Flying DJI's First FPV Drone Is an Exhilarating but Imperfect Experience

DJI is widely known for its commercial drones that are easy to use and friendly to newcomers, as well as for its content creation features for vlogs and even cinematography. With its new first-person view drone, DJI wanted to make a splash in the drone-flying community with a quad that toes the line. The DJI FPV shares features with high-end modular racing drones but was easy enough for this beginner to get started, though it is missing a couple of features that would take it over the line.

The $1,299 FPV bundle comes with all the necessary equipment to fly on day one. First, you have the drone itself, which looks nothing like DJI’s other commercial drones. Weighing in at 800 grams (or a little under 1.75 pounds) with the battery, the FPV has a solid-bodied design, something akin to the Phantom Pro 4. It’s very unlike the Mavic series, in which the drone folds into itself for a compact form factor. The quad comes equipped with a 4K camera that can shoot up to 60 fps, and in 4x slow motion at up to 120 fps.

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The bundle also includes the DJI FPV Goggles v2, which transmit a live feed up to 1440 x 810 at 120 fps. These goggles have a low-latency HD digital video transmission that provides a crystal clear flying experience—something literally unmatched in the FPV flying market. As a first-time FPV flyer, I was impressed by the clarity of the video and its in-flight visual immersion. If there’s one thing you should take away from this review, it’s that flying in HD is truly breathtaking.

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Then there’s DJI’s newly designed remote, which looks like a gaming controller. On previous commercial models, like the Mini 2 and Air 2, the controllers had a boxy design. I was personally fond of these controllers because they fit nicely in my hands, but now I have a new favorite.

With all these goodies, there is a caveat: The bundle is extremely expensive, which for a new FPV drone flyer like myself, or really anyone, is a very tough pill to swallow. Drone racing is, unsurprisingly, an expensive hobby to get up and running. You have other options, like pre-built drones, but those retail around $400 and don’t come with goggles or controller. If you buy the DJI goggles and remote a la carte, the price would jump up to $1,300—but that’s not including the action camera—so total would cost around $1,700 to get something equivalent. DJI says you can pair the goggles with another DJI FPV Fly Unit from 2019 for $180, which is great and saves you some moolah if you want to build another drone.

So if you can get over the $1,299 price tag, I can see this being perfect for a newbie FPV drone flyer who knows the FPV drone scene is where they want to be and who wants to stay within the DJI ecosystem to use the goggles in other drone builds, or for a cinematographer who wants to use the 4K camera and goggles to frame the perfect shot, even though features like DJI’s Activetrack are missing from this model.

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Yes, that’s right: This drone doesn’t have Activetrack, or the handful of program flight patterns or photo modes other DJI drones have that are perfect for content creation. Total bummer, right? Those features really would set the FPV apart from other first-person drones and make it a true hybrid drone.

However, DJI didn’t forget the safety features that feel the FPV feel like a true drone for beginners, including obstacle avoidance sensors, a Return to Home feature, and a nifty emergency brake that stops the drone in its tracks. I personally dig these. For instance, there were times the drone sensed an object coming in too quickly and so it automatically slowed to a safer speed. Some safety features, or all of them, can be disabled by switching the flight modes to either Sport or Manual mode, if you want to kick up the FPV experience a notch and test your limits.

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As for me, I had a great experience flying the FPV drone. As a first-time FPV drone flyer, I can see why people enjoy doing it. I was in pure awe witnessing the world from the FPV’s perspective while zooming around in the air. It reminds me of the exhilaration I had flying a drone for the first time, and if you’ve never flown a drone before—or if you’ve been out of the scene for awhile—get ready to have some fun.

For a more in-depth review and to see my FPV drone-flying experience firsthand, check out the video up top.

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README

  • According to DJI, the FPV drone can last up 20 minutes in flight. I got around 15-16 minutes of flight time on Normal mode, and around 6-7 minutes on Sport and Manual mode.
  • The 4K footage is superb, but it can’t shoot in LOG, which is a bummer. And you are stuck with .mp4 and HEVC formats.
  • The Rocksteady Electric Image Stabilization system is very solid.
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Video producer @ Gizmodo & Kotaku.

DISCUSSION

humanvelocipede
Jerry Callo, Esq., Trump U. School of Law '89

Is it really accurate to say that DJI is known for commercial drones? They do make them - the Inspire, Matrice, and Agras lines are used almost exclusively commercially - but the ones everyone knows about, the Mavic and Phantom lines, are prosumer at best. Not that they’re not good, or occasionally used for commercial purposes - I have 3 Mavics and people pay me for shoots - but in the commercial UAS world those are not considered close to commercial-line drones. They’re mostly used by hobbyists.

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