You took the plunge after a great amount of thought and consideration. Numerous hours of intense research. You did it!
You took that leap of faith and purchased the DJI Mini 3.
Sure, you were on the fence, not only about whether you should buy a drone system or not, but then you wrestled with just which one would be the best for you.
Well, congratulations, first of all, you made a very good and well-informed decision. The DJI Mini 3 is an exceptional aircraft and is used by not only beginners but seasoned drone pilots who love it as well.
By the way, Welcome to the Skies!
As a Beginner, you may or may not have some knowledge already of how drones work. Perhaps you were able to test-fly a friend’s or have piloted some of the cheap toy versions that are out there.
If you have no knowledge, that’s ok too. We’ll try and cover everything a beginner may need to know. As a beginner, there certainly is a lot of ground to cover.
Good thing we’re drone pilots and can just fly right over it, though, right?
The DJI Mini 3, as I said, is an exceptional aircraft. It weighs in at only 249 grams and is such a diminutive size. It’s the go-everywhere-you-go drone.
The Mini 3 also has the option to go with an upgraded, longer-lasting battery, as well as two controllers to choose from, with built-in obstacle avoidance that looks not only forward but backward as well as downwards.
You really get the fullest bang for your buck with this one. Let’s get you flying. We’ll start with what is simply the most important part, besides the drone itself, that is. The controller!
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
The DJI Mini 3 works with two controllers, and when you made your purchase, you had to choose between either the DJI RC-N1 or the DJI RC.
The controller is the device you will be the most familiar with and spend the most time with. It controls everything the drone is capable of doing. Knowing the ins and outs of your controller will make you a better pilot.
Below we’ll look at each controller and the features they have.
The DJI RC-N1 has become the standard controller for several of DJI’s latest drones, such as the DJI Mini 2 and 3 or the DJI Air 2S, and even the Mavic 3’s.
Unlike the DJI RC, you will need to use your smartphone or tablet for the live video feed and the DJI Fly App.
Looking at the controller, the main features you will see are the joysticks, which are used to control the aircraft’s movements.
For example, the following stick movements will move the aircraft in specific ways. Most pilots will fly using Mode 2, which is also the default.
You can however choose to fly in Mode 1 or 3 by changing this setting in the DJI Fly App.
When setting the controller up for the first time, the joysticks will be located under the controller in their storage slots.
Just remove the joysticks from the slots and screw them into the available holes found on the top of the controller.
When you’re not using the controller, the joysticks can be stored away back in these storage slots.
By pulling on the black square section of the controller located at the front, you will reveal a built-in phone holder/clip.
Place your phone into the holder and allow it to CLAMP onto the phone.
From here, you will connect the phone to the controller via the provided USB-c to USB-c Cable or the cable that applies to your device. The phone and the controller are now connected.
Below are the other buttons that you will find on the DJI RC-N1 controller and the function they operate.
- FN – This is a Function key at the top left, and it’s a customizable button to which you can assign any task.
- Camera switch button – This button is at the top left and allows you to switch between video and photo modes. This feature is available on the app as well.
- Mode switch – Located in the middle of the controller, this allows the user to switch between Normal (medium speed), Cine (Slow speed), and Sport (fast) modes.
- Power – Next to the Mode button to the right is the Power button, where you switch the controller power on or off.
- RTH – On the other side to the left is the RTH or Return to Home button that allows you to initiate or cancel the Return to Home feature.
- Gimbal dial – At the top, next to the clamp on the right, is a dial that allows you to move the gimbal up and down.
- Shutter button – On the other side of the phone clump is the button that allows you to take a photo or start and stop recording, depending on which camera mode you’re using.
- USB C – At the bottom is a USB-C port to charge the controller.
This controller comes with a built-in 5.5-inch screen and does away with the need to use one’s phone. It has some extra features and some limitations compared to the RC-N1.
The joysticks are found in the same storage slots as the DJI RC-N1. The DJI RC does have two customizable buttons located on the underside of the controller, the C1, and C2.
These buttons can be assigned specific tasks that will make flying easier. What you assign here will depend on your personal preference.
The DJI RC also has a RTH (Return to Home) button on the left and a Power button on the right, similar to that found on the DJI RC-N1.
