the maximum brightness level. The new controller is compact and relatively small compared to standard FPV controllers. DJI has also introduced a new motion controller which is optional at $199. This compact device allows the aircraft to maneuver based on your natural hand movements.
DJI has made it possible for both seasoned and completely beginner pilots to enjoy flying the FPV. The drone offers three intuitive modes: Normal, Sport, and Manual that anyone can fly confidently out of the box.
Normal mode (N) offers immersive flight with traditional drone flight controls along with DJI safety features like obstacle sensing. The drone will level automatically and even maintain altitude by itself. The speed in Normal mode is capped at 31Mph (Approximately 50km/h). This mode is best for beginners. The Sport mode (S) is a hybrid mode that combines the freedom of flying manually with the simplified controls of previous DJI drones. This mode is much faster than Normal mode with speeds of up to 60Mph. The drone will still auto-level and maintain its altitude in Sport mode.
The Manual mode (M) gives you limitless control and the full FPV flight experience. It allows you to do exciting FPV maneuvers like flips and rolls and reach speeds of over 150km/h. In Manual mode, you have full control of the throttle and have to maintain the drone’s positioning at all times. Mastering flight in this mode will take you hundreds of hours to get comfortable with it. Even for experts, manual FPV flight can be intimidating. That is why DJI developed the Virtual Flight App. The DJI Virtual Flight App enables you to practice flying in realistic simulated scenarios before flying in the real world. You simply connect the FPV Goggles V2 and the controller, and you’re ready to master flying in a risk-free virtual environment. Awesome. This means you can get experimental without wrecking your $1000+ drone.
The FPV also offers you an additional layer of safety with its in-built Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system. This system receives ADS-B signals from airplanes and helicopters and warns you through the Goggles V2 to help avoid those aircraft. Some other advanced safety features include an auxiliary bottom light, a Smart Return to Home (RTH) system, Low Battery RTH, and forward and downward facing obstacle sensors. These will help you ensure a safe flight even at high speeds.
If you lose control or want to come to a sudden stop, there’s an emergency button on the controller. Simply press this button on the remote controller while flying in any mode, at any speed, and the aircraft will stop and hover stably within a matter of seconds. In case the worst happened and you crashed the DJI FPV drone, it automatically shuts down the propellers to avoid more damage. The drone is also built with easily replaceable parts. The gimbal camera, landing gear, and top shell of the DJI FPV aircraft are all modular and easily replaceable, making repairs more convenient. The FPV kit also comes with extra top housing and extra propellers. More spares can be ordered from DJI directly if needed.
Overall, the FPV provides powerful propulsion capabilities combined with a 150 degrees super-wide FOV for an unrivaled view. The RockSteady EIS technology and distortion correction ensure that your footage is ultra-smooth, no matter how dynamic your maneuvers get. DJI has made it easy to share the experience with your friends. With the DJI Fly App, you can display the live view from the Goggles on your smartphone when connected via a cable. With the Fly app, you can playback footage, edit, and share your work on social media, all with just a few taps. You can also bring your friend along using the audience mode of the FPV. Just connect another set of FPV Goggles V2 to your aircraft channel and you’re ready to share the bird’s-eye view.
Is the DJI FPV worth it?
Totally. The DJI FPV is the best FPV drone you will get for your money today. At its price, the FPV may be pricey especially for an entry-level first-person view drone. However, DJI has utilized some of its best technology to deliver great performance and experience. The device is also much easier to use compared to other available options out there. The built-in flight simulator is a great addition to the immersive experience. However, the application is currently only available for IOS devices. I highly recommend any newcomers to spend more time practicing in simulators. Luckily, there are many available on various platforms.
What is so special about DJI FPV?
Everything about the DJI FPV is special. If you are conversant with FPV drones, I think you can’t go wrong with the DJI FPV. Your preferences for things such as camera setup will also influence your decision. It’s also necessary to consider the laws governing drone usage in your country or area of residence. You might also need a few more batteries, which pushes the total price up if you plan to use the drone intensively. All in all, the DJI FPV is an outright blast to fly around. It provides next-level immersion and unparalleled control. It is no doubt, the best of the best.