The final moments in Mary Poppins (57-year-old spoiler alert) include a joyful scene of the Banks family coming together to fly a kite in the park. It’s a sequence that can warm the coldest heart for a number of reasons: the journey of a family reuniting; good prevailing in the world; Dick van Dyke’s famously-spot-on Cockney accent. There’s something about flying a kite, the wind whipping through it, that brings out the happy child in most people – it’s almost like joining the birds.
And yet, in comparison to drones, kites are rubbish. That’s perhaps too harsh on kites, but for the sensation of flying while staying firmly on the ground, you can’t beat drones.
Drone technology has developed so rapidly that machines previously seen as niche pieces of tech are now something anyone can get their hands on. And drone super brand, DJI, has been at the top of the consumer market for a long time, with its various ranges (in particular the Mavic) consistently coming out on top in testing.
Now, DJI has finally released its own first-person-view drone (FPV). These typically takes you right into the action: wearing goggles, you’re immersed in the flight, as if you were in the air yourself. Before now, any budding FPV drone pilot would’ve had to build the system themselves – putting together a drone, calibrating motors, learning how to solder and generally becoming a drone engineer.
But thanks to DJI’s snappily titled FPV, you don’t have to. The regular consumer is the focus here: everything is in the box, waiting for you to charge and fly.
Remember: to fly a drone weighing more than 250g, you have to apply for a flying licence, and, if you own the drone, an operator licence. The operator license costs £9, whereas the flying licence is free, but includes a 40-question multiple-choice quiz. Luckily, you can have the official rules handbook on your screen the whole time.
First person flying is a thrill, but does the DJI FPV take the brand’s previous designs up a level?
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Buy now: DJI.com
DJI FPV combo
The FPV is ludicrously fun to fly. Traditionally, FPV drones have been quite tricky to get the hang of, but DJI has made a version here that you can get to grips with almost immediately. There are some fiddly aspects when setting up the drone, but in comparison to the military operation that other FPV examples demand, DJI’s device is a piece of cake.
Set up is a matter of charging various batteries, attaching the rotors and connecting to the DJI app. One slight downside is that the FPV doesn’t come with a dedicated carry case, meaning that without an extra investment, it’s quite difficult to lug around securely.
The battery life is seriously impressive for an FPV drone though – running to around 20 minutes of flight time, which is more than double the distance of regular FPV drones. The “intelligent battery” also enables you to get “low” and “critically low” battery warnings directly to your phone, ensuring no inopportune power losses.
Switching the drone on for the first time might come as a shock, with a loud rumble, vibration and light show reminiscent of Transformers. It’s part of the fun, and all adds to the theatre of flying the FPV, something that it has in abundance.
Flying the drone is an incredibly immersive experience. If you’re not used to flying from a first-person view, our advice is to start sitting down: it’s no use wearing the goggles if all you see is the drone crashing to earth because you’ve fallen over. The perspective is easy to acclimatise to, however, and most people will be zipping about within minutes.
The FPV can reach 87mph, so zipping is exactly what you will be doing – although normal mode is capped at 31mph, and two other modes are only suitable for more seasoned drone pilots. It feels super responsive, lean and easy to manoeuvre, but in case things get a little too high-octane, DJI has helpfully included a handful of features which everyone from total beginners may find useful.
GPS, obstacle sensors (although you can switch this off in manual mode for more freedom) and the always-handy “return to home” feature are great for keeping your drone safe. Plus, the range is up to 10km, which while unnecessary for most people, is still an impressive feature.
This isn’t a drone to fly solo, as wearing the FPV’s goggles blocks your line of sight to the FPV, a legal non-negotionable. What this means is that you’ll need to find someone willing to be your “spotter”; that is, a patient, generous friend or family member that will look out for the drone as you pretend you’re top of your flying class. Then again, if they have a flying licence, you might not be able to hog the drone all of the time.
The goggles are something that, once you get over the fear of looking slightly odd in public, give you an unsurpassed view of drone flying. They’re powered by a USB battery pack that connects to the side of the goggles while flying, so make sure you’re wearing a coat with pockets unless you want it to swing around.
Controls on the side of the goggles are easy to navigate and intuitive when scrolling through options on the goggles’ lenses. The lenses give users an up to 150-degree field of vision, and the HD video transmission at up to 120fps makes your view smooth and uninterrupted.
There’s great versatility when it comes to capturing footage in-flight, with the option of taking both stills and 60fps 4K video in the same session without touching down. The camera isn’t actually as good as options in some of DJI’s other, more photography-led drones, but still provides smooth, cinematic footage and good-quality stills.
Buy now £1249.00, Dji.com
The verdict: DJI’s FPV drone
The FPV is more technical than most of DJI’s other drones, and seems, on the surface, an expensive outlay. However, what you get for this is a flight-ready machine, with fantastic flying capability, and technology inside it that would have cost the earth just a few years ago.
FPV drones are a blast to fly, and DJI’s version is no exception: in fact, it’s probably the best ready-made FPV drone on the market. This isn’t a drone for the complete beginner, but for those who fancy the leap into a more immersive way of flying and have enjoyed piloting drones before. The DJI FPV is a perfect introduction to this more intense – and even more fun – world.
If drone’s still feel a bit hi-tech to you, and you prefer something a bit more retro why not try out one of these instant cameras which will let you snap and print on the go