On the DJI RC controller, the Home button also acts as the Pause button when recording or using the intelligent flight modes.
Located on the bottom of the controller, you will find the USB-C port for charging; this is the uncovered USB-C port.
Located next to this port, you will find a rubberized cover that can be removed. Here you will find the SD Card slot and the Host USB-C port.
At the top, located between the joysticks, you can find the Mode switch buttons. This button will switch the flight modes from CINE, Normal, to Sport.
These flight modes will change how the aircraft reacts to your actions on the sticks and are the same as those found on the DJI RC-N1 controller.
To provide a better understanding of what each flight mode does, here’s a breakdown below.
DJI Mini 3 Flight Modes
- Sport – Sport mode is perfect when you need to fly fast to a destination.
- Normal – Normal mode is smoother, and you can use it for filming or normal cruising.
- Cine – On the other hand, Cine mode is quite slow and very smooth and is designed to create smooth cinematic shots.
DJI Mini 3 Aircraft
Now that we have covered the controllers let’s look over the aircraft itself.
The DJI Mini 3 is a folding drone. This means that prior to flight, the arms will need to be extended. Once extended, the DJI Mini 3 is ready to be powered on.
This is done by pressing once and then again and holding the power button located on the top side of the battery to turn the aircraft on.
Once powered on, the aircraft will go through its startup procedure. This will consist of the aircraft checking the gimbal function and connecting to the controller and App.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves here, though. All drone pilots are expected to inspect their aircraft prior to and after a flight, and that does mean every flight.
As a beginner, you may not have been aware of that. That’s ok, as we really do want to know more about the aircraft anyway.
At the front of the aircraft, we will find the camera, as well as what appear to be two eyes. These are two additional cameras used for the obstacle avoidance system.
Now you will also find a removable gimbal guard.
Note: This gimbal protector should be removed before powering on the aircraft and should be used to protect the gimbal and camera when not in use.
When we look at the rear of the aircraft, we see the battery compartment. This is where we would insert the battery to give our little flyer life.
We will also find the Aircraft’s onboard SD card slot; this is the slot used with an SD card to record your flights and photos too.
We will also see the rear-facing obstacle avoidance system sensors.
On top of the aircraft with the battery inserted, we see the power button. This is the button you press and hold for 2 to 3 seconds to power the aircraft on and off.
This button can also be used to link or bind the aircraft to the controller.
On the underside of the craft, we will find the downward-facing sensors. As these sensors are used for landing, they are always on and cannot be turned off like the forward and backward sensors can.
I will point out here that when inspecting a folding drone before or after flight, it is always good to pay extra attention to the motor housings on the arms for any cracking or other visible damage that may be caused by too much vibration.
As well as where the arms connect to the drone’s body, as these are natural weak points in the design and would be most likely where a fault would be found.
Now that we’ve become more familiar with the DJI Mini 3 itself. Let’s move on to the DJI Mini 3’s operating system. As it is here where the control of the aircraft can be found.
DJI Fly App
The DJI Mini 3 uses the DJI Fly App as its operating system. It is here where all of the master controls for the aircraft can be found. Here we also find a bit of difference depending on the controller you are using.
When using the DJI RC-N1, you will need to install the app on the device you will be using as the viewscreen – your phone or tablet. This can be done by downloading the DJI Fly App from DJI’s website.
Whereas with the DJI RC, the DJI Fly App comes pre-installed in the controller and may only need to be updated.
Once you have installed the app and opened it, the first screen you can access is the Profile screen with the following features:
- Location status – Here, the app lets you know the status of the location you are flying in and recommends flying Spots where you can fly.
- Tutorials – At the top right, you can access tutorials that DJI has made available for the DJI Mini 3 Pro when connected to the internet.
- Album – At the bottom left is the Album where you can access all of your footage.
- Skypixel – This is DJI’s social media platform for sharing footage and learning from other DJI drone owners.
- Profile – Here, you will be asked to create a DJI account if you don’t already have one.
- Go FLY – This is the button that ushers you into the screen where you can view the drone’s live footage and several other settings, as we will discuss below.
- Back button – This is the arrow-like symbol pointing left. It allows you to back to the screen where you tapped GO FLY.
