Finally. The new DJI FPV drone is available – and it’s pretty innovative. DJI has produced a product that offers a stable FPV experience for a beginner, yet enough performance to satisfy many existing FPV pilots. It’s not for everyone, but it will be a great choice for many. And all at a combo price, if you can get your hands on one.
This has been a ton of anticipation for this drone’s release. There are many people – just how many, DJI will soon find out – keen to dive into the FPV world. This drone will allow even inexperienced pilots the ability to start flying out of the box, enjoying all the reliability associated with DJI products.
Will it satisfy everyone? No. But for a lot of people, it’s going to be perfect.
In a nutshell
Some of you already know you want this. And, given what appears to be huge demand, we’d recommend that if your mind is made up…hop in and buy yours now. We’ve never seen this kind of pre-launch interest and genuinely anticipate this product could well run out of stock.
That shouldn’t be a surprise. DJI has produced a drone that will introduce a whole new crowd to the world of FPV; a hybrid that offers a raw beginner the sense of flying while still allowing the experienced pilot to hit a fully manual, acro mode. There’s even the revolutionary new motion controller, which allows a total newbie to fly without the use of sticks, along the lines of how the old Wii controllers worked. Simply move the controller in space and squeeze the throttle trigger.
There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s get into it.
The heart of the matter
We’re going to construct this review slightly differently from most. Normally, we’d start with Whats in the Box, Specs, Features, etc. But the reality is, pretty much all of you know what’s in the box already: The FPV drone, V2 FPV Goggles, and a remote control, plus AC charger, cables, two sets of propellers, and a spare canopy. There’s also an adaptor cable so that you can connect your phone to the goggles, with the DJI FLY app, to see what the pilot sees. The motion controller does not ship with the $1,299 US package and is an option.
Because most of you are really interested in seeing this thing fly and getting pro feedback, here’s our video. With the help of DroneBoy CEO Tom Comet chasing (and at Tom’s facilities), we had FPV pilot Eric Bell take it up for a spin. His verdict? “Pleasantly surprised.”
Okay, now we’ll back up
As we’ve predicted from the outset, the DJI FPV is a “hybrid” cinematic FPV drone. It’s fast and it’s agile, but it’s not intended as a competitive FPV racer. It’s a new type of drone and one which will introduce a ton of new pilots to the FPV world. You get all the technology and ease of flight that DJI is known for in a no-fuss package. The barrier to entry that stops many from entering the world of FPV – the building, tuning, tweaking, etc. – doesn’t exist with this package. You can literally go from never having flown a drone to flying FPV your first time out.
Of course, flying fully manually will still take time. And we’ll say it now: If you’re new to FPV, do not attempt to fly manually until you are fully comfortable with DJI’s simulator and you’re in a safe location. Do not attempt to start doing flips and rolls unless you are have practiced flipping the remote back into safe mode in an instant. Otherwise – and YouTube will surely be providing evidence before long – you are likely going to crash.
As expected, this is a very different quad from a home-built or even Ready-To-Fly FPV drone you might buy online elsewhere. It’s not a bare carbon frame, stripped down to remove any and all excess weight; the flight controller, compass, and other electronics are hidden behind a semi-translucent canopy. It also has some other really interesting design features.
The arms, as we’ve noted before, are shaped like airfoils. The front arms, specifically, are shaped very much like forward-sweeping conventional fixed-wing aircraft wings. We can see, aesthetically, that these work with the overall design of the drone. But we’re thinking perhaps they offer some small amount of lift, which would aid in overall efficiency when flying at any sort of speed. We have a query in with DJI’s engineers and will let you know what we hear.
The plastic seems pretty dense and tough, but we’re pretty sure this won’t compare with the carbon arms used on most FPV builds. On release day, there were already some videos surfacing showing the drone with broken arms.
