LAS VEGAS—We absolutely loved DJI’s latest small drone, the Mavic 2 Pro. The small, folding device earned Editors’ Choice marks and a five-star rating—the latter of which we give out to very, very few products.
The Mavic 2 Pro’s video quality is amazing, despite its very portable form factor, but five stars doesn’t mean perfect. I like its compact remote control quite a bit, but it does still make you hook up your smartphone in order to see what the drone’s camera sees. Not everyone is a fan of the process.
To cover pilots who want to keep their phone pocketed and enjoy distraction-free flights, DJI has a new remote control. The Smart Controller does stray a bit from the design motif DJI has established with its compact Mavic remotes. It’s dark gray, but with a squarer overall look and feel.
A 5.5-inch touch LCD dominates the facade. It features a 1080p design, matching the streaming quality of Mavic 2 drones, with a bright 1000cd/m2 panel—nearly twice as bright as the best smartphones on the market. The controller is an Android device, running the DJI Go 4 app for drone control.
Physical controls are positioned above the screen. You get the standard dual control sticks, the directional nub control, and buttons to power on the remote and bring the drone back home; a Pause button freezes the Mavic 2 in place. There’s also a toggle switch to change flight modes, shoulder buttons for image capture and video recording, and dual control wheels.
The remote is rated to work at distances of up to 5 miles (8km) from your drone, so you should have absolutely no issues with control when keeping your drone within the FAA-mandated visual range while piloting.
It is powered by an internal, rechargeable battery. There’s a USB-C port at the bottom to top off the battery. A two-hour charge nets about 2.5 hours of use. You also get a USB-A port on the top, along with a full-size HDMI port.
The remote also has a microphone and a speaker, so you can record audio from the ground and hear alerts. There is a live-streaming capability, SkyTalk, which works along with your phone or hotspot to stream footage to Facebook, Instagram, or WeChat.
For mobile phone editors, the controller also supports a feature DJI is calling GO-Share. It copies footage and images from the controller to your smartphone so you can share and edit on the go.
In addition to the Mavic 2 Pro, the Smart Controller also works with the Mavic 2 Zoom. Those are the only two models DJI currently offers with OcuSync 2.0 transmission, but compatibility should extend to future models that use the same transmission system.
The DJI Smart Controller will go on sale in the early part of this year. It is priced at $649 on its own. DJI does plan on offering the remote in bundles with the Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro, but contents and pricing have not yet been set.