When DJI's digital FPV system was first announced, it was big news for a lot of people in the drone industry. How does this new system stack up against what already exists in FPV and how will DJI's Digital HD FPV system play a role in its new ecosystem?
DJI is very well known for their drones, yet they haven't really dug too deep into the FPV market. A few years back, they released an analog system, but it was a bit large for smaller quads. With FPV drones becoming increasingly popular in today's age, DJI has come out with an alternative way to adapt, their digital HD FPV system.
Analog Versus Digital HD
So, this was all the hype for everyone when the system originally came out, and I can certainly see why. After flying for months with both systems, it has become a lot easier to identify the pros and the cons when it comes to analog video transmission and DJI's new digital HD video transmission.
The main difference between these two systems is the breakup you get when you start getting bad signal. If you are familiar with flying drones, you know that there can be a lot of interference depending on your location and the materials you are flying around. With static and cutout on the analog system, it may get hard to see, but your image is still never really delayed much. On the digital system, breakup is much different. You can expect to see pixelation on the DJI system, mainly on the outside edges, but while that is happening, there may also be a delay in video transmission. This makes it harder to react in real-time if you are stuck in a tight situation or flying fast.
I will say that the digital system is a lot easier to set up and typically gets a stronger and clearer image than an analog system, but at the same time, for the FPV market, those milliseconds count. On certain flights with the DJI system, it would go from 21ms to around 50-90ms at times, and that can start to affect the way you control the quad because of that slight delay. This mainly happened when I hit interference or flew farther away, but it is just something to be conscious of before just thinking digital FPV is the holy grail.
Personally, I prefer that clearer image; I really like a nice, clear screen when I am filming. For FPV in general, I think it is absolutely crucial to get to know your equipment. Range test it, test the connection, learn the location you are flying, and know all the possible things that can affect you when you go out. Each system will have its strong points and weak points, and the digital versus analog debate should really just come down to your personal preference.
From FPV Pilot to the DJI System
If you are starting with a background in FPV, DJI may be a slightly new system to learn and understand. Being that this is one of the first main products in the FPV market for DJI, it has to stand up to what already exists and make sense for the existing pilots. So, how will this hold up for the market who flies these drones?
- Clearer image
- Clean build
- 1080p / 60 fps recording
- Good range
- Size and weight
- On-screen display
- Goggles and HD transmission
So far, it seems that there is a lot of potential for this product. Though it is larger and heavier than most other FPV parts, you have a slightly easier setup, solid range, and HD recording to the air unit. This air unit has a few less wires and is a fairly clean and easy setup if you are an experienced builder.
For FPV pilots switching to DJI, you must use the DJI goggles; you cannot separate the receiver and VTX, and you do not have your quad's voltage on the on screen display (OSD) yet. You can also only use 4s batteries to power the DJI equipment. These are again more on the minor side of things; you can set a timer, get used to the goggles, and adapt to the weight of the system. All in all, though, it really does hold up nicely if you are looking to up the quality you see while flying.
From DJI Pilot to FPV
If you are starting as a DJI pilot and getting into FPV, this is where things matter. People who are already familiar with DJI and have built trust in the brand will have an easier time learning to install this software versus learning everything about analog VTX, receivers, transmitters, binding, and so on.
- Ease of use
- Easier install
- Trusted transmission
- Understanding FPV
Let's just say drones are fun to fly, but not always fun to deal with. Building and understanding how they work takes time and patience. Out of my time flying FPV drones, I find that the biggest difference between the DJI product and the other existing FPV products is the user looking to get involved. DJI bridges the gap between all the extra work when it comes to FPV and gives you a trustworthy system that holds up against some of the top analog options out there.
VTX and Receiver: Ease of Use and Camera Quality
Ease of Use
The VTX and receiver as seen in the photo above are a bit heavy and large compared to typical FPV parts. It is small enough to tuck into a 3" or 4" drone if you know how to build, but better off in 5" drones or bigger as long as you get the right frame for it. My favorite part about this is how many less wires there are and how clean it can look when you build. This system is clean and easy to install after some research.
This camera can shoot a max output of 1080p at 60fps. For some FPV pilots, this quality may be good enough to replace your GoPro or action cam so you have a little less weight to fly. For cinematic pilots and people looking for quality, I would not recommend this as a primary option; it is not the best for color grading, stabilization, or quality in general. However, if you need to use it or want backup, it is a great option. For better camera quality, I would definitely recommend a GoPro, Osmo Action, or Insta 360.
Controller: Range & Feel
Compared to previous DJI controllers, this one has a very similar feel to my Inspire 2 controller. Compared to other FPV controllers, it is a bit of an adjustment and probably does have some good room for improvement as far as overall design and feel goes. The switches seem to be positioned oddly, and the knobs are a bit short. There also doesn't seem to be anywhere to play with the tension of the sticks. It would also be nice to see some sort of screen to adjust settings in the controller and link to other quads with digital units.
The best part about the controller is the range it will give you compared to other controllers out there. A typical FPV setup may require a long-range setup like the TBS Crossfire, whereas with DJI, you literally just bind and fly, and you're still able to get pretty solid range without breaking up or a failsafe message. The controller also has some pretty good battery life and can be recharged via USB-C.
Goggles: Visibility & Comfort
The screens inside of these goggles will not disappoint. In fact, that is one of the only things I really like about the goggles. In the video above, I mentioned a bit of light leak, but that isn't much of an issue with the bright, wide screens in front of you. The original foam piece on the back does not always fit tightly against the head, which may result in some of the light leaking, as I talked about above. If you are coming from Fatsharks, you will notice a fairly large difference with the screen inside.
These are not the most comfortable goggles, but they aren't the worst either. My biggest problem with these goggles is the long wire to plug in a battery versus having something on the headset that holds it so you are hands free. Sometimes, the wire can get in the way or get tugged on, so it's just another thing to pay attention to when you are out flying.
Lastly, if you want to fly or have other people join you in flight, you will need another DJI headset. If you would like to use these goggles with your analog system, you will have to set up a ground station or get an adapter to attach to the goggles. It is fun to watch others fly by tuning into their channel. On an analog system, this is no problem; however, you cannot use your analog system to see the DJI feed, and the DJI goggles cannot provide an analog signal without an extra attachment.
Overall, I think DJI is looking to achieve the best overall quality on this HD VTX, but the design might not be there on the very first version. If they stick with it, I think these goggles will become a lot more efficient. For now, they do their job!
This system is fun and reliable, but I would not make the claim that it is better than analog. I think there are a few analog systems that stand up against the digital FPV, but I do have to mention that this is a big leap forward in video transmission. I think DJI wants to show the FPV market what is possible in the future by coming in with a solid product that helps FPV pilots see better. At a price point of $929, this system may be for a specific pilot, but it will absolutely compare to some of the better VTX and receiver options out there.