The Mavic 3, DJI’s latest professional consumer drone, is jam-packed with fascinating features. It has a dual camera, an enhanced obstacle avoidance system, and the ability to record in Apple ProRes, to name a few technological improvements.
But what happened to the cellular dongle that was supposed to provide DJI’s crown jewel 4G connectivity?
The DJI Mavic 3 4G dongle enables users to fly “without boundaries.” When the dongle is active, the remote controller signal becomes less important since the drone interacts with the device through a 4G network, allowing the pilot to fly beyond line of sight (BVLOS) with a range limited only by the battery’s power.
The most significant drawback of this amazing system is that it is not available in all nations as the regulations differ around the globe.
Today, we will go deeper into this new accessory so you will be ready for it once it becomes widely accessible.
What is the DJI Mavic 3 4G dongle?
The Mavic 3 4G dongle is not a new accessory. We’ve seen it before in much older drones, such as the user modification that allows the Parrot Disco to communicate through that mobile network.
It is, however, DJI’s first official solution that allows one of their drones to fly without being limited by the range of the remote controller’s signal.
This is something that might make professional pilots’ lives and operations easier and safer.
How does the 4G dongle work?
The dongle works in a rather straightforward manner. All we have to do is get our drone and device to communicate with one another.
In this way, the signals we send to operate the drone will be received via 4G instead of through a radio frequency. Isn’t that awesome?
These are the steps to activate the Mavic 3 4G dongle:
- Power on the remote controller, then the aircraft.
- Make sure that they are connected and ready to go.
- Plug the dongle into the drone battery, making sure it is turned on.
- Tap on the ellipsis (three dots) on the top right corner of the camera view screen.
- Tap on the Transmission tab.
- Activate enhanced transmission.
- After that is turned on, the 4G signal will appear in the camera view, below the RC signal.
Where is the 4G dongle available?
Unfortunately, only Mavic 3 users who are based in China can officially enjoy the 4G module. This is without a doubt the biggest weakness of the dongle.
It is important to note that this issue is beyond DJI’s control since it is subject to the rules of each nation.
You, the user, are presumably unconcerned with bureaucracy and are perplexed as to why nothing has been done about it. That is, at least, what is happening to me…
I could not find the dongle on the official DJI online store. Perhaps the problem is that I am based in Spain. I tried to switch to the US store and also to the Chinese one, but I had no luck.
However, the 4G dongle is available for purchase on Aliexpress, where it specifies that it should work in the following countries (take this with a pinch of salt though):
- South Korea
- United States
A brief YouTube search revealed that it works in Australia, China, and Russia, but I couldn’t find someone flying it in any of the other countries.
Note: If you plan to use the dongle, remember that you must ensure that it is legal at your location. We also recommend that you purchase it only if you have confirmation that it will operate where you intend to use it.
Will the 4G dongle be available in the USA?
According to the below comment, the circumstances in the United States do not seem promising.
A DJI worker explained to a user who expressed dissatisfaction with the DJI Smart Controller’s incompatibility with the dongle that each nation has its own rules and regulations regarding communications and radio frequency equipment.
What this means is that DJI is still studying the applicability of the 4G dongle in North America. The post was written back on November 10th, 2021, so it’s been already six months and we still haven’t heard anything about this.
How about in Europe?
A similar problem appears to exist throughout Europe. The biggest roadblocks to this system’s deployment are radiofrequency restrictions and BVLOS rules.
However, there are no formal communications regarding this specific location.
Where Can I Buy the Mavic 3 4G dongle?
So far, I have not seen the 4G dongle for sale on the official DJI website; however, it might be region-locked.
The only place I found it was on Aliexpress (click/tap on this link to see it).
What’s in the package?
The 4G communications package, based on the images on the product website, consists of a communications dongle and a mount to attach it to the drone
A bundle with two dongles, one for the drone and the other for the Smart Controller, is available for purchase.
As expected, dongle compatibility is extremely limited at the moment. We hope that DJI starts including the cellular module as an accessory for all of its drones soon.
For now, these are the DJI products that support the 4G dongle:
- DJI Mavic 3
- DJI Mavic 3 Cine
- DJI Smart Controller
Can I install the dongle on the DJI Smart Controller?
Although it is not clear if this is supported by DJI, the following video shows how to install the 4G cellular dongle on a Smart Controller.
Some users have reported that they have made it work without problems. Installing the cellular dongle in the Smart Controller and another one in the Mavic 3 should allow you to control the drone via 4G with your RC Pro.
Apart from installing the dongle in the RC Pro in order to use it with the Mavic 3, you may simply add the module to enable a 4G connection in your controller, allowing you to access the Internet without the need for a mobile hotspot.
Note: For the Smart Controller to connect to the internet, you will need to insert a SIM card into the dongle.
Commonly Asked Questions
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions I discovered:
What if I use a VPN to trick the country region?
A few people have asked if the dongle can be used with a VPN on the device to trick the system and make it think that we are in one of the countries where it is legal to use it.
We encourage you not to do this since I have not seen anybody else do it effectively, and it is probably illegal.
Can I buy the 4G dongle on DJI’s official website?
We assume that the dongle can only be purchased from the official store in countries where its usage is authorized. There is no way to legally purchase it from the official store outside of those areas.
Any efforts to buy it through a VPN or other similar techniques may result in your account being terminated by DJI. So be cautious.
Why can’t I use the dongle in my country?
As stated previously, each nation has its restrictions that regulate the use of radiofrequency equipment, which limits the usage of this relatively new technology in the vast majority of countries.
Remember that just because you can buy the dongle online does not guarantee that it is legal to use it in your area.
In what countries does it work for sure?
According to my research, the dongle currently only works in Australia, China, and Russia. However, we are not sure if using it outside of China is legal. So, once again, it is your responsibility to find out if it is legal in your country.
DJI’s Mavic 3 4G dongle is not an innovation per se, but rather an introduction to what will be the future of drone connectivity for the company’s clients.
Older drones, such as the fixed-wing Parrot Disco, or the new Parrot Anafi AI, also use this technology to greatly increase the range limitations.
Using a 4G dongle in your Mavic 3 provides you superior real-time control over the drone in locations where the included RC, or even the RC Pro, might struggle, such as in between buildings.
The most significant disadvantage is that, due to prohibitions in other countries, it is only legally sold in China. Maybe not for Mavic 3, but these dongles will ultimately have to be authorized everywhere. Let’s hope that happens soon.
Have you enjoyed this article? I hope that you have a better understanding of how the 4G dongle works, how to install it in the Smart Controller, and what are its limitations.
Remember that, if you are also obsessed with drones, as we are here on Droneblog, you can keep reading more of our articles.