Whenever we talk about the range of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV, more commonly referred to as a drone, we are talking about two things really.
One is the transmission range for the video, and the other is the control link range to the aircraft and the controller.
You can easily lose the video transmission and still be in control of the aircraft, allowing you to bring that aircraft back into video range or safely land it as need be.
The DJI Avata has the added benefit of the return to home function. If the control link is lost, the aircraft will conduct an automatic return to home. Or however you have that set up in the app. This is something no other drone in the Cine-whoop category can offer.
Shall we take a closer look into the range of DJI’s newest drone? Let’s get to it.
In the real world, you can expect 5 to 6km or 3 to 4 miles from your DJI Avata, under the best of conditions. In conditions such as around homes or businesses, the range is more like 2 to 3km or 1.2 to 2 miles due to unavoidable obstructions in your flight areas.
The DJI Avata is hands-down an amazing cine-whoop drone system for a drone of its size and being in the category it is. It has so many features that other similar-sized FPV quads can’t match.
What about the range, though? Here, we have to ensure our expectations aren’t off the chart. As a cine-whoop drone, it’s simply not meant to fly all that high, like 400 AGL.
Nor is it really intended to be flown at the limits of your Visual Observer’s visual line of sight. There are drones much better equipped for that.
As a cine-whoop, we should be more concerned with how the transmission holds up when putting obstacles and barriers between the controller and the aircraft.
That’s not to say the DJI Avata isn’t able to do a flight at 400 AGL. It is, in fact. It’ll suck the battery quickly, though, and stress the motors.
I’m also not saying that this little DJI Avata drone isn’t able to fly out to its range limit, as it can do that too. That’s just not its intended purpose.
The DJI Avata is meant for those one-shots you see, for cruising right above the ground, and most importantly, to fly indoors in close quarters. As well as being capable of aerobatics.
With our expectations in the right place, what is the range on the DJI Avata?
Here’s how DJI describes the range for the Avata:
“DJI Avata has a maximum range of 10 km when unobstructed, free of interference, and FCC-compliant. Maximum flight range specification is a proxy for radio link strength and resilience. Always fly your drone within visual line of sight unless otherwise permitted and check local laws and regulations in the region being operated.”
That’s not really informative is it? For those of us who may be metrically challenged, such as myself, it’s 6.214 miles, or let’s just go with 6 miles. That’s a heck of a range for a Cine whoop, any cine-whoop.
However, we can’t overlook the next statement. Unobstructed and free of interference. That’s the part that’ll you’ll most likely never find. No matter where you’re flying, there will always be competing radio signals bouncing about.
To make this easier, let’s just say if you have a cell signal, there are radio waves around you.
As to unobstructed, well, that’s a little easier to do. You can choose a place that doesn’t put anything between you and the aircraft. For most of us, though, there will always be interference to contend with, and there will likely be obstructions as well.
What determines range?
When we look at the DJI Avata and its range, we have two devices to consider beyond the Avata itself, as the DJI Avata has two control systems. The first is the motion controller, which by design has a more limited range compared to the second control system, the DJI FPV Controller 2.
The FPV Controller 2 provides the better range of the two.
Wait a minute, don’t the Motion Controller and the FPV Controller 2 have the same transmission power? Yes, they do, and when we consider range, transmission power makes a huge difference. The DJI Avata transmission power is FCC: < 33 dBm.
They also have the same control frequencies as well: 2.400-2.4835 GHz / 5.725-5.850GHz .
As I said, it’s in the design. The FPV controller 2 has exposed antennas, and the Motion Controller has an interior antenna and already meets an obstruction coming out of the device – your hand.
The importance of the controller antenna
It’s a simple thing. One easily overlooked, really. The antenna placement for any drone is important to maintaining the link between the controller and the aircraft.
When it comes to interference of the signal, it comes in many forms. When we look at the Motion Controller for the DJI Avata, one of the first things we notice is the lack of an exterior antenna. That’s because the antenna is inside the motion controller.
Now there are ways to enhance an antenna so that it’s not too affected by the controller’s housing. But it’s still something between the actual controller antenna and the aircraft. Then we add the addition of the hand that’s holding the controller, and we have added yet another obstruction to the antenna.
The FVP Controller 2 has exterior antennas. This removes the obstructions mentioned above. It would seem such a little thing, I know. It does have an effect, though, which has to do with how transmitter and receiver zones form.
As radio waves propagate in the shape of a sphere, the power density changes proportionally to the square of the radius. The transmitter to receiver zone forms the shape of an ellipsoid and is called the Fresnel zone. Ellipsoid sounds like the name of an old Atari game doesn’t it?
As you can see in the Figure, the Fresnel Zone is an area that is the shape of an ellipsoid between the transmitter (controller) and receiver (Avata).
The best communication link is when this area is free of obstacles. For our purposes, imagine that point A is the Avata and point B is the controller. Therefore, anything entering into this Fresnel Zone would be considered an obstruction and would cause some interference.
This brings us to the control frequency. The higher the control frequency, the shorter the range. Therefore, 2.4 GHz wireless signals cover a larger range than 5.8 GHz signals.
However, as most wireless devices use the 2.4 GHz frequency, you may experience more interference while using 2.4GHz.
Contrary to this, fewer devices are using the 5.8 GHz frequency, so there is a lower chance of signal interference from other devices in the area, although the higher frequency would not provide as good a range and penetration of obstacles as the lower 2.4GHz would.
Avata’s real-life expected range and why
In the real world, with interference and, of course, those pesky obstructions, we can easily reduce that 10km or 6 miles down to around a third to a half of that claimed range that DJI lists as the maximum flight range specification. Right from the start.
Of course, there will be days better than others. For example, if you’re flying in the same spot on two different days, you may see a little more range on one day and less on another.
Manmade radio signals, natural factors such as the makeup of the ground you’re flying over or the buildings around you, solar waves from the sun – many things can and will interfere with not only your control signal but your video signal as well. And your video signal will always be weaker than your control signal.
For what the DJI Avata is, it does its job very well. The signal from the controller is certainly strong enough to fly into a structure and maintain a good solid link to the controller. As you put more objects in the way, the video link may weaken and cut out.
When flying through trees or wooded areas, you can expect the signal to work but with limitations as you will be placing many obstacles in the path between the control station and the craft. If you, by chance, live in or visit Antarctica and can get to the top of a mountain, you may actually be able to get 10km out of your Avata, and the footage probably would be amazing, but even then, it would be unlikely.
For the rest of us, we can realistically expect 5 to 6km or 3 to 4 miles from our trusty DJI Avata, and that’s under the best of conditions. In real-world conditions, such as around homes or businesses, the likelihood is more like 2 to 3km or 1.2 to 2 miles in reality due to unavoidable obstructions in our flight areas.
Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!