Once selecting the GO FLY option, you will enter into the DJI Mini 3’s live view screen. Prior to going directly to the live view, a Flight Status Screen will appear overlaid on the live view.
It is here that you will see if there are any updates needed to the firmware.
If you are flying within authorized zones, and flying without any issues, it will say “Normal.” Otherwise, you will get an error that you will have to troubleshoot.
Below the Flight Status is where you can set the RTH, which should always be higher than any structures or trees in the flight area.
After that, you can see and set the Maximum Altitude, which is helpful in areas with limited height restrictions, as well as the Maximum Distance, which helps prevent you from flying beyond an allowed limit.
Below that will be the SD card, which helps you monitor how much storage you have left or even format the card if need be.
Of course, if everything checks out, you’re ready to fly. We can leave this screen now and go into the live view screen of the DJI Fly App.
The DJI Fly App will have an abundance of flight and craft information available on the screen, such as:
On the top right section, the first thing you see is the battery information. It shows you the battery power percentage and how much time is left. When you click on it, you can get even more information on the battery’s status.
Next to the battery information, you will find the strength of the drone’s connection to the controller. Similar to how Cellular connection is gauged, you will see bars marking the signal strength.
As a GPS Drone System, the DJI Mini 3 uses the GPS Satellite system to maintain stabilization and to navigate, as well as utilize the RTH feature.
Having an appropriate number of connected satellites is essential to the aircraft’s operation. It is here that you will see the number of connected satellites.
In the bottom left section of the screen are the camera settings.
This section is dedicated to camera and video settings and is where you can adjust such settings as exposure, ISO, and shutter speed, or switch between manual and Auto modes, as well as select intelligent flight modes.
You can also access these settings by tapping the three dots in the upper right-hand corner.
Altitude and speed
At the bottom left, you can find the information on the drone’s altitude, its ascending speed, its distance from the controller, and how fast the drone is moving horizontally.
Located in the lower left corner is the Map. This beneficial map can show you where your aircraft is in relation to the controller as well as assist if you lose situational awareness of the aircraft’s location.
An additional feature that comes in handy is that when switched to compass mode, the display will show obstacles as they come within the aircraft’s line of sight.
This especially useful feature can help you navigate out of a heavily saturated area of obstacles if need be.
Auto take-off and landing
On the left side of the screen, you will see a tab for Auto take-off and landing. You can automatically take off by pressing it and following the commands on the screen, as well as land the aircraft in the same way.
Hidden Screen Options
Besides the settings that are visible on the screen, you can access some hidden options as shown below:
- Tap and hold – A bubble will appear if you tap your screen and hold. This signifies that you can now control the gimbal up and down like you would in the gimbal dial mentioned earlier.
- Tap once on the screen – If you want to set the exposure on one section of the screen, you can tap on that section once.
A yellow box will appear, and a scale with a sun icon will appear on the right where you can increase or decrease the exposure for that section.
If you want to lock the exposure at that section, tap and hold until you see a locking icon.
As I mentioned above, the three dots located in the top right corner of the DJI Fly App will give you access to the camera settings, and it will also give you access to the aircraft’s primary setting menus.
Here you will find the settings for Safety, Control, Transmission, and About. We’ll cover each one in more detail below.
Below are the settings available in the Safety tab.
- Obstacle Avoidance Action – Here, you tell the drone what to do if it encounters an obstacle. You can set it to Bypass, Brake or Off.
Bypass, the drone avoids obstacles.
Brake, the drone will stop when it senses an obstacle.
Off, where Obstacle Avoidance sensors will be turned off.
- Display Radar Map – This is the Compass mode mentioned above and is where the drone shows you in real-time where the obstacles are and how close you are to them. You can leave it on or switch it off.
- Flight Protection – This is where you can set the maximum distance and maximum altitude as well as the RTH altitude.
- Update home point – This is where if you were to move away from the recorded home point locked in at take-off and want the drone to fly to your current location instead.
It is here that you can update the location. You can also set the home point to where the drone is or where the controller is located.
- Sensors – This refers to the Obstacle Avoidance sensors and is where you can calibrate the Compass and IMU, both of which will have on-screen prompts that will guide you through the process.
- Battery info – Here, you get more detailed information on the battery, such as charge cycles, voltage, and condition of the cells.
