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The Air 2S, arguably one of the better budget-friendly consumer/prosumer drones out right now, continues to impress. With its combination of decent battery life, camera with a 1″ sensor, and 5k video, it is both a capable workhorse and a popular hobbyist drone.
For some, though, as great as the included controller might feel in hand, with its excellent ergonomics and solid build, more is needed or wanted, prompting many to research alternatives to the native RC-N1 Remote Control that is included in the standard and Fly More Combo.
Does the DJI Smart Controller work with the Air 2S?
Yes. Not only does the DJI Smart Controller work with the Air 2S, but the newly released successor to the Smart Controller, the DJI RC Pro, also works with the Air 2S. Using either of these controllers will offer additional functions not currently available on the standard RC-N1 Remote Control.
Why Purchase a Smart Controller? #
There are a few reasons one might be interested in a Smart Controller for the Air 2S. We will list these reasons below and discuss each point, as well as look at what some might view as the negatives of owning a Smart Controller.
Here are some reasons to buy a DJI Smart Controller or RC Pro:
- Quick deployment
- Elimination of a failure point
- Increased visibility
- Additional features & functionality
1. Quick deployment #
Let’s say you are looking forward to getting a beautiful sunset at a local beach. You jump out of the car and grab the drone. Not only was the drone bag left in the car, but you also forgot to bring a launchpad of sorts. The sun is setting extremely quickly and you really want that sunset shot before the sun completely disappears.
There is nowhere to launch from that’s not covered in sand, so you’d have to hand-launch. It is pretty difficult to connect a cellphone to the standard RC while holding the drone in your free hand. Add in turning the phone on, then the controller, then the drone, and things get even more difficult.
With just a smart controller or RC Pro, it is a bit easier and quicker to get the drone from a powered down-state to up in the air, as there is only one controlling device to carry and turn on.
2. Elimination of a failure point (or two) #
With almost any technical or mechanical object, the fewer moving parts there are, the better. In the case of a drone, this is equally true.
There is the drone (the 4 motors and props being a potential failure point), the battery (the battery itself or the connecting pins are a potential failure point), the RC, the OTG Cable to connect an electronic device (another potential failure point), and then the electronic device that plugs into the RC (smartphone or tablet, an added failure point).
As it stands, there is nothing one can do about the drone and battery. However, we can eliminate a series of failure points by eliminating the standard RC and smartphone.
With the standard RC, the failure point can potentially be the cable used to connect the RC to a smartphone. I have seen this happen to others (frequently) and it has happened to me as well, with my new Air 2S, temporarily grounding me, thus causing me to purchase another non-damaged cable.
The smartphone connected to the RC is another possible failure point in that receiving notifications while in-flight can cause issues, such as overlaying the flight app screen or even causing the DJI Fly app to lock or crash.
Having a DJI-manufactured device, specifically designed to run the DJI software, frees your cellphone up to do what it does best while allowing the RC to focus on flight control.
3. Increased visibility #
When speaking of increased visibility, we are not talking about seeing the Air 2S better, but instead, being able to see the control screen better than the screen of the smartphone we might use for the DJI Fly app.
The max brightness on a new iPhone 13 is around 800 nits, with the 13 pro producing 1000 nits. The new Samsung S22 has a whopping maximum of 1300 nits, but this is peak brightness and will not show this brightness level continuously. Older cellphones generally are in the 600 nit range.
Many drone operators may not be using the newest iPhone or Samsung and are suffering from low brightness devices or devices that shut the screens off when too hot. Apple devices have been known to do this, as well as some of the Samsung devices I have used.
Even if a device can max out at 1000 or even 1300 nits of brightness, those numbers are not generally sustained for long periods.
With the smart controller, the display brightness can stay at a constant 1000 nits, with no screen dimming, should you choose to keep the screen that bright. For individuals constantly shooting videos or taking photos in bright environments, the screen brightness alone might be worth it.
4. Additional features & functionality #
One controller for multiple drones
One of the great things for people that own multiple drones, for instance, the Mini 2 or Mavic Air 2 in conjunction with the Air 2S is that, if you have a Smart Controller, you can link/bind all 3 of these drones to the one controller, thus enabling them all to fly with an RC with an integrated screen.
If you opt to purchase a DJI RC Pro, then you currently have the option to bind the Mavic 3 and Air 2S to the same controller.
Many find this beneficial, as they can leave all of the extra RCs at home if planning on flying multiple drones throughout the day.
A few professional drone operators I talk to regularly have all sworn by using one controller for their multiple drones, as it really saves on space. Some of these even transport multiple drones together in their large rugged cases, since there is no space without the added controllers.
Back button shortcuts
The new RC Pro offers added functionality by way of shortcuts. When paired with the BACK button, you can do the following:
- Back + 5D Button – Up > To go HOME
- Back + 5D Button – Down > To go to the SHORTCUT SETTINGS
- Back + 5D Button – Left > To go to RECENT menu item(s)
- Back + Gimbal Dial > Adjust the screen brightness
- Back + Camera Control Dial > Adjust the devices volume
- Back + Shutter Button > Takes a Screenshot
- Back + Record Button > Screen Record
These are just some of the shortcuts one can use, in addition to using the d-pad to change camera exposure values, which is a nice shortcut as well.
Smart Controller and RC Pro Negatives (reasons not to get one) #
Sadly, there are a few slight areas of concern for those looking to purchase a Smart Controller or RC Pro.
For many, this is the most important aspect when considering a want over a need. Is the Smart Controller needed to accomplish a particular job? Or is it just wanting a cool new device?
As of writing this article, the price of a new DJI Smart Controller is going for $750ish in both the new and used markets.
The DJI RC Pro, which is a best-selling item on many online stores, goes for approximately $1,200 new, or slightly less than the price of an entire DJI Air 2S Fly More Combo.
If you have not purchased an Air 2S and would like the Fly More Combo with either a Smart Controller or RC Pro, there are packages around the net priced at around $1750, which is about $450 more than a Fly More Combo with standard remote control.
The next two areas only pertain to the DJI Smart Controller and not the DJI RC Pro.
Availability & Support #
It is hard to believe that the DJI Smart Controller was released almost 3 1/2 years ago in January of 2019. Time has flown. As many know is DJI’s practice, their drones and other devices pretty much have a 3 or 4-year shelf life. This is also the case with the Smart Controller. DJI is no longer supporting the controller.
What does this mean?
- After the controller is out of stock at either DJI or other retailers, it will no longer be available to purchase new.
- It will no longer be supported by DJI, meaning there will no longer be firmware updates and bug fixes for the device.
If you are someone who is not concerned with either of these issues, the Smart Controller might be for you.
Connection Issues #
It is no secret that, although many were excited for the Air 2S to work with the Smart Controller, there are issues with maintaining a solid or stable connection between the drone and RC.
Some have stated that their connection is nearly only half of what it previously was when using the included standard controller. This is because the Smart Controller uses OcuSync 2.0 technology, while the Air 2S is utilizing OcuSync 3.0 which can send/receive a much stronger and cleaner transmission signal.
As with the availability and support concerns mentioned prior, if signal strength and distance are of no concern, then the Smart Controller might be a cheaper and more viable solution than the DJI RC Pro.
Wrap Up #
It is indeed nice to see that there are so many different controller options open to new and seasoned Air 2S owners alike. If money is no object or concern, going the Smart Controller or RC Pro route may enhance your flying experience even more, if not simplify your deployment process.
Image Credit: Ready Set Drone (link)