Incredibly Impressed! Testing DJI Goggles

Finally, you are able to order DJI’s much-anticipated FPV Goggles $449 US. We had a first, quick preview of this devices following the Mavic Pro launch in New York City last September. Thanks to Barry Blanchard, who runs the official DJI groups on Facebook, now, we’ve had an opportunity to take a much closer look. And – no kidding – we really like what we see.

Experience DJI Goggles

We hit the power. Some animation appeared on the goggles, accompanied by a very slick whooshing sound that felt as though it were being played through high-end headphones. Though the small speaker ports are in front of your ears, it sounds like you’re wearing headphones. And – I’m really not kidding here – it feels like you’re sitting in front of a giant movie theatre screen.

In fact, DJI has some demo movies that can be played inside the goggles (which will undoubtedly be a great sales tool in a retail environment). Those demos, some of which feature majestic mountaintop vistas, look so stunning through these goggles that they make your jaw nearly drop. And even tough the demos are not 3-D, I swear they almost look three-dimensional.

Because you’re watching two 1080p screens, you’re actually getting a final resolution made of up more than twice the number of pixels that comprise a typical 2K display. It’s amazing.

And yes, I’ve worn other goggles before, including some of the newer HD models produced by other brands. Though the competition is smaller, which does have some merits, there is absolutely no comparison in terms of visual quality. The output of these things looks *stellar* – and can also be used with an HDMI input or a MicroSD card reader to view movies. The batteries, btw, last for six hours.

Barry gave a few instructions, including showing the bottom wheel where you can fine-tune the display’s inter-ocular distance. You can also wear glasses inside the goggles. (I do wear glasses – and it was a snap.) There is no diopter adjustment, but with the ability to wear glasses one isn’t really necessary.

WIRELESS RECEPTION

At first, the wind was simply too great to take off. So Barry paired up the Mavic Pro and picked up the drone and walked it a few paces. The connection was crystal clear, with no drop-outs. There is a lag of 110 ms, but because I wasn’t in control not of the drone I couldn’t really notice anything. (That’s also not much of a lag, unless you are running at very high speeds.)

He also showed me the basics of operating the touchpad on the side of the DJI Goggles. By swiping and tapping your finger along the textured surface, you can access a myriad of features that pop up on the displays before you.

Touchpad controls functions on DJI FPV Goggles
Touchpad controls functions on DJI FPV Goggles

We tried taking a couple of shots with our phone last night to give you an idea – seen below. The Mavic Pro was connected wirelessly and pointed out or hotel window. We’ll try for something better if we can borrow these again!

dji googles screen displaydji goggles screen display

Meanwhile, we started to draw a small crowd, including a visitor from Sydney Australia who happened to be toting his own Mavic Pro. He asked if he could try on the goggles. He pulled them on and began beaming.

“They are SUPER-AWESOME,” said Salman Ahmed.

We brought along a scale on this trip, and the goggles tipped ours at 990 grams, or a little more than two pounds. Though that’s heavier than most goggles out there, the ergonomics and padding truly do distribute the weight so evenly around your head they don’t actually feel heavy.

What tends to make most goggles feel uncomfortable after time (heck, even bad sunglasses) is when the weight rests on the bridge of your nose. With this design, there is is virtually no weight being supported by your nose.

I was playing with the menus (which are accessible by swiping a clever textured surface on the headset exterior) when I heard the Mavic Pro spark to life. The wind had dipped, and Barry thought he had a window for a brief flight.

DJI Googles & DJI Mavic Pro

Off we went. Or, more accurately, off I went. Because (as drone racers and other people who’ve experienced FPV know), the sensation is very much like you’re flying. If you haven’t experienced it, it can be so disorienting that people tend to try to compensate by leaning. (That’s why most people flying FPV tend to sit.) If you need to quit FPV mode instantly, you simply flip up the hinged visor and you’re back in the real world.

The image was very clear as the drone lifted up and above the arid landscape. At one point, Barry turned the Mavic Pro around and I got a good look at myself, waving from the ground below, in 1080p at 30 fps. Very, very clear. (You also have the option of 720p at 60 fps.)

The menus and sub-menus within the goggles are impressive, allowing the goggle wearer (if you own a Mavic Pro or Phantom 4 series of drone, or an Inspire 2) the ability to access many intelligent flight features by using that touchpad on the side.

In an announcement about the features and imminent release of the goggles, senior DJI product manager Paul Pan says: “DJI pilots deserve a first-person viewing experience with the same quality, power, and performance they have come to expect from our aerial platforms. We fully expect that they will be thrilled with the fun and immersive experience of flying with our goggles.”

There’s little doubt about that. While the Mavic Pro was airborne, we let Ahmed slip the DJI Goggles back on for a second look. Here’s what he said:

“It’s like I’m on the drone,” he exclaimed. “It’s amazing – I’ll love to get it.”

The wind picked up suddenly, threatening to carry the Mavic Pro into the distance. But with patience and consummate skill, Barry took his time and brought it back against the wind in Sport Mode.

“We have refined every element of DJI Goggles to the same standards as our aerial platforms,” says Pan. “And we have optimized their connectivity to provide the most amazing drone experience yet.”

GREAT OPTICS, LOW LATENCY

DJI Goggles not only use a beam splitter to display an image in front of each eye, but also polarization to prevent any image overlap. Remember how we said it was like being a movie theatre? DJI says the experience is equivalent to looking at a 216″ home cinema screen placed less than 10 feet away. 

In terms of other spec stuff, the DJI release notes that “through DJI’s OcuSync wireless transmission system, up to two pairs of DJI Goggles can be connected to a single Mavic Pro aircraft. DJI Goggles can receive video data directly from the drone bypassing the controller to minimize lag. When flying with the Mavic Pro, DJI Goggles offers both 720p at 60 fps and close range 1080p at 30 fps viewing with latency as low as 110ms.”

But there’s even more.

The Goggles feature head tracking – meaning an operator or observer (depending on the rules where you’re flying) could use head movements to control both aircraft yaw and camera tilt. Literally, turning your head is like using control sticks. Turn your head and the aircraft turns; straighten your head to stop the turn. (It was too windy for us to try out this feature – but we can’t wait!)

“In Fixed Wing Mode, DJI Goggles bring with them a whole new way to fly the Mavic Pro,” says the release. “In this mode, the aircraft flies forward with enough rotational movement to simulate realistic flight. An AR trajectory prediction feature in Fixed Wing Mode makes using this mode much safer in complex environments.”

You can also use the headtracking to operate the gimbal exclusively – and can access all of these options (including the intelligent features of the aircraft itself) via the touchpad menu on the DJI Goggles.

Once we put in some time with these, we’ll tell you everything. But there just wasn’t enough time – nor optimal conditions. The wind was terrible, and DJI was about to hold a launch event back in Las Vegas.

We are, to put it mildly, incredibly impressed.

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Scott is a Canadian UAV communications specialist who loves writing about and flying drones. He lives and breathes technology, but is also interested in policy issues around UAVs and integrated airspace. He is the co-author of three best-selling books, the winner of multiple journalism awards, and an EMMY nominee.