You may have seen our review of the newly announced DJI FPV drone. This thing is by far the fastest drone we’ve ever flown and as the name suggests, it’s truly an immersive FPV (First Person View) experience. We had the opportunity to speak with Ferdinand Wolf, Creative Director at DJI and professional FPV drone operator, about this new beast of a drone. So put on your goggles and watch closely!
FPV drones are by no means new, but until now the scene cultivating the sport of flying (very) fast drones using goggles for a fully immersive FPV experience involved a lot of DIY and custom-built devices, to say the least. With the new DJI FPV a true ready-to-use device is now available for the rest of us. So, what is an FPV drone, what distinguishes it from “normal” drones, why do I need it, and what the heck is ‘M’ mode all about? Let’s find out!
Ferdinand Wolf is not only DJI Creative Director for Europe, but also a professional and passionate FPV drone operator, so he knows the ins and outs of FPV flying.
What is a FPV drone?
The new DJI FPV drone is quite different from their other lines of drones like the Mavic, Phantom or Inspire models. First, and most importantly for filmmakers, the DJI FPV camera system is missing a few beloved features. Just like the other models, it sits in a gimbal, but this gimbal does not offer 3-axis stabilization…. only one axis (tilt) can be controlled by either the drone itself or the pilot.
Second, the camera only offers 50p/60p (up to 120p in HD) recording. No 25p, no 24p. Why is that, you ask? Well, as Ferdinand explains, the camera is not only used for video recording, but also to feed the pilot’s goggles. And those goggles need a high frame rate to display a usable and sharp image. In this case, 25p is simply not enough.
Features of the DJI FPV drone
The single-axis gimbal is another story: the signature look and feel of FPV footage revolves around the fact that the horizon is NOT always level; when the drone turns, the image (and probably your mind) bends. However, the ability to control the tilt of the camera is a key feature of the DJI FPV drone: as soon as the thing picks up some speed – and it can be really fast – the nose tilts. With DIY drones that have an action cam attached, the pilot has to consider this beforehand and adjust the angle accordingly. But as soon as the drone slows down, the camera will point up… which makes landing really difficult.
So the fact that the DJI FPV can adjust the tilt angle mid-air helps tremendously in adjusting the frame without having to constantly land and reposition the camera. In Normal (N) mode, the drone tries to keep the horizon level when accelerating, which is of course a nice feature.
The ‘M’ mode
The dreaded M-mode doesn’t help with anything, no sensors, no horizon auto-level, no hovering. But in return you can perform the craziest movements with the drone. However, you should practice -a lot- with the simulator before flipping the switch to M! This basically turns the DJI FPV into a “real” racing drone
With the included simulator, you can practice flying the FPV with the actual controller and goggles. So it’s not a computer game, but a real, full-fledged simulator that is super helpful to master the drone’s capabilities before you put it (and others) in danger.
Since it’s a DJI drone, it’s equipped with a number of sensors that help with functions like returning home, a thing that’s not so easy to implement in DIY rigs. Because these FPV drones are so fast, it’s pretty easy to lose contact while flying behind a rock, for example. In this case, the sensors kick in and bring the drone home safely while also avoiding obstacles.
The pause button on the optional “Game Controller” remote is also a DJI first. Press it and the drone immediately stops, hovers and waits for further instructions. That’s not possible with DIY drones.
Who is this for?
So who is this drone for? As Ferdinand puts it, the DJI FPV is aimed at two types of customers: Action seekers who want to get into the world of FPV drone flying without having to build their own drone. And second, filmmakers who want to get that special shot they can’t get with a regular drone.
FPV drones will not replace the normal “cinematc” drones, but complement them. FPV drones are very handy for capturing crazy, fast-paced action sequences and immersive FPV footage. Regular drones aren’t meant for that; their expertise is capturing cinematic, steady shots. Combine (and master) both variations and you’re set up for success.
What do you think? Have you ever flown an FPV drone? Would the DJI FPV be an interesting addition to your kit? Share your thoughts in the comments below!