We have received confirmation that DJI is producing a remarkable new style of controller for its upcoming FPV drone. Plus, our earlier speculation on several of the product’s features have also been confirmed. If you read just one story about the new DJI FPV drone prior to its release…make it this one.
Brace yourself. Everything you’ve heard about the new DJI FPV drone (from us, at least) is true. We’ve already had one source, close to the testing of this product, confirm the key points of what we’d previously written (and which we’ll review again). That same source also told us, which we reported in this story, that DJI had produced a handheld, joystick-style controller that could be used to intuitively control the drone.
We’ve now had a second source definitively confirm that this device is coming – likely as a separate option.
The handheld controller
From the outset, we’ve said that DJI’s FPV product will be a hybrid drone, offering something for everyone: Stable, DJI-style flight for beginners, some sort of intermediate mode, plus the equivalent of Rate mode – where you’ve got to be on the sticks all the time. We’ve said it will have the option of position hold, the ability to auto-land and Return to Home. Plus, obviously, GPS and at least forward obstacle avoidance.
All of these, confirms a second source, are true.
But perhaps most intriguing was the story we wrote back on January 6. It stated, based on a source close to testing, that the product would have some kind of joystick-style controller.
“There will also be an additional ‘controller,’ which is like a control stick that exists on fighter jet. Not sure whether DJI will release that accessory with the FPV drone though,” said our source.
This controller would know its own position in space and could provide intuitive control for pitch, roll, yaw and thrust. The concept was very similar to what Swiss startup MotionPilot had been working on:
Now, this is a certainty. We are assuming it will be available at launch, or introduced as an option that can be purchased later. We don’t know the price, but our guess is $199-$249. It could be as low as $149, but we doubt it.
On February 4, we reported on the FCC filing for a device that looks pretty clearly like it’s a similar kind of motion-based controller. Colleague Josh Spires covered that here. There was also an image, and it’s pretty clear this the controller for the FPV drone:
Think, for a minute, of how revolutionary this product might be. What would be more instinct-based for controlling a drone than a handheld device that moves the drone the way you move your hand? So, picture your arm extended, holding this controller.
- Move your wrist toward or away from the ground for pitch (down and up)
- Tilt the controller left or right for roll (picture it at 45° instead of perpedicular to the ground)
- Twist the controller (angle your wrist left or right) for yaw
- Pull the trigger for throttle
- Click a button for stability
Here: We’ll show you what we mean:
Remember when we pitched auto-landing? Well, our source suggests that this controller will have the ability to immediately switch the FPV drone into a stable hover. So, for example, if things were getting hairy and you thought you were losing control you could simply click a switch and the drone would stabilize, saving you from pricey repairs. Our source confirms it will have this feature, which obviously makes a ton of sense and is totally within DJI’s existing technology framework.
Words like “game-changer” and “breakthrough” often get tossed around in the various tech spheres. But we believe this controller truly will be revolutionary. As someone who has now racked up 58 hours in the Velociraptor FPV simulator, I’ll say this kind of option is certainly going to be easier to learn than standard FPV control with sticks. (After all that time, I’d say I’m still just a confident beginner.)
And again, this fits perfectly into DJI’s plans for this drone: It will appeal to both beginners and experienced pilots. Training wheels for the new folks, but enough desirable smart features and great video for creators and people with FPV experience. It will break down the Barrier to Entry, at least in terms of knowledge, that prevents many from picking up FPV flying.
It’s pretty easy to visualize what it might be like to fly something using this new type of controller. And it’s hard to imagine anything more intuitive.
Finally, a quick review
We’ve previously predicted that this drone will be released around the end of February. But this final chunk of the story is more to review what we’ve predicted, and which has now been confirmed by a trusted source.
Ready? Here we go:
Beginners to Pros: You’ll be able to fly this drone right out of the box with the same trusted stability features that have vaulted DJI to global drone dominance. These features include:
- Position hold (quickly switchable)
- Return to home
- Auto-landing, with downward sensors
- The equivalent of Rate mode
- Forward obstacle avoidance
Great video quality: DJI is known for the quality of its video, and there’s clearly been a trend in popularity of the CineWhoop-style drones. This drone will carry on that tradition, with 4K, 60 FPS. Based on other drones, we’re guessing minimum write speeds at that setting of 100 MB/second.
Extended flight time: DJI is a leader in battery management and technology. We’ve already seen the battery, which is pretty substantial. We also know that people aren’t going to want to shell out $1299 – $1499 (our best guess at the price of the drone/goggles/radio combo) for something that burns through a battery in four minutes or so. Given that DJI is capable or producing consumer drones with flight times in excess of 30 minutes, we think it’s reasonable to assume extended flight time. Given the current draw of FPV flight, we don’t think it will be 30 minutes. Our source says the DJI FPV drone will have a 20-minute flight time, which we think sounds about right. (Maybe less if you’re in full Rate mode and gunning the throttle.)
User-replaceable parts: We noted, early on, that some exposed screws on the arm were anomalous when compared with other DJI drones. We speculated then it likely meant that some parts would be user-replaceable. We even went so far as to suggest that wiring would have plugs or some way of clicking together to avoid soldering. We’re sticking with that.
These features are all smart. They all make sense. And most of them will appeal to a broad swatch of drone pilots. There will be many FPV pilots who will embrace this, though not as a racing product (even though we think it will be fairly quick). But that’s not the real market here.
Experiencing FPV for the first time is really an incredible thing. Experiencing it via DJI’s FPV goggles makes it more incredible, and we expect V2 of those goggles will be released at the same time as this drone.
This drone, we feel, is going to tap into an entirely new market: Those who have not experienced FPV, and perhaps have never before even flown a drone. It will be easy to fly for beginners, yet offer the full acrobatic experience for those who already fly FPV. It will replace, for many, home-built CineWhoops.
As for that controller? This is going to catch on. There will be other drone manufacturers – perhaps even radio manufacturers – who will follow suit. This is reolutionary, and it’s going to be a thing.
In short, this drone is poised to shake up the consumer FPV drone industry.
And we can’t wait.