The DJI Mini 3 Pro is a 249 gram marvel of prosumer drone. It’s easily the best foldable mini drone DJI has ever produced, and yet my favorite part of the $909 / £859 / $1,299 package is the game-changing DJI RC.
The new remote control incorporates a high-resolution 5.5-inch color screen.
Before I tell you why I love this remote so much, it’s worth explaining that you’ll pay for the DJI RC. You can order a DJI Mini 3 Pro for $669 / £639 / AU$989, which means you’ll get a drone, but no remote control (the drone works with DJI’s RC-N1, which doesn’t have a remote). ‘screen). If you want the drone and the RC-N1, it’ll cost you $759 / £709 / AU$1,119. The package you want, in my opinion, is the $909 which includes the new DJI RC.
This isn’t DJI’s first shielded remote. It was the discontinued DJI Smart Controller. At a glance, these two devices are quite similar (same square shape, same 5.5-inch screen) but the lines are smoother on the light gray DJI RC and there are no antennas to unfold .
To understand why I like this new remote control so much, you have to go back to my beginnings in piloting DJI drones. For virtually every one of them, it’s been a marriage between my iPhone and the remote. Over the years, DJI has come up with various ways to secure smartphones of different sizes and route the cable from the remote controller to the phone’s data/power port.
Because they had to build it as a one-size-fits-all, marriage is still a bit awkward. Early DJI drone remotes offered these study arms that you could unfold from the body of the remote, then press against the edges of your phone. It looked and felt messy, but I’ve never had an out-of-place iPhone. Running the cable over these, however, was a nightmare.
The DJI remote controller introduced with the DJI Mini 2 (the RC-N1) is a definite improvement. The arms were gone, replaced by a nifty spring-loaded clip on the top edge of the remote. All you have to do is pull it up, set the phone down, and let the tension of the springs snap it back into place on top of the phone. It also made it easier to run the cable.
Even with this remote, however, there were myriad concerns: had I installed the latest DJI software? As mobile editor and drone newbie Tom Bedford recently noted, DJI has a penchant for releasing new apps for different drones. You just have to be careful which one you are supposed to install.
Then there are the batteries. Most of DJI’s drones actually consume battery power, but I’ve always worried about having enough juice in my iPhone. My fear was that if my screen was black I would lose track of the drone.
A better way
You can guess the obvious and significant advantage of the DJI RC: No iPhone or smartphone of any kind.
I don’t need to connect the remote to Wi-Fi (unless I want to), find an app, or put cables and smartphone in place. If I forgot my iPhone, I could still fly the DJI Mini 3 Pro.
It’s ease of use.
None of this would be true if DJI hadn’t built a stellar drone remote. Although heavier than previous remotes (and the ultra-lightweight DJI Mini 3 Pro), the DJI RC is a joy to hold. The knurled metal joysticks (which you pop out of the back and screw into the front) are perfectly positioned just above the screen, which is a smart placement as my fingers never covered the screen.
On the front are a set of easy-to-reach controls to quickly take a photo or start or stop video recording. Just below are dials (one on each side). One lets you control the orientation of the gimbal camera, and the other lets you digitally zoom in on the live image the drone transmits to the remote.
There’s also a pair of buttons for quick access to things like re-aiming the camera forward or down, as well as accessing some of the other advanced camera settings (these are also customizable) .
Between the joysticks are buttons for home and pause, power and a slider for flight mode. It’s a simple but sensible layout.
Even though there are no visible antennae on the DJI RC Remote, it maintained perfect communication with the drone as it flew 400 feet above me and then over a mile away. distance.
The 5.5-inch LCD screen is bright enough for direct viewing, but my son noticed that he couldn’t see what was happening even though he was standing next to me. Not a problem for pilots, but it’s not a screen designed for group viewing,
The screen, also touch-sensitive, does not ask you much since the remote control automatically connects to the DJI Mini 3 Pro. Once done, I just had to press “Go Fly” to enter the controls and see through the drone’s 4K camera.
I touch the screen to launch it and I can swipe to access various commands.
I could also, by swiping down twice from the top of the screen, see what appears to be the underpinnings of Android. It was in these settings that I entered my DJI account information and added Wi-Fi connectivity so that I could download the latest firmware directly to the remote controller and the drone.
I would expect the battery life to not be as good with a full-size screen to support, but it easily lasts several 30-minute flights.
If there’s a caveat here, it would be that the lack of a direct smartphone connection limits your media downloading abilities. I can play photos and videos taken on the DJI Mini 3 Pro directly from the drone’s microSD card to the RC display. I can also upload photos through the DJI RC, but not videos. If I had a phone connected, I could download everything.
Yes, the DJI Mini 3 Pro is one of the best drones you can buy and one that I loved flying, but I have to say that the experience might not have been as good without the DJI RC.