The DJI Smart Controller is one of those accessories you don’t realize how much you need until you try it out. For a long time, I have been using my tablet when flying my Mavics. And while I definitely enjoy the large iPad screen, the burden of carrying multiple accessories around did make it somewhat of a hassle. Sure it only takes an extra minute or so to set up, but it wasn’t just the time that was the issue. You were now dealing with cables, mounts, the tablet, tablet holder, and then constraints from battery life. I first got a taste of what it was like to have a built-in monitor when flying the Phantom 4 Pro+. I must say, the seamless process of transporting, booting up, and flying with just the remote and drone is a much more pleasant experience.
Unboxing the DJI Smart Controller was simple. All there was in the box is the remote, extra sticks, charging brick, USB-C cable, and a basic startup guide. The how-to setup steps can all be found on the DJI website.
So what’s in the box:
- 1 DJI Smart Controller
- Extra set of remote sticks
- Fast charger
- USB-C cable
- Instructions and Quick Start Guide
For me personally, efficiency was my #1 feature. Being able to quickly pull the remote and drone out to fly within seconds when on location was HUGE. Not fumbling with mounts and cords really takes the hassle out of flying. As much as I love flying with my larger iPad, the user experience is far superior with this remote. The screen has a built-in 1000 nit display, which is similar to that of the 5.5-inch Crystal Sky monitor.
This screen display makes all the difference when flying in bright daylight without a monitor hood. Another feature that gets overlooked is the extreme temperature conditions this remote can take. I’ve had multiple flights aborted because of my tablet shutting down, either from extreme heat when flying in Palm Springs, or in the snow when flying in Tahoe. The fact that this remote is rated to work in temperatures from -20 to 40°C is a feature that should be highlighted more. The 2.5-hour battery life is another huge improvement over the stock remote. Not only did the stock remote battery life suffer, but you were also at the mercy of having your mobile device battery drained as well. Having everything in one unit lessens that concern with the new controller.
When it comes to size comparison, the Smart Controller is just about the same size as the stock controller with your phone attached. I thought this was a bigger deal, but found that everything still fit fine in my existing case and the size difference wasn’t too bad. The stick positioning is a little wider on the Smart Controller and fits well with the thicker handgrips. DJI kept the screen below the stick, which is the same configuration as the stock remote. If you’re used to the stock one, the new Smart Controller will feel the same.
The DJI Smart Controller now uses the latest OcuSync 2.0, which makes it compatible with the Mavic 2 Series line of drones (Pro, Zoom, and Enterprise). Unfortunately, this will not work with older Mavics or Air and Spark, which is a bummer. But with new technology and advancements, these limitations come along with the territory. Moving forward, however, DJI has mentioned that the Smart Controller will be compatible with future drones (I assume until another major advancement comes into play).
GoShare and Apps
The Smart Controllers is also packed with little features that enhance your experience. There’s a microSD slot on the top, allowing you to expand the remote’s storage capacity and do in-the-field backups and transfers when necessary. HDMI-out, just like the Phantom 4 Pro+, gives users the ability to run a live feed to an external monitor or goggles.
The new GoShare function makes it simple for you to quickly download and transfer images or HD video to your mobile device for editing and sharing. As features like SkyTalk (coming soon) and the recent Waypoints 2.0 are released, this remote continues to become a more valuable tool.
Who is this Smart Controller for?
Is this remote for everyone? With a price tag currently at $650, it’s definitely not the easiest purchase for everyone to make. The one thing to remember is that this is a high-end accessory, and not required to have in order to fly. The same concerns were brought up when the Crystal Sky monitors were released. Those monitors are also a premium accessory and are normally purchased by more commercial or serious flyers. This would include those who work with drones for professional videography, photography, search and rescue, or for those who fly often in adverse conditions like extreme temperatures. Put simply, this remote is for flyers that are looking to simplify workflow while enhancing visibility and enjoyment. It does come at a price, but once you start flying with integrated systems like this, it’s honestly hard to go back.
Top Questions and Answers?
This new controller has a lot of people talking. In this video, I go through the top 10 questions and answers I’ve received about the remote. (Note: depending on when you read this, some questions may already have been answered).