Something we picked up on in earlier, leaked photos is now easy to confirm: The motors are not all on an equal plane, the way they are on most FPV quads. First of all, all motors are on pointed slightly inward toward the fuselage. This aids in Yaw authority, allowing for a bigger bite of air when you want to rotate the aircraft. The front motors, as we’d previously noted, are also tilted slightly forward when compared with the rear motors, which likely aids in getting into forward flight faster.
The electronics are protected by a semi-translucent plastic canopy and bolstered by a metal shield beneath it that functions like a roll bar. The canopy is interchangeable by removing some small hex bolts; the canopy our review unit shipped with had a small stress fracture on arrival. The product ships with a spare canopy, which doesn’t feel terribly strong until it’s affixed in place.
Even then, we do wonder if this might be something that could have been a little stronger, given what it’s protecting. Time will tell on that one, and we anticipate it won’t take entrepreneurs long to start producing aftermarket canopies that can offer the pilot a chance to personalize this drone a bit.
You’ve perhaps seen it in previous coverage of leaks, but the drone has a pretty serious cooling system happening. There’s an intake for air cooling above the camera designed to grab air during forward flight. That same air flows over the electronics and then out the back and over a pretty robust-looking heat sink.
The batteries are Lithium Ion Polymer and the equivalent of a 6s, 2000mAh pack. If you fly it gently, it’s possible to get as much as 20 minutes of flight time from one charge. Even running it in manual mode, at high speed and with flips and rolls, we managed to get two flights totaling more than 12 minutes, which impressed our FPV pilot. Unlike most FPV drones, where the battery pack is fully exposed, the bulk of this battery goes inside the body of the FPV drone.
The bottom rear of the battery has two rubber feet, which – combined with the front two legs – are for landing or resting the drone on the ground.
The camera is 4K, 60fps, and features a 150° Field of View. Smooth video (as expected) is achieved by both physical dampening and RockSteady Electronic Image Stabilization. D-Cinelike is available as a profile, which will be a boon for more serious cinematographers. We used it in auto settings straight out of the box and felt it performed very well in a variety of lighting conditions; like most other DJI products it also has a manual menu.
That 150° FOV is great for cinematic purposes. The Live View will give you a bit of the props in the shot, but with the correct settings these won’t be in the full resolution recorded video.
The goggles receive that video via OcuSync 3.0. What improvements there are from OcuSync 2.0 were not laid out in the information that accompanied the test drone. You can attach your phone or table to the goggles via USB-C and see what the pilot’s view is. Great for sharing your experience. As well, there’s an “Audience” mode, which will allow other with DJI goggles (presumably V2) to see the same feed.
The drone/goggles combo also features an ADS-B receiver. This means that if a transponder-equipped manned aircraft is in your neck of the woods, you’ll get a popup notice on the goggles and an audible warning. If you’re flying and this happens, particularly if you’re alone, we’d recommend landing immediately and taking off the goggles so you can be aware when the aircraft has left your area.
The DJI FPV comes with three flight modes: Normal, Sport and Manual. Users can easily switch between modes using the rocker switch on the controller. On the controller, these modes are labeled N, S and M. Here’s how DJI describes the purpose of each:
N mode: same flight mode used on other DJI drones. Suitable for users with little or no experience flying drones.
S mode: simplifies FPV flying for a thrilling and intuitive experience. It’s a hybrid setting that mixes normal and manual mode. Suitable for users with some experience flying drones.
M mode: the full FPV flight control mode. Fun and challenging mode that is suitable only for users with experience flying FPV who know what they are doing. Suitable for flying in open areas.
Advanced Safety Features: Emergency Brake and Hover, Return to Home, Takeoff & Landing Assistance.
DJI Virtual Flight: app simulator that helps new FPV pilots practice their flying skills until they are confident enough to fly outside.
