Flying drones with a first-person view is a tricky proposition. If you're working with a small racer like the Blade Nano QX2$129.99 at Amazon, with your main concern being speed and control in a small, confined course, goggles are a necessity. But for pilots more tuned into aerial video and imaging, FAA guidelines recommend that you keep your drone within your line of sight.
That hasn't stopped companies from marketing these types of aircraft along with goggles. The Ehang Ghostdrone 2.0 VR$699.99 at Amazonrequires you to use an included pair of VR goggles to see what the aircraft's camera is seeing. Parrot bundles a smartphone VR solution with its Disco and Bebop 2 FPV kits, both of which let you switch between the drone's camera and your phone's camera at will, but it's an inelegant solution at best.
Epson's Moverio BT-300 glasses take a different approach. Instead of monopolizing your vision with the view from your drone's camera, the glasses project it in front of your eyes, while letting you see the world around you as well.
I got to try on the augmented reality glasses at the Drone Rodeo, an event coinciding with CES. The glasses fit snugly on my face, even though I already wear corrective eyeglasses. I had to adjust them a bit to make them rest in the right position—Epson includes an accessory nose guard for glasses wearers that will ease that process.
A small box plugs into your DJI drone's remote control—it's currently compatible with drones in the Mavic$999.00 at Amazon, Inspire, and Phantom series that use controllers with HDMI output. Epson says that you can use the glasses with other drones that feature HDMI connectivity, but doesn't guarantee that you'll get the minimal latency that you do with a DJI drone.
The box is an Android device that provides the processing required for the glasses to work, and also has the DJI Go app pre-loaded. There's a small touchpad on the box, as well as a select button, so you can navigate through the DJI Go app. I found it a bit clunky to use, as the app is really designed for a touch-screen interface. When the Mavic Pro that I was flying told me that the battery was low, for example, I couldn't manage to activate the landing button using the control interface.
Granted, this was my first time using the BT-300, and I only had the chance to fly for a few minutes. I hope that I'd get better using the cursor interface with some time and practice.
When the glasses are off, they're just glasses. You can install clear lenses or shaded ones, the latter being the better option for use on bright days. The view from the drone's camera appears within the DJI Go app as normal, but instead of it being shown on a smartphone screen, it floats in front of your eyes.
The display is semi-transparent, so you can actually see through it, but depending on how different what your drone is capturing versus where your head is pointed, you may not notice. Shooting a scene with a lot of blue sky and looking for your drone in the blue sky? It's tricky to see. Your bet bet is to tilt your head left or right, keeping an eye on your aircraft and the other trained on the virtual display.
I personally found the best method to be peering above the slim glasses and into the sky to get a bead on the Mavic, while moving my eyes down a bit when I wanted to see the camera view. I hope with some practice I'd get better at tracking the drone in the sky while simultaneously seeing its camera view and processing both data streams in my brain, but it's not something that I was able to do the first time out. I liken it to keeping one eye open while the other looks through the lens of an SLR, another skill that requires practice.
I need more time—a lot more time—with the Moverio glasses before I'd feel comfortable flying an aircraft with them through any sort of environment where obstacles were an issue. They're certainly preferable to a headset that dominates your vision, but I'm not sure if I'd recommend them over using a large smartphone or small tablet screen to control your drone, along with a physical remote of course.
Veterans of FPV flight may come to a vastly different conclusion. And if you're in that category, it's certainly worth it to give the Moverio glasses a test drive to see if you like them. Buying them on impulse is out of the question, unless you have a significant amount of expendable income. The BT-300 Drone Edition glasses, which go on sale later this month, are priced at $799.