The original DJI Mavic and a few of its subsequent lines of foldable drones used an interesting design for quite a while.
This version of the controller had a foldable bottom that would house your electronic device of choice.
With the release of the DJI Air 2, the then-new DJI RC-N1 was included. Which drones are compatible with this controller?
The RC-N1 currently works with the following drones:
- DJI Mini 2
- DJI Mini 3 Pro
- DJI Mavic Air 2
- DJI Air 2S
- Mavic 3 & 3 Cine
If you want to learn more about the RC-N1 controller and how it works across various drone models, this is the article for you.
One RC – Multiple Drone Models
When speaking of the original DJI Mavic drones, not all had the exact same remote controller.
The higher-end Mavic Pro lines (Mavic Pro and Mavic 2 Pro) used a foldable design with a built-in LCD screen, whereas the lower-end models (Mavic Mini, Mini SE, and Mavic Air) likewise used a foldable design, but had no such LED screen.
With the RC-N1, one remote can be used for all the drones that are compatible with it.
One might wonder why there is such an advantage to the RC-N1 working with all these drones.
Simply put, it comes down to convenience. For drone owners of multiple units, physical space is a big deal. Allow me to explain why.
As the owner of a small production and media company, my company has to lug around a fair bit of equipment.
As seen below, for a standard, less involved real estate shoot consisting of photos and video, we bring a few cases of equipment.
In the world of business, the saying 2 = 1 and 1 = none is very true. If you only have only one piece of equipment without a backup and it fails or breaks, then you have no equipment.
This is where the RC-N1 controller comes in very handy.
For anyone that has one or more of the drones on the compatibility list from the intro, you only need to bring one controller, meaning it will take up a little less space.
Imagine owning three of these DJI drones, perhaps the Mini 3 Pro, Air 2S, and Mavic 3, and you need to bring and use all of them. Then you can really see where saving on space is so important.
Time is also saved, as you won’t have to label all of those remote controllers and then fiddle with taking this one out, then putting that one in, then taking this one out, etc., etc.
Along with the convenience factor of the remote controller, there is also less of a learning curve if you upgrade or add compatible drones to your fleet.
All the drones will have the same control feel and, likewise, behave and respond familiarly, making the transition between drones simple.
I used to switch between Phantoms, Mavics, Evos, etc., oftentimes during the same shoot. Having just one controller type for all of them would have been much more comfortable and eliminated that brief “device readjustment” period.
RC-N1 in Hand
When I first saw and really thought about purchasing the Air 2S, I was concerned with the ergonomics of the RC-N1 controller. To me, it looked like a boring rectangle with questionable ergonomics.
I must say that after purchasing the Air 2S and after just one flight, I absolutely loved the controller.
The controller fits in hand quite well, although it’s pretty much still just a rectangular slab. What makes the controller comfortable is the solid build, balanced weight, and rubberized grips on the back.
There is a perfect balance with an electronic device on top in the slide-out holder. I thought this setup would be top-heavy, but even with an 8.5-inch tablet mounted in the top position, the balance and feel are perfect.
Speaking of the slide-out device holder, this also doubles as the controller’s antennas.
Unlike previous iterations of DJI’s controllers (including the original Smart Controller and the newer DJI RC Pro), gone are the days of folding and multi-directional controllers.
I find this a plus, as there are two fewer hardware failure points to worry about if the external antennas break.
A Neat Feature
In the past, when you connected your device to various DJI remote controllers, there was no option to charge your electronic device from the RC.
This is something that is now built into the RC-N1. For myself, it has come in handy in a pinch when I was oblivious to my phone’s battery status.
Thankfully, this is an option that can be turned off in the DJI Fly app for those not wanting the remote controller to charge their devices.
The Features of the RC-N1 Remote
When looking at the RC-N1 controller, you can see that it has a slightly minimalistic look to it. It is not scary-looking like some of the more button-packed controllers out there. It’s simple, and that’s okay.
On the front of the controller, we have:
- Power button
- 4 LED indicator/status lights
- Cine, Normal, and Sport mode switch
- Return to Home button (RTH)
- FN (Function) button which can be customized in a variety of ways
- Camera button
Let me explain how each of these features works.