DJI’s Launch Video
This video, added to this story after it was first published, gives a slick snapshot of what this drone can do:
If you’ve flown a DJI product…
And even if you haven’t, you’ll be up and running in no time. I’ve got plenty of time with DJI products and some on FPV. So I began by simply flying this in “N” mode in my backyard. I powered on the DJI FPV Goggles V2, the drone, and the controller. The 810p/120fps live view was crystal-clear. And, interestingly, did not require me to wear my glasses (which I’ve had to always do with other FPV goggles). The same thing happened with the V1 of these goggles. Not suggesting that will happen with you if you wear glasses, but that’s fortunately been my experience.
Unlike most “traditional” FPV drones, the DJI product does not use two cameras. The single, 4K 60P camera on the drone is both for its cinematic recording and for transmission to the goggles. So what you see is always what you’re going to get. There’s no messing around with naked GoPros or other cameras. (For those who think the $1299 combo is a bit pricey – and there’s no doubt it will be pricey for some – it’s worth remembering that you won’t be shelling out for an action camera).
Just as there’s a rocker switch on the controller for N, S, and M modes, there’s a similar device for quickly positioning the gimbal between pointing downward, ahead, and upward. This is handy because, obviously, when in forward flight the drone itself flies at an angle and you need to compensate for that. The vast majority of FPV quads rely on a fixed position for the camera, but being able to adjust this quickly using the rocker is a handy feature. You also still have that familiar DJI gimbal wheel for finer adjustment, but the rocker switch gets it into position super fast.
What does it “feel” like?
In “N” mode, the FPV drone behaved exactly like any other DJI product, except the pilot is watching through the goggles and not through the app (though you can tether a mobile device with DJI FLY to the goggles and see what the pilot is seeing). The drone went exactly where I wanted it to. When I took my hands off the sticks, it simply hovered in place. The transmission was flawless, providing an exceptionally clear view of what the drone was seeing and recording. (This was not a surprise, and further evidence of why the V1 FPV goggles have been so widely embraced by the existing FPV community.)
Because the gimbal is single-axis only, you’ll see the drone bank when you turn, even in N mode. This is different from regular DJI products, which have a three-axis gimbal. Normally, when flying a DJI you never see that banking action unless you specifically lock the gimbal to achieve that purpose (fixed-wing mode on the Mavic Pro etc.). If you’re after that FPV sensation that makes it feel like you’re truly flying, this aids in that.
In “S” mode, the drone is significantly faster and more responsive. With greater speed, of course, the banking is sharper, giving you a greater FPV feel while still in a safe flying mode. Hard to tell, but it feels almost like DJI may have done something to give this more of an Angle mode. But once again, same thing as N: Take your hands off the sticks and you’re golden. The drone just hangs there.
For the beginner, this truly is the bomb. With a visual observer alongside to keep an eye out on your behalf, you’ll be safely flying in no time. And for some people, this mode (and S mode) might well be enough to satisfy what you’re after.
But, of course, most people are going to want to progress to the fully manual FPV experience.
When you first try to get into M mode, you’ll see a recommendation in the goggles. A popup says you should attempt M mode only if you are experienced with manual FPV or have gone through DJI’s simulator. At that point, if you’re new, you should take DJI’s advice and get into the sim.
The simulator became available late on March 1. We took a quick dive into it and saw there were two different modes of FPV training – for total beginners and for those with drone experience. We had just completed the steps to familiarization required even for an experienced pilot at the time of publication and will be jumping back in. Interestingly, the simular – DJI Virtual Flight – is downloaded to your phone, then your phone is tethered to the goggles. You go through the menu and various tasks using the new DJI remote controller. We’ll take a deep dive later, but what we’ve seen so far looks good.
As we’ve stressed earlier, you really should do some work on the simulator or have true FPV experience before attempting M mode.
That being said, if you’re feeling confident you could take it up to a bit of altitude in either N or S mode, with a visual observer. Then you could click that rocker switch to “M” – while keeping your finger resting on it. You’ll want it there in case things go wrong, as you can easily switch back the other two modes for stability. That’s the “Emergency Brake” that DJI refers to – If things start going squirrely, flick to N mode and take your hands off the sticks. All good.
