Last week saw the big release of DJI’s Avata, the latest drone in their FPV lineup that has sparked a lot of conversation online. It packs some of the company’s more mature technologies into a brand-new airframe along with a couple of new features. But is the Avata even relevant to the public safety community, or is it best left to enthusiasts? This article will cover some of its unique features and discuss their potential application in these operations.
FPVs in Public Safety
While FPV drones have been known for their stunts, they are no longer limited to diving over waterfalls or flying through courses. FPVs, specifically Cinewhoops, are now finding a place in public safety UAS programs. Their small size makes it easy for pilots to fly through open doors and tight spaces. Prop guards and a durable frame also allow it to survive repeated crashes. Finally, parts are easy to replace.
It’s for these reasons that FPVs have become the platform of choice for indoor operations — clearing rooms ahead of an entry by personnel. One police department in California recognized the tactical advantage provided and has successfully integrated FPVs into its operations.
However, unlike larger, more popular drones, FPVs are rudimentary in their design. Most require some technical knowledge to assemble or modify. And while this class of drones offers users configuration flexibility, they are not very accessible to beginners.
DJI’s Avata FPV drone addresses this very issue. Announced last week, the Avata represents DJI’s effort to bring its expertise into the world of FPVs, specifically with features designed to open the door for newcomers.
Designed in the style of Cinewhoop — a small FPV equipped with prop ducts — the Avata is ready to fly right out of the box, much like DJI’s other aircraft. The graphic below highlights some important specifications.
Some Specs to Highlight
- Flight Time: 18 minutes is significantly better than the mediocre 4-5 minute flight time of conventional Cinewhoop FPVs.
- Transmission Strength: DJI’s O3+ transmission system not only increases the range but also offers greater signal strength. No more random signal dropouts in buildings.
- Field-of-View: A 155° field-of-view allows a pilot to monitor their periphery despite being close to their subject.
- DJI Avata speed: 8 m/s (17.9 mph) in Normal Mode; 14 m/s (31.3 mph) in Sport Mode; 27 m/s (60.4 mph) in Manual Mode.
The DJI Goggles 2
In addition to the Avata, DJI also released a new pair of goggles known as the DJI Goggles 2. These are not to be confused with the DJI FPV Goggles V2. Lighter and smaller than the previous iteration, the Goggles 2 also feature several hardware upgrades, including an OLED screen and a higher screen brightness of 700 nits. At the time of writing, the Goggles 2 are only compatible with the Avata.
If you already own the FPV Goggles V2, you’re in luck — the Avata is compatible.
The Learning Curve
FPVs, including Cinewhoops, are notoriously difficult to fly. They require precise inputs and are largely unforgiving towards erratic movement. Furthermore, they don’t automatically hover or hold their position like many other drones, two features that ease new pilots into flying.
The Avata changes all of this. With the help of software, this drone offers three flight modes: Normal, Sport, and Manual. Normal and Sport modes allow the pilot to fly the Avata much like a Mavic. Manual mode unlocks the full performance capabilities of the drone, including aerobatics. This means pilots with different levels of experience can all fly the aircraft. For departments, this means they don’t need dedicated FPV pilots to use the drone — anyone on the UAS team could fly it. As pilots become more comfortable with the Avata, they can progress through the modes at their own pace.
DJI is offering a bundle that includes their Motion Controller, a joystick that translates hand movements into flight inputs for the drone. Simply tilt the controller in the direction you want to fly, squeezing the trigger to control speed.
The goggles supplement this by allowing pilots to turn the aircraft in the direction they are looking. Turn your head to the right, and the Avata yaws to the right. This innovative control interface makes it intuitive to explore your environment.
Something To Keep In Mind
The Avata is incredibly durable, with several videos online to prove it. However, the commercial nature of the Avata means that it’s more difficult to repair. It won’t be easy to replace a snapped strut or replace a camera. Cinewhoops are much better in this regard.
If you plan on purchasing the Avata, it would be advisable to add DJI Care to the aircraft. This guarantees coverage for damage incurred during an operation, but also means you need to send the drone in for repairs.
Cinewhoop-style drones are proving their worth in a variety of public safety applications. As mentioned earlier, these aircraft are optimal platforms for clearing rooms or inspecting confined areas like tunnels, vents, and crawlspaces.
Some departments have resorted to using smaller drones like the Mini 2 or Parrot ANAFI for the same purpose. While both are capable, the reality is that these aircraft are not optimized to fly indoors; operators may find themselves limited by the size of these aircraft. Therefore, we believe the DJI Avata is an excellent drone for this mission set.
Departments would do well to choose the DJI Avata FPV drone as it’s small, responsive, and easy to use. The features we mentioned are not gimmicks either; they enable pilots to focus on their surroundings and team for a successful outcome. If you’re interested in integrating the DJI Avata into your operations or starting an FPV program at your agency, contact a FLYMOTION representative or visit flymotionus.com.
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