Official: here’s the DJI Avata 2, possibly one of the best sequels in years

Official: here’s the DJI Avata 2, possibly one of the best sequels in years

The DJI Avata is my favorite drone for people who want to fly, not just film. The starter kit comes with a wand and goggles that let you skim and soar to your heart’s delight with a first-person view from the sky. But you might not want to buy an original Avata anymore — because the just-announced DJI Avata 2 seems even better for hundreds of dollars less.

After weeks of leaks, DJI is revealing the Avata 2 in full, and we’ve been playing with one for several days now. It looks better, it flies better, it lasts longer, and most importantly, the kit you want with goggles and controller starts at just $999 — down from the $1,388 you’d pay for the OG or the $1,278 after DJI swapped out the original kit’s goggles for a slightly cheaper and comfier model. You can also buy the new drone a la carte for $489, down from the $629 DJI charged for the original.

The Avata 2 has a totally new propeller design.

There are a lot of changes to cover here, and they’re admittedly not all as impressive as we’d hoped based on the leaks. The overall story seems great: a larger 1/1.3-inch camera sensor with larger pixels to capture more light (DJI estimates two more stops of dynamic range), four more minutes of battery life (at 23 minutes), five more degrees of gimbal tilt (negative 85 degrees to 80 degrees), and three more kilometers of maximum range (13km), all in a flatter, more aerodynamic package that weighs 28 grams less than its predecessor (now 377g at takeoff).

While the original Avata always felt a little top- and front-heavy and might rattle a bit in a dive, my colleague Vjeran Pavic’s already finding the Avata 2’s 16mm shorter and 32mm wider frame is more stable in the air — even though its new three-bladed propellers offer the same top speeds. It also has backward collision avoidance now, though no forward collision sensors yet.

Slim batteries now fit entirely inside the narrow frame, instead of the old brick shape that connected with a flex cable.

Meanwhile, the new DJI Goggles 3 — which let you see through the drone’s eye as it flies — now has a built-in battery and GPS, meaning no more dangling battery pack and no more phone tether required for Remote ID.

The dual 1080p, 700-nit micro-OLED headset also now boasts an extra hour of battery life over the original, a “one-tap defogging function” that spins up its fans to clear away condensation, two extra antennas and a new synchronization algorithm for what DJI claims is smoother and more stable video transmission, and a 60Mbps maximum video bitrate, though frame rate still tops out at 100fps.

Passthrough view can be turned on by tapping on the side of the new goggles.

The new Goggles 3 also have a pair of outward-facing cameras that give you 2D or 3D passthrough vision, so you don’t theoretically have to remove them to view your surroundings, but in practice, the 44-degree field of view is so narrow that my colleague Vjeran found himself just lifting off the goggles instead.

He also tells me the new DJI RC Motion 3, the bundled motion controller, has been shrunk down to the point it feels a bit toy-like, and we agree it’s a little weird that the record button has been moved far down the side of the grip, beneath your middle finger.

The new RC Motion 3 is light and small, but its buttons and joystick feel sturdy and responsive.

But it also includes an R/C car-like dual-stage trigger and a nifty new dial that lets you select a preprogrammed 360-degree flip, roll, or 180-degree drift you can perform with the flick of a joystick. Those camera movements are always the same, and Vjeran thinks they might get old fast, but they’re a neat inclusion.

BTW, the Avata 2 still has the “Turtle Mode” — if you land upside down, you can hit a button to reverse the rotors and flip it rightside up again.

More practically, the Avata 2 now has a whopping 46GB of built-in video storage, more than double the previous gen and enough you might not need to mess with a microSD card at all. DJI says it’ll hold 90 minutes of 1080p60 video (or 45 minutes at 4K60). The drone’s built-in Wi-Fi now lets you directly download footage to phones at up to 30MB / sec or share a live feed to your phone, and you can now directly plug your own 65W USB-C PD charger into the drone to charge its battery while it’s inside.

The drone’s not compatible with old batteries or controllers, unfortunately, and DJI notes that you can technically drain a single battery in as little as three minutes if flying in manual mode at the top speed of 27 meters per second (60mph). There’s still no 24fps filming mode or vertical shooting; you get 4K, 2.7K, and 1080p at 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios. Here’s the full list:

4K (4:3) 3840×2880 @60/50/30fps

4K (16:9) 3840×2160 @60/50/30fps

2.7K (4:3) 2688×2016 @60/50/30fps

2.7K (16:9) 2688×1512 @120/100/60/50/30fps

1080p (4:3) 1440×1080 @120/100/60/50/30fps

1080p (16:9) 1920×1080 @120/100/60/50/30fps

You don’t need an Avata anymore to fly with DJI’s Goggles 3 — the company made its Goggles 2, Goggles Integra, and these new Goggles 3 and RC Motion 3 compatible with the DJI Air 3 and Mini 4 Pro as well. But those drones cost more than this one, and with narrower fields of view: they weren’t made to let you first-person-swoop through the air.

The Avata 2 is available today; the $999 kit comes with the DJI Goggles 3 and RC Motion 3; $1,199 also comes with two extra batteries, a sling bag, and a charging hub that can transfer power from multiple batteries to the one with the highest charge level. A stick-based controller is sold separately for $199, the RC Motion 3 is $99, and an ND filter kit is $79.

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