If you’re interested in buying your first drone but still unsure of how to get into this new – and quite expensive – hobby, you’ll be happy to know that you probably already own your first drone controller. Guessed it? Well, it’s your iPhone or iPad.
While professional drone pilots rely on sophisticated, expensive transmitters, a beginner or hobbyist can get away with using their iPhone or iPad to control their drones (phone drones), thanks to apps created by DJI – probably the biggest name in the drone world right now.
Here, we’ve broken down the best options for DJI drones that are compatible with your iOS devices.
DJI Spark $399
Aside from the now well-known Gesture mode on DJI’s Spark mini-drone, one of its unique features was the ability to fly directly from your phone or tablet. You don’t even need a separate controller and it’s all thanks to DJI’s feature packed app, DJI GO 4, which is available for both iOS and Android.
The maximum transmission range while flying Spark with your phone over Wi-Fi is 100 m (262 ft), and 50 m (164 ft) in height. If you choose to buy the dedicated Spark controller – sold separately! – that range is extended up to 2,000 m (6,561 ft) all while maintaining a live video feed!*
*Height limit = 500 m (1,640 ft)
They say the best camera is the one you always have with you. So by that rationale, the best drone remote controller is the one you have with you too. It just makes sense that you can fly Spark with an iPhone. It’s a fun, quick and easy flying experience. All you need to do is turn Spark on, connect via Wi-Fi on your iOS phone or tablet, launch DJI GO 4, and you’re ready to fly!
DJI has not only included all their signature GO 4 app features, found other drone products, but a lot of other bonus features as well. For example, there’s one button for takeoff and landing, full camera exposure controls, and the QuickShot mode, to name a few.
QuickShot is a great feature on Spark and includes intelligent shooting modes like Rocket, Dronie, Circle, and Helix. Right from your iOS fingertips, Spark will record a video according to the selected shooting mode and then automatically generate a 10-second short video. The video can then be viewed, edited, and shared to social media from the Playback menu on your phone’s screen – excellent!
Mavic Pro $999
When using a smartphone, the Mavic Pro will operate on a Wi-Fi connection, but this limits the maximum transmission distance to 80 meters with a maximum altitude of 50 meters.
The speed of the drone reduces when controlling it with your phone and Sport mode is disabled so, unfortunately, you can’t get around the speed limitations that come with flying the Mavic Pro with an iOS device.
Follow Me modes, and other features that the Mavic Pro is known for, are not available when you’re using iOS devices, but the ease of control is worth this sacrifice for many.
Surprisingly, the video feed is not any worse when using Wi-Fi versus using the controller which uses DJI’s new OcuSync technology.
However, if you have that need for speed, the Mavic Pro can reach speeds of up to 40 mph with remote controller. You’ll be able to use your iPhone to see what the Mavic’s camera sees, as well as monitoring battery life, where your drone is and where it’s going.
Mavic Air $799
Just like its big brother the Mavic Pro, you can fly the Mavic Air with just your iOS or Android device. Unlike Spark, each Mavic Air comes with a remote controller, but you can opt to leave it at home if you don’t want to carry the extra weight. If you choose to fly without the controller, you’ll sacrifice some flight range and won’t be able to use certain functions, like Sport mode. But on the whole, flying with the Mavic Air with just an iOS device is a great experience.
Phantom 3 Standard, Phantom 3 SE, Phantom 4 Advanced, & Phantom 4 Pro
All the features of the iconic Phantom series are at your iOS fingertips through the DJI GO app. Phantom series controllers even feature a smartphone holder so that you’ll be seeing what the drone sees through your smart device. You can even control the 3-axis gimbal camera and monitor battery life right from your smart phone!
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