DJI has announced their release of the DJI FPV, and my view towards this drone is somewhat mixed.
FPV drones have a reputation of being notoriously complicated, and my initial thought is that DJI have done a fantastic job in simplifying this category of drone for pilots and hobbyists, no matter how experienced they are with flying.
Traditional FPV drones are somewhat basic in their features and design and require a high degree of skill to fly manually. They do not have any auto-hover abilities, obstacle avoidance sensors, camera control, and limited GPS and return-to-home functionality. Given their manual flight characteristics, accidents occur more frequently and FPV drones often require a high degree of ongoing maintenance and repair. Additionally, camera settings and camera angle are usually adjusted on the ground, with no camera or angle control once the drone is airborne.
Traditional FPV Drone (Left) compared to DJI FPV (Right)
The new DJI FPV drone has a number of features that simplifies the complexities of FPV which I find exciting.
It eases new pilots into the world of FPV with an in-built simulator, and a flight mode switch which almost provides a step-by-step degree of flight difficulty.
It includes your typical DJI features, including GPS, return to home functionality, obstacle avoidance, and a new fail-safe button to avoid sticky situations no matter what flight mode you’re in.
The drone has a vertical gimbal, allowing the camera angle to be controlled during flight, as well as the ability to start and stop recording, though no horizon levelling. The camera settings can be adjusted using switches on the goggles.
The intelligent flight battery is much safer than LiPo batteries for traditional FPV drones. The DJI FPV battery has automatic discharging built in and will stop charging when reaching full capacity. It also has a flight time of up to 20 minutes depending on how aggressive the flight is, which is way longer than your typical FPV drone which usually offers 3-7 minutes flight times.
The controller somewhat resembles a Playstation controller and is an ideal size for portability. It appears to be rugged and allows for the joysticks/gimbal sticks to be adjusted.
The outer shell of the drone can be changed, which offers a degree of customisation to the look of the drone. This, in conjunction with coloured LEDs allows your drone to be recognisable when flying with friends.
The drone body appears somewhat durable with the main electronic components hidden internally, which provides extra protection should you crash.
My main concern with the DJI FPV drone is that it will no doubt encourage pilots with zero or limited FPV experience to fly the drone beyond their skill level and capabilities. I see people breaking drone laws daily with standard drones, particularly flying over or within close proximity to people, beyond Visual Line of Sight, and above the 120m height limit. When combined with a new style of flying and inexperience, this is a recipe for disaster and may cause serious injury, or damage to property.
Drone laws in Australia require the drone to be flown within Visual Line of Sight under standard operating procedures. FPV drones are not considered to be within Visual Line of Sight, as goggles need to be worn to fly the drone - which most consumer pilots don’t even realise.
With the DJI FPV drone, the camera is built into the drone and cannot be upgraded. Traditional FPV drones typically have a GoPro or Insta360 camera mounted to the top. Not only can these cameras be easily swapped if they are damaged during an accident, they can be upgraded when new models are released.
While the DJI FPV drone is simplified in its design and use, it somewhat restricts performance and physical customisation that experienced FPV pilots love.
I have been dabbling with FPV drones for a few months - Tinkering, flying, crashing, repairing, repeating. I can confirm it is extremely complicated, and at times infuriating. But this experience ultimately allows you to build, repair and tune a drone which will perform far better than the DJI FPV drone, and it gives you flexibility to evolve and customise your drone as technology evolves, and be a better pilot without having to rely on the built-in safety features of the DJI FPV.
In saying that, I do feel that the DJI FPV drone is an exciting release, and is somewhere in the middle between their standard DJI consumer drones, and high performance FPV drones. I look forward to how seeing this release will inspire other drone manufacturers, how it will impact the current FPV market, and wonder what future upgrades will incorporate.
Will I get one? Maybe?