The Air 3 is a great multi-purpose drone, capable of producing excellent content for both beginners and veterans alike.
Released in 2023, the Air 3 uses the new OcuSync 4 transmission system, which is currently only compatible with the DJI RC 2 and DJI RC-N2 remote controllers.
With it being that time of year again, and many receiving the DJI Air 3 as gifts, many new users may have questions about flying the Air 3 using the DJI RC 2 smart controller.
In this article, we will walk through the procedures for launching and landing the Air 3 with the DJI RC 2, how to use the DJI RC 2 remote controller, as well as set up the various options within the DJI Fly app to ensure safer flight with the DJI RC 2.
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
The DJI RC 2 Smart Controller
For those just getting into flying DJI drones and looking to do so with a smart controller, the DJI RC 2 is an all-inclusive remote controller.
This means the remote controller does not need a smart device attached to fly.
The DJI RC 2, being all-inclusive, is an Android-based RC that runs the DJI Fly app. It has an integrated 5.5″ screen which has 700 nits of brightness.
Although this is less than the 1000 nits found on the DJI RC Pro, it is plenty bright to see in most sunny conditions.
Add on a matte screen protector and you’ll be able to view the screen in almost any condition.
DJI Fly Flight Options
While one could simply accept all the DJI Fly app standard options for flight, it is advisable to tailor some of these options to your flying style and environment, whether these be safety-related, flight stick preferences, or return-to-home-based options (RTH).
When you sign into the DJI Fly app with your DJI Profile, most of your settings should transfer to whatever device you are using DJI Fly on.
For this section, we’ll go under the assumption that you are flying for the first time with a new DJI Profile/Account.
To get to all of the Safety tab, go into Settings > Safety. All of the safety items we discuss in this section can be accessed from the Safety tab.
Changing or setting options in the Safety tab will aid in safer flights. For the Air 3 and those around you.
Firstly, we’ll examine the Flight Assistance area and focus on the Obstacle Avoidance Actions and Bypassing Options.
Obstacle Avoidance Action
Before flying you’ll want to define what the Air 3 will do once it approaches an obstacle.
The available actions are:
- Bypass – When enabled and controlling the Air 3, the Air 3 will automatically go around detectable obstacles. If there is no available way to do so, the Air 3 will then hover until action can be taken by the drone pilot.
- Brake – When the brake action is enabled, the Air 3 will automatically stop and hover when encountering obstacles. You will then be able to determine the best course of action to take.
- Off – Turns off all obstacle avoidance systems. With this action, the Air 3 can run into obstacles in the environment. Some drone pilots, like myself, use this option when flying in tight spaces.
Additionally, when the Bypass Action has been chosen, there are two options available for how the Air 3 behaves when bypassing obstacles.
- Normal – The Air 3 will search out obstacles in advance of reaching them, staying a safe distance from the obstacle(s).
- Nifty – This is sort of like Cine mode for the Bypass action. When enabled, the Air 3 will avoid obstacles with more laid-back and smooth movements. However, this Bypass option has a higher chance of colliding with obstacles.
Return to Home (RTH)
Return-to-home (RTH), will return the Air 3 to the recorded home point, without any additional input from you.
In this section, you’ll want to set the options for Advanced RTH.
ADVANCED RETURN TO HOME
There are two settings available for Advanced RTH. These RTH settings are:
Optimal Advanced RTH
When in Optimal Advanced RTH, the Air 3 plans the best route for it to get home, regardless of any RTH height options previously input.
It will adjust its height to get above, below, or around any type of obstacle or interference signal in the area that could disrupt a successful RTH.
With the optimal setting chosen, the Air 3 will use the straightest and direct route to RTH, to save on battery power, which in turn increases the amount of time the Air 3 can fly.
This may possibly even save the Air 3 if the batteries are low.
If it is too dark for the Air 3’s vision sensors, the Air 3 will default to a variation of Preset mode, with preset altitude options, which we’ll look at.
Preset Advanced RTH
In this mode, the Air 3 will return home at the preset height.
As a rule of thumb, I set my Auto RTH Altitude 30 feet or so above the highest obstacle wherever I might be flying for the day.
If the Air 3 is in Optimal Advanced RTH when the lighting conditions are too poor for the Air 3’s vision system to see its way home, the Auto RTH Height will be used.
