Before starting the flight, you must inform your spotter if you are using the V2 goggles. Your spotter is your line of sight and you must obey UK drone laws. Once they are informed and reassured that the batteries will not last as long. It’s time to take off.
Takeoff and landing are all fairly easy. Press the red button on the motion controller twice and the drone is armed; a long wait takes off, ready for flight. The Motion Controller 2 has a trigger that functions as a throttle or a forward button. Pull it back and the AVATA moves forward and stops.
With the drone hovering after launch I try the usual checks, tilt left and the drone turns left, tilt right and the drone turns right. Then tilt the controller up and the camera moves up, tilt down and the camera tilts down. So far, so good.
While using the motion controller, you cannot fly left or right; the control design is supposed to be more intuitive, but it will take some getting used to to switch from a dual stick to this motion control scheme.
Still hovering, it’s time to gain height, I now specify that like the FPV it is not a sudate and silent drone but it is less threatening than the FPV. With a slight squeeze of the trigger, the drone moves forward, tilts backwards and the drone begins to climb, tilting the controller 90º so that its horizontal allows for an almost vertical takeoff. I’m currently in Normal mode with only a slight pull of the trigger. As I increase the trigger pull, the AVATA’s speed increases as it goes up.
Once above tree height, I take a quick tour of the terrain, and it’s evident from talking to my spotter that the latency between the goggles and the drone camera is minimal. Getting a bit more confident, I increase the speed and start to raise and lower the drone; it’s much more like a game than flying a drone.
After familiarizing myself with a few short flights of about five minutes each, I had burned through all three batteries, so I stopped for lunch and let the batteries recharge, which turned out to be optimistic because an hour later, a single bar on a battery appeared to be lit. As each battery is depleted, the goggles display a warning that the RTH will activate in so many seconds. In any case, I left the drone to return to the take-off point.
Once the batteries were recharged, which took just over nine hours for all three batteries, or about 3 hours each, it was time to test use the goggles. Again with the observer ready, I used the motion controller to navigate through a door and through the garden; the live view feed and the over-enthusiastic observer guided me through the environment without issue. It’s like playing a VR computer game rather than being outside in the real world.
Controlling the drone this way with the goggles and motion controller is on another level compared to stick controllers. Using Motion is intuitive and easy to understand once you get the hang of it, and the potential is huge.
Seeing the live view through the goggles you have a small dot in the center of your view, basically you tilt and rock the controller while pressing the trigger to get the drone to go where you want it to go. It’s like pointing your finger in the direction you want it to fly and it does.
Again, the battery was drained and it was time to test the recording; the first ride with the AVATA had already shown that flying as fast as possible while recording, wearing the goggles and using the motion controller while having a lot of fun would burn through the battery at an incredible rate.
However, with most of the test done and a long enough cooldown, it was time to fire up the camera and shoot some top-notch 4K video at 60fps.
A quick takeoff, a pull of the trigger and the drone soars into the sky. I’m still not 100% fluent in flight controls using the motion controller, so there’s quite a bit of rotation involved during takeoff.
Once at a decent height and checking, the observer can still see the thing; it’s small, after all I completed what I hoped would be a super fast lap from above.
After a fast circuit and a mess/play in the sky, the low battery warning appeared and RTH kicked in. Land, swap battery and back to Sports mode and a few more laps which is incredibly fun, before low battery and RTH, about five minutes this time but it felt like 30 seconds, battery swap, takeoff, and this times in normal mode and 4K quick lap or two, low battery and RTH.
The total downtime for most outings with three batteries is 45 minutes, that is, arrival, set up, fly, and put away. While I’m sure I’m getting close to that on a single battery with the Mavic 3 Pro.
There is of course a difference between the Mavic 3 Pro, the Mavic Mini 3 Pro and the DJI AVATA. The other two are creative and serious drones for people imaging, the DJI AVATA is not. The DJI AVATA is fun, it shoots great footage, even if those shots are short because the battery drains quickly, but that’s not the point.