DJI has released the much-anticipated O3 Air Unit with somewhat mixed results. The new O3 Air comes with a 1/1.7″ CMOS sensor capable of 4K at 60 fps recording in camera and 1080p at 100 fps transmitted to the goggles with latency as low as 30 ms.
Features of the DJI O3 Air Unit include built-in Rock Steady, 20GB of internal storage, card reader mode, and 2.7K at 120fps.
The new air unit is now available on DJI's website at $229 and includes the camera, transmission module, antenna, and 3-in-1 cable.
The new Air Unit is compatible with both the DJI FPV Goggles 2 and the DJI Goggles 2. In our test and review, we used the DJI Goggles 2 exclusively with our DJI O3 Air Unit.
Built-in and adjustable diopters make the new goggles a go-to for anyone who wears glasses. And better yet, the DJI Goggles 2 are now available in a stand-alone package (without the motion controller). At $649, the DJI Goggles 2 include a battery, frames, screen protector, headband, and antennas.
DJI O3 Air Unit, our first impressions
Our first impressions of the air unit were honestly very poor. Shaky camera footage, overheating, and poor transmission left much to be desired. However, we performed our torture tests for the unit first.
We first tested the unit on an RC car without a cooling system. Then, we put the DJI O3 Air Unit on an O2 FPV drone to check for radio frequency interference.
Finally, we used a conventional FPV drone and swapped the camera for the DJI O3 Air Unit. From these tests, we found lots of great things about the system and a few areas where better performance was desired.
The first test we ran on the O3 unit was on a Traxxas Xmaxx RC truck. This involved a 3D-printed TPU mount on the top of the truck, allowing us to drive the truck from the truck's point of view. Also, by enclosing the unit within the mounting solution, we could travel beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) legally and test overheating on the unit.
Transmission quality was good in this configuration, allowing for clear video at a distance and through obstacles.
A drawback, however, was that without air being pushed over the unit from a drone, the transmission system would overheat after some time. Based on our testing, this overheating period took about 15–20 minutes.
Overheating frequency was minimal due to lower outdoor temperatures, generally in the 50s and 60s.
But in the summer, an air unit that gets too hot could make it hard to fly or even make it impossible to fly in very hot weather. To compensate for this, we added a fan to the mount, which allowed for more venting of the air unit to the outside of the mount. This venting and fan solved the problem for us, allowing us to run the unit continuously for over an hour.
Our second test was a torture test of the DJI transmission systems. This involved using an FPV drone with an O2 air unit and mounting the DJI O3 Air Unit onto the top near where an action cam would be mounted.
In our testing, O2 seemed to step on O3. Transmissions during test flights worked well until any obstacle was between the air unit and the goggles. Once that occurred, the O3 video froze, while the O2 video became pixelated but was still usable.
Additionally, we used the DJI O2 on channel 8 and the DJI O3 Air Unit on channel 1. Based on our testing, flying multiple drones at the same time may result in the O3 aircraft being blown out by the O2 aircraft, even when on completely different channels.
Finally, our last test was a more normal usage of the air unit. The unit was mounted onto a 5″ Johnny FPV frame with 1750KV motors on 6S.
The unit performed flawlessly in this configuration, save for the visible standoffs. To solve this, we 3D printed TPU camera mounts and extended the camera beyond the forward portion of the frame.
This eliminated our standoffs in view and most of the propellers; however, it leaves the camera incredibly vulnerable in the event of a crash or hard landing.
If you're flying for fun, standoffs in view may not be the biggest deal; however, for others hoping to utilize the O3 Air Unit as a business drone, know that the ultra-wide field of view will likely result in props or standoffs in the shot.
The transmission, however, with the camera extended, is like nothing else in the FPV world. It's incredibly clear, minimally latent, and looks like a final recording that you're actively controlling.
It's almost like a hyperrealistic simulator. Also, being able to record in 4K60 on the sensor means you don't need an extra camera like a GoPro.
And to take it a step further, DJI incorporated RockSteady stabilization into the DJI O3 Air Unit, enabling fully stabilized footage directly off of the SD card and D-cinelike color modes.
The camera is also fully compatible with the DJI Avata's ND filter set.
Overall, the air unit is an impressive addition to DJI's line of drones and drone parts. The transmission quality is incredible, as is the recorded footage on the air unit's SD card.
The primary area for improvement is the overheating of the air unit. In warmer climates, such as Phoenix, during the summer, it's not impossible to think that the DJI O3 Air Unit won't be usable due to the temperatures, whereas the DJI O2 still is.
This review of the DJI O3 Air Unit was written by Jason from the Pilot Institute, who tested the new DJI product in great detail!
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