- Unlock Geo Zone – If you are in an area where your drone flight is restricted but have permission to fly, you can unlock the zone through this setting.
Depending on the zone’s classification, you will have to fill in some information to unlock it.
- Find my drone – This feature helps you find your drone in case you lose it. It will show its last know location on the map and direction since the battery may be dead by the time you get there.
You can also initiate flashing and beeping to make it easier to find.
At the bottom is the Advanced Safety Settings, which will take you into even more advanced settings for the aircraft.
- Signal lost – It is here that you can input the parameters in the event of signal loss between the aircraft and the controller. You can have it either hover, return to home (RTH), or descend.
You can choose either depending on where you are flying, as one may be preferred over the other dependent on the flying area, such as: if you are outdoors, RTH is the best option.
Hover is best used when flying indoors, and descend can work best in both situations.
- Emergency Stop – This is in the event of an emergency and you need the aircraft motors to stop even if in flight. With this setting ON, you can pull the joysticks inwards or outwards, and it will cause the motors to stop.
Below are the settings in the Control tab.
- Units – Here, you are able to select the units you want to use. Depending on where you may be located, you may be more comfortable with using Imperial or Metric. You can toggle that selection here.
- Subject scanning – When switched on, the drone will automatically detect subjects and place them in the camera view.
- Gimbal – Allows you to adjust everything to do with the gimbal. Such as switching from FPV mode to follow mode, with the option to access more advanced settings.
- Advanced gimbal settings – Here, you can adjust the gimbal’s speed for each flight mode.
- Gimbal calibration – In the event you are experiencing gimbal failures or issues, you can recenter or recalibrate the gimbal here.
- Remote controller – Here, you can select the mode to use with your controller (you can use the default Mode 2), as well as customize the customizable buttons.
Calibrate the controller and adjust the controller’s responsiveness to your inputs.
- Flight tutorial – Here, you get another tutorial on how to use the DJI Mini 3.
- Reconnect the drone with the controller – At the bottom, you can re-pair/link/bind the aircraft and the controller.
When starting out, it is recommended that you leave these settings in their default state. In this section, you can control the channels the controller and aircraft use to communicate with one another.
This is an important area as it provides important information not only on the aircraft, such as the serial number, but also as to which firmware is currently installed, and other related information.
Flying the DJI Mini 3
Oh boy! That was a bunch of stuff, jee whiz. Maybe I overdid it.
Knowing about everything above, though, is just part of the process of becoming the best darn drone pilot you can be, and learning it early is better than learning it on the fly, or after you needed to know it.
That and we’ve only really hit the tip of the iceberg, as there is so much more we could go into. Let’s fly, though. We’ve waited enough.
Before we go and hit liftoff, however, we should cover one more aspect of drone flight. The Preflight Checklist.
It’s just good practice to get into the habit as a beginner of having and maintaining an essential checklist to make sure everything is ready for take-off.
A preflight checklist should have the following:
- Make sure you have checked and noted any obstacles in the airspace you intend to fly in.
- Find a flat surface to take off from and land free of any area obstructions.
- Make sure the drone and controller are fully charged.
- Check for any physical damage to the drone, battery, propellers, and controller.
- Make sure you are connected to the internet and watch out for any prompts to update the firmware.
As a beginner, it would be recommended that you utilize the Auto-takeoff feature. However, you can choose to take off manually if you have set the settings to allow it.
Auto take-offs are pretty straightforward.
Press the icon on the left side of the screen and follow the prompt, and the drone will take off.
If you choose to use the manual method, follow the steps below.
Push both sticks down and inwards to arm the drone. The propellers will start rotating.
Press the left stick upwards, and the drone will start ascending. As long as there are enough satellites, the drone will hover in place.
To land, find a good spot, descend until you reach the ground, then push the left stick further down to disarm the drone.
As you start out on the journey of becoming a drone pilot, there is much, much, much, more that you will be learning.
Having a good solid foundation of understanding your aircraft and its operating system won’t make you a good pilot. It will make you a better pilot.
You still have the long journey of learning the regulations your aviation authority places upon you. Oh yes, there are rules, and you will want to be aware of them. You will still need to learn to fly the aircraft itself.
A skill set only time and practice will provide. It is not an easy journey but it is richly rewarding all along the way.
Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!
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