Published on March 3rd, 2021 📆 | 3850 Views ⚑0
DJI FPV: A sports drone?
DJI launched the Mini 2 almost w month back. A cheaper offering that targets drone enthusiasts by bundling great video capture in a tiny drone. That was good for the price and a really compact drone but yesterday DJI launched the DJI FPV, a drone with more raw power and excellent flight capacity for competitive sports. Yes! Drone racing is indeed a competitive sport that has gained traction over the past few years. Most racing drones are built from scratch by small developers for competitions. They are not as aesthetically pleasing as branded ones but can manage decent speed. Now DJI stepping into the genre means that it wants to build more products related to Drone Racing in the future. Also, manufacturers like Parrot and Hubsan may try to capitalize on the emerging market trend and build similar products about the sport.
What is FPV drone racing?
FPV Drone Racing is a competitive race where participants race with their drones to the finish line. Drone Racing is done in FPV mode, which requires the player to wear a head-mounted display that streams the live feed from their drones. This is how players can see and avoid obstacles over a racecourse as the eyes cannot be everywhere. Even an Olympic game appears a legitimate possibility but that seems too far-fetched at the moment.
Now that you know what an FPV drone is used for, DJI made one specifically for the sport. It is very different from the normal flat design of the drone that usually exists. The appearance in mid-air almost looks like a bug or mosquito ready for the prowl. One unusual thing is the non-foldable wings that add to the compactness of the drone. Retracting arms made it possible for a tiny DJI drone to carry in the pocket, but this one seems to avoid that strategy. It is a four-winger or a Quadcopter, that can attain unbelievable flight altitudes and speed. DJI has gone out of its way to manufacturing the drone that looks like it is made for the sport. Everything right from the Drone, to the controller or even the FPV goggles, look extremely tacky for the sport.
The drone is made out of tough shell plastic that is tough but if you crash it, the chances of it up and running again are pretty slim. DJI knew about this problem and has designed the FPV in such a way that most parts that are damaged due to an accident can be easily replaced. This is done by the disintegration of the components that constitute the FPV drone. Not that it reinforces that chassis in any manner but it manages to save you a trip to the service center. This includes parts like aircraft top case, aircraft arm reinforcement, gimbal protection cover, Blade protection cover, and much more. Considering the fierce sport in which drones have high chances of enduring damage, it is a good step to avoid changing the drone for a new one.
DJI FPV shares the same sensor as the DJI MINI 2 with the only exception being that it can shoot video in 4K at 60 FPS. That alone becomes a selling point for FPV competitors that need that sweet and fluid footage of the drone flying past obstacles and cutting corners. In terms of still photography or the overall video quality, it surely lags behind the MINI 2 but because it was built with speed in mind, I can let that slide.
There are three flying modes, namely the N mode, the S mode, and the M mode. The first two modes guide you through the flying process and restrict the speed limit to prevent crashes but the manual mode lets you rip apart the motor and fly it at a speed of 140 km/h. That is insane for an itsy bitsy tiny drone that weighs almost 800 grams. It is largely possible due to the attached battery that takes up a lot of space in the chassis and is the primary contributor to the weight increase. The N mode and S mode are nowhere faster as compared to the manual mode and have a speed of 97 km/h and 54 km/h respectively. These modes however conserve the battery to ensure longer flight time.
The 300 grams battery on the DJI FPV is comparable to what you would find on a DSLR and is the heart of all the power. It is of 2000 mAh capacity and can easily provide a flight time of up to 20 mins, depending upon what mode you use. From a video drone perspective, it may not be much but for competitive FPV drone racing, it is a lot. Normal FPV drones used to compete last a measly 6-10 minutes and require a battery charge after that. In the flight mode, there is a front obstacle detection that slows down the drone by measuring the obstacle distance. It is not available in the manual mode because FPV racers do not need that.
The other quintessential feature is surely the camera that is improved to provide a larger field of view. You can get a 150-degree field of view to capture the cinematic shots of your drone blazing past the opponents. The lens has a single axis tilt and relies on electronic stabilization to provide a less shaky output. It is nowhere good when compared to a 3-axis tilt but it is what you have to compromise for the speed.
For 1300 USD, DJI FPV is asking a lot from its consumers. You get an aircraft, a controller, and a pair of FPV goggles for the price. Any additional goodies like a dedicated carrying case, a microSD card, a dual battery pack with a charging dock, and many other tiny components. The main highlight here is obviously the FPV goggles that stream the content directly from the drone. It is different because almost all drones rely on the analog transmission to relay the live footage. The speed and range suffer a lot due to the nature of the transmission. With digital transmission, the range and the streaming quality have improved a lot. The goggles do not need a separate application or a mobile to relay the live feed. It is considerably better than analog and also has lower latency. You can also find your lost drone using the find my drone application inside your wearable FPV googles.
For users new to the FPV goggles, the experience might be dizzying at the first attempt. It gets better as you learn to maintain the flight with the controller by relying on the video feed from the drone. That brings me to the third most important part of the DJI FPV, the controller. It appears more in line with what seems like a modern PlayStation controller but rich in buttons. You can actively switch between the three modes and can also apply emergency brakes in the manual mode, which is a lifesaver for the drone. It is heavier though and sits at a weight of 346 grams. The operating range is 10 kilometers as per the manufacturer and the drone automatically switches to fail-safe RTH.
There is also a DJI motion control that is a single-hand controller to maneuver the DJI FPV drone. It contains all the major buttons for powering on and off, acceleration, brakes, camera recording, and movement. To accelerate and ascend just point the controller upward and to descend just bend it downward. The controller is too precise and even captures the slight movement of your wrist. It also can turn the drone left or right by following the direction in which your wrist move. I would not call it extremely practical but if you want to feel more like a helicopter pilot, maybe the controller is for you. The tilt function is disabled currently and will be available with a future update.
So, DJI made an FPV drone and they got most of the things right at the first attempt. You get excellent speeds, an astonishing acceleration time of 0-100 in just 2 seconds, automatic obstacle detection, fully manual mode, and one hell of a controller and POV goggle combo. The price however is steep and may only lure the fans of the sport, which is a lot if you go by their numbers. Do share your insights on the new DJI FPV in the comments and share what should be the apt price for the whole kit.