DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and Enterprise with Smart Controllers Strangeness
OK, I've been using drones for a long time, but there are some really confusing and really complicated, but this was my first time using these two drones with the Smart Controllers. I've been using my trusty DJI Phantom 3 and DJI Mavic Pro for a long time, so this was a big upgrade, but there are some confusing things:
- Linking the smart controller to the drone. This is pretty complicated if you don't know what you are doing. Basically, the Smart Controller is an ancient (Android 7!) device which bundles the "phone" with the joysticks and so forth. With the DJI Phantom 3, you used an iPad Mini. With the DJI Mavic Pro, you could use a small iPhone (the Pro Max is too big!). But with this you get a complete system with a bigger screen. The confusing part is how you link it. It turns out there are three magic covers on the Mavic 2. There is one for the SD, one for USB C (to charge it and to offload on internal storage) and then one for a tiny button for linking.
- Then the storage thing really confused me. The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise has 24GB of internal storage, but when you put a UHS 1 SD card in, it does *not* switch to it, so you get memory full. Worse yet, the DJI Pilot which you can only use with the M2E seems to constantly be morphing icons. So none of the guides I read where correct. At least as of April 2022, the way to switch from internal to SD card storage is to go to the "menu" icon which is on the right above the take a picture button. Then, this is really confusing because it displays a pull left menu, but you can't tell that this is what is going on since the quick keys at the top (for focus, zoom, focus and lock are) and then there is a nearly invisible row of new icons for that are for camera, video and then a mechanics wrench. Hit that button and you finally get to Storage Location where you can set it to SD. Also, the voice prompts scream about EMMC being full. I'm not sure most people know that is the same as internal storage
- The next crazy thing is that there are two totally different applications for controlling these things. This is an android device so you get the DJI Pilot if you have an Mavic 2 Enterprise and DJI GO 4 if you have a Mavic 2 Pro or Zoom. Pretty confusing because the Pro and Zoom have things like follow me modes, but the DJI Pilot has things like Mission Planner and you can do photogrammetry overflights automatically. But you can't use the GO with the Enterprise. Pretty wierd. Also you can download different flight control software (there is a DJI SDK that allows this), but you have to sideload these applications onto the Smart Controller, there is not a standard store for this. So the DJI Go and the DJI Pilot have different flight modes although they do share the basic waypoint mode but they are obviously done by two completely different development groups.
- For both of these you need a fast SD card since the videos really fill the thing up. They require at least UHS 1 speeds Grade 3 (so not super crazy), but you can get a 128GB card and not worry about it too much like the Sandisk Extreme V30 which is a reasonable $28 these day for 128GB although I normally buck up to the Sandisk Extreme Plus UHS-1 for $34 for 128GB and for my dSLRs, I end up with the Sandisk Extreme Pro which right now is on sale and cheaper than the Plus at $25 for 128GB. I think the 256GB is really in the sweetspot at $40 each
- The next confusing thing is that since the Smart Controller is an Android device, it also has onboard storage and an SD card. You can use the SD card if you want to take screen shots of the controller system. Not a big use case, but a bunch of the videos I saw cover the micro SD card in the controller (not in the drone itself). Also note that from the controller, they do let you download video and photos from the drone, but only at low 1080p resolutions, so you still have to extract that card.
- Actually planning the missions with the DJI Pilot for Mavic 2 Enterprise is definitely not something you can figure out by clicking on the screen. There are a few tricks that the videos explain. For instance with mapping missions, you have to scrolll all the way to your location. Then when you choose something where you are close and then you draw a square and if figures out the route. Note that if you draw it too small, it looks like nothing is happening, but if you pinch out, then you can see it will fly a mission very high. Also when you are doing what seems like a simple waypoint mission, it is not clear how you add a point. BAsically, a single tap adds a new point. Finally, for waypoint missions, you have to know to hit the icon which says "C1" which means add a new waypoint. I had thought it would just mimic what you did but that is not the way it works.
- There are many third party applications that do this, so if you have a Smart Controller you have to sideload them to get popular third party applications like Dronedeploy, Litchi or Pix4D to run on the system.
- It isn't clear how to bail out of autonomous missions, there are two ways, click on the button or toggle the program mode switch at the top. Just hitting the joysticks do nothing (unlick QGroundControl).