This is pretty self-explanatory. The power button is used to turn the remote controller on.
To power on the controller, simply press the power button, then long-press-hold, and the remote will power up.
Alternatively, pressing the power button once will let you see the available charge, as indicated by the four LED status lights below.
LED Indicator Lights
The four LED lights are green and serve a dual purpose.
The first function is alerting the user to the RC’s power. The indicators are as follows:
- Four Lights – 75% – 100% power
- Three Lights – 50% – 75% power
- Two Lights – 25% – 50% power
- One Light – 0% – 25% power
The second function serves as the controller connection status. The LED lights will be solid when the controller is connected to the drone.
When the controller is in the process of connecting or has attempted to connect and cannot, then the LED indicator lights on the RC will flash.
The mode switch is broken down by Cine, Normal, and Sport. Here’s what you need to know.
- Cine Mode – This mode is perfect for those wanting to shoot video in a slower, more controlled manner, as Cine Mode reduces jerky movements by the operator.
- Normal Mode – The standard flight mode for those that want to get out and shoot at the drone’s normal speed, Normal Mode is one you’ll use often.
- Sport Mode – Then there’s Sport Mode, which allows you to fly at the fastest speed for your drone. Obstacle avoidance is automatically turned off.
This mode is great for quickly getting from one place to the next or chasing fast-moving subjects.
RTH (Return to Home)
This button is a two-function button, allowing for flight pause and return to home.
When flying, the button can be pressed once to cause the drone to stop flying and hover in place.
When shooting in various Intelligent Flight modes (should your DJI drone have these), pressing the RTH button once will allow you to exit the flight and hover.
To use the RTH (return to home) function, press and hold the RTH button. This will initiate the return to home function.
To cancel RTH, simply press the button, and you will regain control of the drone.
FN (Function) Button
This is a very useful button as, like the RTH button, the FN button has more than one use.
This button is customizable, allowing you to dictate how the button works when either pressed once or twice.
- Advanced Camera Options
- AE Lock/Unlock (auto exposure)
- Hyperlapse Cruise Control
- Increase EV (exposure value)
- Decrease EV (exposure value)
- Recenter Gimbal
- Auxiliary LED (if your drone has auxiliary LEDs)
- Toggle Map/Live View
- Gimbal Follow/PFV Mode
- Advanced Camera Settings
- AE Lock/Unlock
- Hyperlapse Cruise Control
- Increase EV
- Decrease EV
This button with the small camera icon is actually the photo/video toggle button.
If you would like to quickly switch between photo and video mode without having to make the switch from within the DJI Fly app, simply press this button.
Moving on to the top and bottom of the remote controller, we have:
- Integrated antenna and smartphone holder/mount
- Two indented pads to lock the smartphone in
- Gimbal Dial
- Camera/video shutter/record button
- Stick holder – holds the original or spare sticks (if the originals are already installed)
Antenna and Mount
I am a big fan of this design. As can be seen in the photo below, by many of the options and buttons on this RC, the antenna serves a dual purpose.
The antenna rises from the interior of the controller. Built into the antenna is also the mount with which a smartphone or tablet can be placed on.
There is a strong spring action to the antenna/mount which ensures a snug fit every time.
The cable that connects the smart device to the controller is also housed in a channel of sorts that’s built around the antenna housing, ensuring the cable is there when needed, and securely coiled and tucked away when not.
The gimbal dial is also dual usage.
Using this dial by itself will enable you to control the pitch of the gimbal, up and down. How fast or smooth this operates can be adjusted within the DJI Fly app, as can the maximum vertical pitch.
Holding the function button down while moving the gimbal dial will enable you to zoom in and out while in video mode. This is a convenient function for those that zoom regularly while filming.
This button enables you to either snap a photo or start and stop a recording when filming.
It behaves just like the standard shutter and record buttons on a DSLR or Mirrorless camera.
While the “one controller fits all drones” concept might be new for many, the idea and implementation of the RC-N1 working for so many types of DJI drones is welcome.
Whether you have one drone or many of the ones in this article, the RC-N1 is a very capable, comfortable, and convenient controller.