The extremely popular DJI Mavic Mini, and the recently released Mini 2 both offer a lot to get excited about. But many users of the Mavic Mini and the Mini 2 as well, would like to be able to use the DJI Smart Controller with their smallest DJI bird.
Unfortunately, the DJI Mavic Mini will never be compatible with the Smart Controller, as the controller relies on OcuSync 2.0, while the Mavic Mini uses a wifi signal to connect to a controller. The DJI Mini 2 is not supported by the Smart Controller at this time, but may be with future updates, as it does use OcuSync 2.0 to connect to its controller.
The Smart Controller was built to be used with the Mavic line of drones, so some may wonder why the compatibility with actual drone models is so narrow. If you’re set on using a Smart Controller, or perhaps already have one, there’s still at least some hope that the compatibility may widen with future drone models.
What Drones are Compatible with the DJI Smart Controller?
When it originally came out, the Smart Controller was actually only compatible with two drone models available at that time: the Mavic 2 Zoom and the Mavic 2 Pro. A little while later, support for the Mavic Air 2 was added through a software update. Then with the enterprise Mavic level, compatibility for the Smart Controller was extended to include the Mavic Enterprise drones, as well as the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0.
To put it more succinctly, the Smart Controller currently supports:
- Mavic 2 Zoom
- Mavic 2 Pro
- Mavic Air 2
- Mavic Enterprise series
- Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
The Smart Controller utilizes DJI’s OcuSync 2.0 transmission system to connect the controller to the drone using automatic dual switching between the 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz frequency bands. This effectively reduces signal interference, and increases the signal range and image quality. Theoretically, any drone that also uses the OcuSync 2.0 signal transmission system would be compatible with the Smart Controller, but it’s unfortunately not that simple.
The Smart Controller also has to have firmware programming to support any given drone’s operating system, and so far the software does not support the Mini 2, even though it also uses OcuSync 2.0. That said, however, it will be a simple matter of DJI putting out a Mini 2 support package with a future firmware update to the Smart Controller for it to become compatible.
DJI has not made any official comment on whether such an update is to be expected or not, so one can only hope that it may be in the works.
There’s no point in holding out hope that the Mavic Mini will be compatible with firmware updates however. It uses a completely different system to connect to a controller, relying on WiFi rather than a radio frequency to communicate with a control system. As a result it has a much more limited range, and you’re also stuck with the standard controller that comes with the Mavic Mini.
Is the DJI Smart Controller Worth It?
If you’re considering dropping upwards of $650 on the DJI Smart Controller, you obviously want to know if it’s worth the cash. What exactly will you be getting that makes the Smart Controller an advantage to the standard controller that comes with your Mavic drone?
The DJI Smart Controller offers a number of features that make it worth the extra cost. Foremost among these features are the bright built-in screen for better viewing in direct sunlight, and the SkyTalk feature that makes live streaming of videos to social media accounts possible.
While any of the DJI Mavic drones is going to come with a controller, pretty much all of these require the use of a smartphone or tablet to run the control app and provide you with a screen to view the image feed from the drone’s camera. There are a number of reasons a completely dedicated controller may be a better option.
No Phone or Tablet Needed
I find it hard to imagine someone buying a drone who doesn’t also have a smartphone, but supposing that’s you, you could get around the issue of not owning a smartphone or tablet, and be able to have the full flight experience with the DJI Smart Controller.
The built-in screen of the Smart Controller is high definition, and ultra bright to make it easy to see your camera feed even in direct sunlight, something that many phones and tablets fall short in, where you may struggle with glare on the screen to see what your drone is doing.
With its built-in screen, the Smart Controller actually functions very similarly to a typical tablet. It’s built on an Android system, and comes with the DJI GO 4 app preinstalled to make the process of getting up and flying as smooth as possible. But the Smart Controller will also run most other third party apps, making photo and video editing on the spot a breeze, as well as helping you get your finished product up on social media or other outlets as quickly and effortlessly as possible.
A few other reasons that separating your drone control from your phone is a good idea include the interruptions or interference that may be inherent with using your phone as a controller. Unless you’ve turned off incoming calls, an incoming phone call may momentarily interrupt your flight control, with potentially disastrous results. Or low memory availability on your phone may slow down your phone’s function, making the flight control unreliable.
Or imagine that you need to have your phone available for calls or messages. If it’s busy with your drone’s flight control, your phone is unavailable during that time, whereas with a dedicated controller, you can control your drone and still have your phone available.
Even if you do have a separate tablet to use with your DJI controller so that phone function is not an issue, there are a few other features that make the Smart Controller a desirable option.
One of the biggest attractions is the SkyTalk feature that allows you to livestream your drone video feed to Facebook or Instagram. While there are apps that will allow you to do this with your phone or tablet, the integrated function on the Smart Controller makes this a breeze to set up without any hassles or compatibility headaches.
Also nice with the Smart Controller is that it makes it simple and easy to set up a second monitor for viewing by other bystanders. Again, this is something that is certainly possible with a tablet or phone as well, but the Smart Controller’s functionality simply makes it that much easier to set up.
Another selling point with the Smart Controller is the wide temperature operating range of the Smart Controller. It is designed to function in temperatures ranging from -4 F to 104 F. While the standard controllers that come with DJI Mavic drones may be able to handle these temperature ranges as well, the phones and tablets that you need to use with them often do not handle extreme cold or extreme heat very well. So if you’re planning to use your drone in extreme conditions, the Smart Controller is a good option.
Cost is always a factor to consider, and if you’re on a tight budget, and already have the phone or tablet to connect to the included DJI controller, the Smart Controller is certainly not a must, and you can have a great flight experience without it.
But if you have the money to spend, or just value the ease and simplicity of a completely dedicated flight controller, the features and level of control that you get with the DJI Smart Controller are definitely worth the money. You can expect to pay somewhere starting at around $749. You can check out the current prices on Amazon.
Image Credit: DJI