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How to Fly a DJI Drone Without a Phone (For Beginners)

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You never leave the house without your phone, but what do you do if the battery drains and you can’t recharge it? Or what if you lose cell service? In those instances, flying your DJI drone is going to be challenging. Can you still fly a drone without a phone?

You can fly a DJI drone without a phone. All DJI models are controllable using their included remote controls or a tablet with DJI firmware downloaded. You can also use the DJI Smart Controller for models outside of the Mavic Mini.

This article will be your guide to commanding your drone even if your smartphone is M.I.A. We have lots of useful information to share with you, so make sure you keep reading! 

Can you fly a drone without a phone? Three options to try #

You’re stuck in a situation that’s preventing you from using your smartphone to draw custom flight paths, monitor obstacles, and do cool tricks with your DJI drone. 

In these scenarios, not all hope is lost. Here is how you can fly a DJI drone phoneless. 

1. Use the DJI Smart Controller #

An augmentative tool that you might already have in your arsenal is the DJI Smart Controller (check on Amazon). The Smart Controller has a display screen that’s a spacious 5.5 inches. Maybe the Smart Controller doesn’t have a screen that’s as large as your smartphone, but it’s better than nothing.

All Smart Controllers include the pre-installed DJI Fly App, the DJI GO 4 App, and SkyTalk, which has support for WeChat, Instagram, and Facebook. The 1080p display is high-quality, and DJI says the Smart Controller display is visible in bright conditions such as direct sunlight.

Another major feature of the Smart Controller is OcuSync 2.0 for transmitting HD video at a rate of 2.4 to 5.8 gigahertz. The battery lasts for around two and a half hours, so you should have plenty of time to fly. 

There are some catches. For one, the Smart Controller costs over $1,000. Second, the Smart Controller is only compatible with some DJI drone models, including the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0, the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced, the Mavic 2 Enterprise Series, the Mavic 2 Pro, the Mavic 2 Zoom, the Mavic Air 2, the Air 2S, and the Mini 2. That covers most of them, most notably leaving out just the Mavic Mini.

2. Connect your tablet #

A commercial drone pilot might have a tablet such as an iPad in addition to their smartphone. If you happen to have one handy and not the other, then the tablet is a good alternative to flying your DJI drone with your phone.

You can use your tablet to command your DJI drone just as you would your phone. The sizable screen of the iPad makes it easier to draw detailed flight paths, and the display should be large enough that you can clearly see everything in front of you. 

However, we’d be remiss not to mention the downsides. For one, a tablet is a lot more unwieldy than a phone. It’s also not exactly pocketable, so it’s unlikely that you’d bring your tablet with you unless a job required you to. 

DJI has stated that their app firmware is not intended for tablets like the iPad, so the app might look a bit wonky. It also may not work as intended 100 percent of the time. DJI has made a statement in the past that they intend to work on this, but we’re not sure if this has come to pass as of this writing.  

Here’s the biggest downside to using your tablet instead of your phone to fly a DJI drone. If your smartphone is out of commission because of connectivity issues or dead spots, then it’s very unlikely your tablet would work any better. Most people have both devices on the same wireless carrier. If one won’t work, the other won’t either.

3. Fly with just the controller #

DJI drones usually include controllers unless you buy yours used (and even then it might, but it very well might not). That controller is what the drone is intended to fly with. If you brought the controller with you, then that is of course on the table. 

However, your controller doesn’t let you use the DJI Fly app or any app. Some remotes don’t even have screens. 

If you’re interested in generating a live feed of your drone flights, then a controller on its own doesn’t cut it. That’s also true if you want to use the various Intelligent Flight Modes that many DJI drones offer. 

If you’re just doing a bit of recreational drone flying and you don’t have your phone, then maybe foregoing the above features isn’t such a big deal. For professionals who require detailed flight information, on-the-go video editing, and real-time flight adjustment parameters, you will have none of that with only the controller. 

How to fly a Mavic Mini without a phone #

Perhaps you’ve always favored the Mavic Mini, a small and portable drone that weighs under 250 grams. Although it was later replaced by the Mavic Mini 2, the OG is the best, in your opinion.

After all, the original Mavic Mini boasts about 30 minutes of flight time, a 2.7K camera with a three-axis gimbal, and video transmission in HD quality at a rate of 4 kilometers. It’s a classic! 

Unfortunately, if you forgot or can’t use your smartphone, your flight options for the OG Mavic Mini are rather limited. The Smart Controller, which is many drone pilots’ preferred choice outside of their phone, is not compatible with the Mavic Mini. 

You have two choices here. You can either upgrade to the Mini 2 or you can use the other options we discussed in the last section. To reiterate, that means you can fly your Mini with your iPad or you can rely on the controller the Mavic Mini came with. 

The controller has a slot for your phone, which goes to show that you’re supposed to use your smartphone with the controller for max efficiency. The slot is not large enough for your tablet, FYI. Even if it was, the iPad would drag down the weight of the controller, making the remote hard to use.

Without your phone, the remote included with the OG Mavic Mini is extremely primitive, since it has no screen. You’ll want to take your chances with your tablet. 

How to fly a Mavic Air 2 without a phone #

Perhaps you own a more recent DJI drone such as the Mavic Air 2. This is a very popular DJI drone model, as it promises 34 consecutive minutes of flight time. Its half-inch image sensor produces 48MP-quality photos and 4K video at 60 frames per second.

The Mavic Air 2 has HDR features for panoramas, and the drone also features QuickShots, 8K Hyperlapse, APAS 3.0 Obstacle Avoidance, and OcuSync 2.0.

Since the Mavic Air 2 has OcuSync, that means it’s eligible for use with the Smart Controller. Really, between the three flight options we highlighted earlier, to fly your Mavic Air 2 without a phone, the Smart Controller is your best bet.

As we’ve established, the basic remotes that are included with a DJI drone leave you wanting for too much. Tablets are hard to use and can lose service in the same places a phone can.

The additional expense of a Smart Controller is a deterrent to some, but once you have the Smart Controller, you can use it with a huge collection of DJI drones! 

Is there an alternative to the DJI Fly app?  #

For the tablet drone pilots out there, the DJI Fly app and its incompatibility with your device are driving you nuts. You want a more stable app. Do you have any options?

Yes, you do! Just one though, and it’s called Litchi.

Please read our article on DJI GO 4 vs. Litchi vs. Autopilot to see which app is best »

Litchi is compatible with DJI drones such as Spark, Inspire, Phantom, and Mavic. Made for smartphone and tablet use, Litchi is downloadable in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

Create waypoints with ease. You can let Litchi take over when you turn on Focus mode. In this mode, the app will adjust the yaw axis and gimbal of your DJI drone for better photography and videography.

Every time you fly, Litchi will make a flight log. If you have an account on Airdata UAV, Litchi can transfer the data to your account without any effort on your part. 

Conclusion  #

No phone? No problem! To fly a DJI drone without a phone, you can use your tablet or the remote the drone came with. You can also pick up a DJI Smart Controller and enjoy seamless drone flights with a touchscreen.  


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