AUTO RTH ALTITUDE
The Auto RTH Altitude is a very important option to set.
The reason is that in the event of an emergency (we’ll touch on this shortly), you’ll want the Air 3 to have sufficient height when returning home.
As a rule of thumb, it is always good to set your return-to-home height a fair bit higher than the tallest obstruction in your area.
Some simply set their RTH altitude to the maximum flight ceiling in the United States (400 feet) and just go.
This can be dangerous if the Air 3 is returning home and there are low-flying aircraft in the vicinity.
AR Settings (Augmented Reality)
The Air 3 benefits from the inclusion of AR (augmented reality), displaying on-screen overlays to assist with home point identification and return-to-home functions.
With Show AR Home Point options on, you will see a virtual H on the Live View screen representing the Air 3 home point, which can be seen in all of the map views.
With the Show AR Return-to-Home route option enabled, there is a green path showing what route the Air 3 will take to RTH.
Lastly, when landing there is also a virtual “Air 3” on screen showing where the Air 3 will exactly land. This is called Show AR Aircraft Shadow.
» MORE: DJI Air 3 Vertical Mode (Video)
This section is used to define how far and high the Air 3 will fly at any given time. Although our intention may be to stay within the confines of the law, when in-flight this might be difficult to maintain.
If you are in the United States, because it is illegal to fly above 400 feet, you may choose to set the Max Altitude to anything under 400 feet.
If you are in a country that regulates the maximum altitude that you can fly, likewise you’ll want to set that number here.
Additionally, you can also set the maximum distance. If you are concerned about flying too far out, you can set the value to any number you’d like. If distance isn’t a concern, this can be set to No Limit.
Advanced Safety Settings
Advanced safety settings determine how the Air 3 behaves when the Air 3 disconnects from the remote controller.
Disconnects can occur due to variants in the environment, such as tall trees, mountains, canyons, or even signal interference and loss.
Additionally, you can set the stick inputs for manually shutting the propellers off in the case of an emergency.
Signal loss options:
- RTH – The Air 3 will return to the home point, regardless of the surroundings.
- Land – The Air 3 will descend and land, even if the signal was lost over water.
- Hover – The Air 3 will stay in one place until it receives input from you. You may have to go to the location of the Air 3 to regain a connection.
Emergency Propeller Stop
Simultaneously move both control sticks diagonally toward the inner or outer corners to stop the motors and propellers.
If the Air 3 is airborne it will crash-land. The emergency propeller stop should only be used in an actual emergency situation, as the Air 3 might be unrecoverable after the event.
A very important aspect of flying the Air 3 is the actual control input method being used. It is referred to as Stick Mode. Stick mode is in the Control tab.
To get to the Control tab, go into Settings > Control
Stick Mode enables you to tailor your stick preferences for flight. Some like Mode 1, whereas I fly using Mode 2, which has a very Xbox/Playstation Console feel to it, something I am comfortable with.
There are a total of three Mode presets, and a Custom preset you can totally modify to your flying style.
If you are unsure of what your particular flying Mode should be, it is advisable to take the Air 3 to a remote area or large field and switch between the Stick Modes until you find one you are comfortable with.
Below are the various Control Modes:
Custom Stick Mode allows you to tap the Manual button and define each one of the stick inputs.
Flight Mode Select
Not directly tied to the actual Control Options tab, but a control option nonetheless would be the Flight Mode.
The Flight Modes for the Air 3, whether using the DJI RC 2 Smart Controller or the DJI RC-N2, are found on the face of the DJI RC 2:
- C (Cine) – slow smooth flight with dampened controls. Tailored for getting cinematic shots.
- N (Normal) – standard control speed
- S (Sport) – allows the Air 3 to fly at speeds up to 46.9mph. This mode turns off all obstacle-avoidance.
These flight modes can be switched during flight. If new to flying, it is advisable to be in either Cine or Normal mode, as these retain obstacle avoidance sensing and are slower in speed than Sport Mode.
Power On Process
With the pertinent DJI Fly app options defined and locked in, we are ready to power on and fly the Air 3.
DJI, like other drone manufacturers, has a “recommended” power on and off sequence for its line of drones. Again, this is just a recommendation.
