I just bought my first drone, the DJI Mini 2. Not only does it top our list of the best drones, but its lightweight nature makes the rules around flying lax – perfect for a first-time flyer. What’s not so perfect, though, is how confusing it is to set up.
I’m not talking about mounting the drone – stickers on the body (which you can see in the image above) make it easy to unfold the limbs and remove the gimbal. No, I’m talking about the app situation.
Now I’m no drone expert, but I install and play with apps as part of my day job, so this shouldn’t have been the chore for me it turned out to be. DJI has so many different apps that figuring out which one to use is incredibly confusing.
DJI go? More like DJI No
Once I got familiar with the DJI Mini 2’s design, charged the batteries, and read the manual, I decided it was time to set up the device, and I knew I needed an app for that.
I remembered from the instructions it was called something like DJI Fly or DJI Go or DJI Air, so in the Google Play Store search bar I searched “DJI”… to find tons of apps that all seemed possible.
There were DJI Go, DJI Go 4, and DJI Pilot, as well as two other apps from the company that clearly didn’t seem right. None of them had a user rating of more than 1.4 stars, which is… not great, and they all make them look like fake apps at a glance.
So which one was the right one? DJI Go said it was “For products before P4” while the Go 4 said “For drones since P4” – as a first-time drone buyer I had no idea what the P4 was and whether the Mini 2 was before or after.
To find more answers, I had to dive into each individual app description, scroll down to the list of supported devices, and check mine off against it… and then I realized that none of those three apps was really the right one.
I had to go deeper by Googling on my phone ‘dji app mini 2’ which took me to the DJI website – here I discovered that the correct app was not Go, Go 4 or Pilot but a fourth called DJI Fly that just appeared not in the play store at all.
I had to side-load this through the DJI website, which isn’t exactly a perfect solution given the inherent risks of downloading and installing apps outside of the Play Store. This whole process, of researching and playing around with apps, took me about half an hour – much longer than you might imagine installing an app to set up a drone.
Fortunately, after all this, the app worked and I was able to set up my new cinematography tool. But this is a much messier process than it should be.
Things shouldn’t be so confusing…
In our list of the best drones, we call the DJI Mini 2 “the best drone for beginners” – that’s partly why I bought it, because I want to shoot great landscape videos and I decided the Mini would be a great way to learn.
But if setting up a drone is that tricky, it could scare away other people eager to learn to fly — and who’d also spent a lot of money on a new flying camera.
Drones are scary to use – when I took the Mini 2 out of the case I was terrified, because it’s small and dainty and I knew a drop could knock it out of action. The dangers of flying, plus the rules about where you can fly and what qualifications or certifications you need, are likely to put a lot of people off.
DJI should make it as easy as possible for people to start using its products, allay their fears as much as possible and get them to use the drone quickly. If you’re stuck for half an hour trying to figure out which app to download, the worries will only escalate.
What is the solution? Simple: have only one app that works with all drones. Oh, and DJI really should investigate why everyone is giving the app 1 star reviews too – at first glance I thought it was a scam app, not the proper and official DJI app.
Now that I’m there, the app looks useful, with guides on restricted zones and training programs for beginners like me. I wish it had been easier to get the thing working in the first place.