Fly a DJI Drone (Without Your Smartphone) with the New Smart Controller

Credit: DJI
With the new Smart Controller, filmmakers now have the choice of how to control their drones.

The default for most drone remotes is that you plug in your smartphone to the remote controller for preview. If you want to get fancy, you can even buy a separate iPad to plug in for a larger screen, this way keeping your phone separate.

However, sometimes you want a single unit remote control system that requires cables and connections and has the durability of integrated construction. DJI has just launched the the Smart Controller to make that option available for filmmakers who want a single integrated unit.

Of course, when building a fully integrated unit, DJI is able to focus on making the screen ideal for drone flying, without having to worry about all other functions that phone makers have to worry about. The biggest improvement is 1000cd/m2 brightness (otherwise known as 1000 nits) which is twice as bright as your average cell phone.

This means that you will be able to work with the controller in more diverse lighting environments without a shade. It doesn't offer the 3000 nits you are starting to see in some (much more expensive) field monitors, but 1000 nits should be plenty for all but the most intense lighting situations.

Credit: dJI

You should be able to share imagery from the drone with other team members through both DJI GO-Share and an HDMI output from the remote control. This is huge since solutions for multiple users to monitor the imagery being captured in real time is a vital step for fully integrating drone capture into current production workflows.

The operator now has a clear view on the remote and you can run HDMI out to a director or client monitor for notes and feedback as you work.  

Available now for $695, with combination packages that include the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom (the two drones it currently supports) coming in the near term.

Tech Specs:

  • 630 grams
  • 1000 cd/m2
  • Supports Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro
  • HDMI Port output
  • -4° to 104° F (-20° to 40° C) temperature range
  • 802.11a/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi with 2×2 MIMO
  • OcuSync Max Distance: 2.400-2.4835 GHz: 8 km (FCC), 4 km (CE), 4 km (SRRC), 4 km (MIC), 5.725-5.850 GHz: 8 km (FCC), 2 km (CE), 5 km (SRRC)
  • Bluetooth 4.2, 2.400-2.4835 GHz
  • 18650 Li-ion (5000 mAh @ 7.2 V) batteries
  • USB power adapters rated 12 V/2 A for charge, 2 hour charge time, 2.5 hour run time
  • 15 W rated power
  • 16 GB + scalable (microSD) Storage

Your Comment


Needs broader support. I understand they built it for Ocusynch 2.0, with the Mavic 2 models in mind, but not having this work with all their drones will hurt them in the short term, could spell early doom for it.

January 8, 2019 at 1:41PM

Aaron P-F

First off... this title could be better as it got me excited for ZERO reason. You say "Fly a DJI drone..." when you should clearly state, "Fly the Mavic 2 Pro or Zoom".

I fly a P4P & Inspire 2, so of course I'd love this and the click-bait worked.

Second, in paragraph 2, I believe you meant to say "sometime you want an integrated control unit that DOES NOT require cables and connections..."

Next, not sure why it was necessary to even mention that this one has a 1000nit brightness and not a 3000nit brightness. Who would expect this? Why is it important to draw this random out of place comparison?

Lastly, this price point is shit.

I'd hope the next iteration has a broader range of support, because barely anyone in that price range are going to spend 1/2 of what they already spent on their drone, just for a 2nd controller.

January 8, 2019 at 5:13PM, Edited January 8, 5:15PM

J.M. Anderson
Director of Photography

I own the 5" CrystalSky and the battery is replaceable and lasts FOREVER. I can shoot all day with it on a single charge. What is going on with this Smart Controller? The battery is not removable and it only lasts 2 1/2 hours?? And then takes 2 hours to charge?? I am really confused because apparently this thing is just the 5" CrystalSky repackaged into an all-in-one controller. So why is the battery life so poor?

I think you're better off just buying the original CrystalSky.

January 9, 2019 at 8:38AM

Derek Doublin
Director, Cinematographer, Large Scale Artist