Plenty of DJI drone owners use various power-on sequences without issue.
Sequence for Turning on the Air 3 for Flight
Step 1: Turn on the DJI RC 2 by pressing once on the power button, then pressing and holding until the remote controller turns on.
Step 2: Remove the gimbal cover from the front of the Air 3.
Unfold the Air 3’s arms and legs, followed by opening the propellers.
Note: Unfolding the props instead of allowing them to be spun open upon motor engagement reduces the amount of stress on the Air 3’s frame.
Step 3: Turn on the Air 3 by pressing the power button once, then pressing and holding until the Air 3 turns on. This will be indicated by the motors twitching and LED lights blinking.
Taking Off (Launching)
Arming the Motors
Before launching the Air 3, you’ll want to ensure that you are in an area free of direct obstacles.
You’ll also want to make sure the Air 3 is facing away from you.
To launch the Air 3, it will need to be armed first. This means the motors need to be engaged/turned on.
To arm the motors in preparation for flight, pull both control sticks diagonally toward the inner corners, and the motors will spin up, ready for flight.
Note: If you need to disarm/turn off the motors after arming them, simply push down and hold on the left stick and the motors will stop spinning (if using Stick Mode 2).
Likewise, you can use the same stick inputs as launching to stop the motors.
Lifting off (Launching)
There are two ways to launch the Air 3.
The first way is autonomous, through the DJI Fly app (referred to as auto takeoff).
While in the camera live view, with the motors armed and spinning, simply press the takeoff icon on the left of the screen.
The Air 3 will lift to a height of about 3 – 4 feet and then hover, waiting for your stick input.
The second way to launch would be doing so manually using the control sticks on the remote controller.
To manually launch, if using Control Stick Mode 2, gently push up on the control sticks.
The Air 3 will slowly lift. The harder you press up on the sticks, the faster the Air 3 will ascend.
As daunting as flying a drone for the first time might seem, it is actually fairly simple.
Because different people use different Stick Modes when flying (see Controls Options above), we cannot cover all of them here.
Before flight, study the controls for the Stick Mode you are comfortable with, by either going into the Control tab > Stick Mode, or looking at the DJI Air 3 manual (excerpt below).
New-To-Drones Flight Tips
- Launch from a location free of obstacles and debris, as this could interfere with the takeoff process
- Bring the Air 3 above the treeline (if any) to begin flying
- Turn on obstacle avoidance features
- Use smooth and controlled stick motions when first starting out flying
- Try to avoid flying in Sport Mode until you are comfortable with the Air 3’s flight characteristics
- Fly with the rear of the Air 3 facing you. If the nose (front) of the Air 3 is facing you, forward, backward, and side-to-side controls are reversed
- Stay within visual line of sight (VLOS) for the safety of others as well as the Air 3
- Avoid flying higher than the legal limit for your country
Like with taking off, landing can be done in a few different ways.
For the first method, after you have returned the Air 3 to your location, you can land it through the DJI Fly app (now referred to as auto landing).
Step 1: With the Air 3 in the area you would like to land, press the auto landing icon in the live camera view screen.
Step 2: Press and hold the Land icon in the middle of the screen. This acts as a timed confirmation for landing.
Step 3: The Air 3 will initiate auto-landing procedures, land, and shut off the motors. If you would like to cancel the auto landing, press the cancel prompt to the left of the screen
The second method is also autonomous but is done on the face of the DJI RC 2.
With the Air 3 in the area where you would like to land, tap the auto-landing button on the face of the remote controller and then hold it to confirm.
The Air 3 will confirm, land, and shut off the motors.
If you would like to cancel the landing, simply press the auto-landing button again.
The third and last method for landing the Air 3 is doing so manually.
Fly the Air 3 to where you would like to land, ensuring there are no obstructions around. Pull the left stick down (if in Stick Mode 2) and the Air 3 will land, after which the motors will stop.
To power down the Air 3, you would simply reverse the power-on sequence.
- Turn off the Air 3 by pressing once on the power button, then pressing and holding the power button until the Air 3 shuts off.
- Turn off the DJI RC 2 by pressing the power button once, then pressing and holding the power button until the RC 2 gives an audible signal and the screen shuts off.