DJI is taking a rather daring step into the world of first-person view (FPV) and racing drones with new equipment announced today. The kit mainly consists of new FPV glasses and a small high-definition camera and "air unit" (or transmitter) that can be attached to almost anything you want. DJI's promise for the new kit is the ability to "basically FPV everything", from racing drones to remote-controlled cars & boats.
However, the focus is of course on the drones and what DJI sells here can offer major benefits in terms of resolution, frame rate and flexibility. The company will sell two different versions of the kit from today. The "FPV Experience" combination of $ 819 does not include a controller, but comes with the glasses and two air units and cameras. DJI will sell a $ 929 "Fly More" version with a Phantom-like controller with new internals built to handle the low-latency transmission, the glasses and only one air unit and camera. Both kits contain all "required wires and antennas".
The big difference here is that DJI uses digital transmission technology, not the analog technology that many other FPV cameras & glasses rely on. This means that pilots can stream 720p images (at 120 or 60 frames per second) from a drone to the glasses with a latency of 28 milliseconds, up to 2.5 km away. The air unit can simultaneously record the live feed as 1080p / 60 fps or 720p / 120 fps footage on a microSD card. The glasses can also record the live feed on a microSD card (although only with 720p / 60 fps). In the event of a crash, the on-goggle recording ensures fast playback that allows a pilot to determine where his drone has gone and to help ensure that he runs away with some visual material in the event of loss of the microSD card on the drone.
Due to the higher frame rates and the higher resolution, pilots can see obstacles that can be covered by standard definition FPV images, such as high-voltage lines or tree branches. Higher resolution images and faster frame rates can also make drone racing more attractive to watch, as pilots and viewers will be able to better distinguish competitors ahead of (or chased by) the live feed of a drone . (That said, drone racing competitions should use DJI & # 39; s technology as the standard to allow all of this.)
The return on those improvements was made clear during a short demo that DJI offered to the press on Tuesday. I was able to distinguish the details of nearby trees, as well as another drone in the neighborhood, when using the new FPV glasses in "public mode" (with a more capable pilot with the sticks). The live images were clear and clear, and I did not notice any stuttering or loss of signal, although the drone never flew more than a few hundred meters away.
DJI also attached the air unit and FPV camera to a couple of remote-controlled trucks, and while I was driving one around the grass, I saw a drone flying in front of the camera – a detail that I would probably have missed with a standard definition broadcast at a lower frame rate.
DJI released an FPV headset in 2017 that was compatible with a number of its own drones, but the new glasses are much less bulky and cumbersome, with a soft layer of foam to reduce red spots. There is a small joystick and a back button above the right eye of the glasses to scroll through menus & a recording button for quick access to taking pictures.
All this new equipment is not just for people who are interested in racing with drones. Images made by lighter, better maneuverable FPV drones have started to appear in sports broadcasts, commercials and other places where aerial photography has become mainstream. With that in mind, the new FPV camera from DJI can capture and send footage in a more cinematic 16: 9 aspect ratio (some racers prefer 4: 3 for a full view of their environment), and there are different color profiles to to mess with it too.
Drone racing and FPV pilots are both niches within a niche, and it is therefore not surprising that DJI does not make a special, all-in-one product for these categories. Instead, the Chinese company has found a smart way to enter these two parts of the market by solving existing bottlenecks for drone racers and FPV cinematographers. If those customers stick to what DJI sells, the company may go beyond what it has announced today and offer an even fuller solution.
However, the technology involved with this new kit seems attractive enough to change how some people who are already involved in this part of the drone market think about what they will buy next. It could also make the idea of flying FPV drones easier and more attractive, which would add a little more fuel to the steadily burning fire of the consumer drones market.