Okay. You’re finally here: The Big Kahuna. You’re in the air, hovering at enough altitude to recover, and you make the switch. Click.
Does the drone start going crazy? Nope. You get a message in the goggles to place your throttle and right stick in specific positions. In fact, you’ll see these positions displayed as an overlay of where your sticks currently are. The point is to line up the throttle and attitude so that the transition is smooth and not some hairy experience you have to immediately try and adjust to. It was a smart move from DJI’s engineers, and really an important one. No one wants a jarring transition to FPV flight…and you don’t get it with this system. (Once you’ve got your chops, you can takeoff in M mode.)
And then, once you’re in manual, away you go. The system is “unlocked” for the full, acrobatic-capable FPV experience.
The controller ships with a spring-centered throttle. That’s not the way most FPV pilots fly, preferring instead for it to be completely loose and stay where it’s put. DJI thought this one out, and by peeling back the rubber on the grip and adjusting a screw, the stick is freed for manual flight. Sure, you can fly manual with it in the factory setting, but it’s a far better feel to make that small adjustment.
This add-on has already, due to leaks, gotten a lot of buzz. We first reported back in early January that DJI would be releasing this product, which totally changes the game on how to fly a drone. For a beginner, nothing could be more intuitive: Squeeze the trigger for throttle and point where you want to go. Rotate your wrist for yaw; angle it for roll. And if things get hairy? Just hit that big panic button and the drone will instantly stop and hover in space.
A review unit arrived late in the game, and we had only a brief opportunity to try this thing. We’ll be putting it through its paces in the days to come.
Have you ever been out flying FPV in an unfamiliar place and suddenly you couldn’t remember where “Home” is? It happened to me just three days ago. Here, DJI did a very smart thing with the addition of a Virtual Home – a bright white “H” that floats over the image in the goggles showing the home point. I can tell you, seeing that in the DJI goggles was quite reassuring – definitely a feature that impressed both experienced FPV pilots who tried out the system.
What’s the whole system like?
If you’re brand new to FPV flight, it’s going to blow your mind. Partly because that video transmission is just so damn good.
The drone is fast, capable of 0-60 mph in two seconds, meaning it’ll give the Tesla Plaid Plus Model S, which has 1020 horsepower, a run for its money. (That also means things can go south in a nanosecond, so be sure you know what you’re doing.)
We’ve put it in the hands of two seasoned FPV pilots. Eric Bell thought it flew like a standard, decent 5″ quad, which we took as high praise. David Klein, who owns Rotorgeeks and is a DJI dealer, thinks it’s really interesting but was not quite as impressed. He said, though the drone was quick, it felt a bit heavy and not quite as responsive as he’d like.
Inside the goggles, you do have the option of adjusting rates for pitch, roll, and yaw. Klein looked at them once we’d finished flying and thought they were slow, so the responsiveness issue might be addressed with a few clicks there.
It’s also worth remembering: DJI is not targeting the David Kleins and Eric Bells of the world. These guys can build and tweak a quad to within an inch of its life. They are after performance, pure and simple. Plus, this is a heavier drone (640 grams with battery), not one we expected to really compete with the stripped-down racers Klein sells and both men build.
And me? Though I’ve flown FPV, I’m not an expert and didn’t want to risk anything going south. So I left M mode to David and Eric to ensure that the drone was still in great shape for review day. I’ve flown it in N and S modes, and also briefly with the motion controller, and was impressed. It’s pretty much everything we expected this would be.
Is it right for you?
Well, that’s for you to decide. It depends on what kind of pilot you are, and what kind of person you are. If you’re a competitive FPV racer who flies bandos and loves building, probably not.
If you’re new to FPV and want an experience that will admit you to what has been a somewhat exclusive club…this just might be your ticket. DJI has put a lot of thought and technology into this product, and it shows.
If that’s you, buy it now. We would not be surprised if this sells out fast.
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