I just bought my first drone, the DJI Mini 2. Not only is it near the top of our list of the best drones, but its lightweight nature makes the rules around flying it lax - perfect for a first-time flyer. What's not so perfect, however, is just how confusing the thing is to set up.
I'm not talking about assembling the drone - stickers on the body (which you can see in the above picture) make it easy to unfold the limbs and remove the gimbal protector. No, I'm talking about the app situation.
Now I'm no drone expert, but I do install and play around with apps as part of my day job, so this shouldn't have been the chore for me that it turned out to be. DJI has so many different apps that it's incredibly confusing working out which one I was supposed to be use.
DJI Go? More like DJI No
When I had become familiar with the design of the DJI Mini 2, charged up its batteries and perused through the instructions manual, I decided it was time to set the device up, and I knew I needed an app for that.
I remembered from the instructions that it was called something like DJI Fly or DJI Go or DJI Air, so in the search bar of the Google Play Store, I searched 'DJI'... to find numerous apps that all seemed possible.
There was DJI Go, DJI Go 4 and DJI Pilot, as well as two other apps from the company which seemed clearly not the right ones. None of them had a user rating above 1.4 stars which... isn't great, and made them seem at a glance all to be fake apps.
So which 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 or whether the Mini 2 was before or after it.
To find more answers I had to wade into each separate app description, skim for the list of supported devices, and check mine off against them... which is when I realized that none of these three apps was actually the right one.
I had to go deeper by Googling on my phone 'dji app mini 2' which brought me to the DJI website - here I discovered that the correct app wasn't Go, Go 4 or Pilot, but a fourth one called DJI Fly which just didn't show up in the Play Store at all.
I had to side-load this via DJI's website, which isn't exactly a perfect solution given the inherent risks with downloading and installing apps outside the Play Store. This entire process, of researching and fiddling with apps, took me about half an hour - much longer than you'd think installing an app to set up a drone should do.
After all this, the app thankfully did work and I was able to set up my new cinematography tool. But this is a far messier process than it should be.
Things shouldn't be this 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 take great sweeping landscape videos, and decided the Mini would be a great way to learn.
But if setting up a drone is such a pain, it might push away other people who were keen to learn to fly - and who'd also spent loads of money on a new flying camera.
Drones are a scary thing to use - when I took the Mini 2 out of the case I was terrified, because it's small and dainty and I knew one drop could put it out of action. The dangers of flying, plus the rules about where you can fly, and what qualifications or certifications you need to do so, will likely put loads of people off.
DJI needs to make it as easy as possible for people to start using its products, to allay their fears as much as possible and get them using the drone quickly. If you're stuck for half an hour, trying to work out which app to download, that's just going to escalate the worries.
What's the solution? Simple: have just one app that works with all the drones. Oh, and DJI should really look into why everyone is giving the app 1-star reviews too - at a first glance, I thought it was a scam app, not the correct and official DJI one.
Now that I'm in, the app looks useful, with guides on restricted zones and training programs for beginners like me. I just wish it had been easier to get the thing working in the first place.