Most all drones have a companion app. Most machines have basic flight operations handled through the remote control, then fancy camera and self-piloting modes controlled through the app on your phone or tablet. This is especially true of the DJI Spark and DJI Mavic Pro, a trend that continues on the Mavic Air and the Mavic 2 series of great DJI Drones.
The default app from DJI provides advanced flight controls, fine-tuned camera control and, if nothing else, a live video stream from the camera on the drone. This sounds all straightforward to me, but I wonder, are there any other apps out there that can interact with my favorite drone? Of course there are, let’s take a quick look at a few DJI GO 4 app alternatives to fly DJI drones since the Phantom 4 and Mavic Pro.
Please keep in mind that the DJI GO 4 app is the only app that properly and fully supports the ability to version check and update your drone and remote control from DJI. These alternative apps are designed to provide a new flight experience, not to replace DJI’s software entirely.
For the most part, these new apps add in things like waypoint routed flights and easier access to some of the advanced features in these DJI drones. Mostly things that the DJI GO 4 app can do, but perhaps does not do as efficiently or hides in the settings menu.
Of course, all these new features make it easy to break some of the rules. Please be careful that you fly safe. Before we dive into the apps, allow us to remind you some of the best practices and rules, at least in the United States.
Note: Most of these applications specify that they are not responsible for damage to your drone, please take all reasonable safety and redundancy precautions that you can.
Drone legal and safety
If you are flying for pay, or any other form of compensation, you must operate under a different set of rules and possess a commercial drone license. We call it the Part 107, it’s not too hard to get, but it will take some time to learn all the rules. We want to help you learn the rules and get your commercial license, check out our drone pilot training material.
Litchi for DJI Mavic / Phantom / Inspire / Spark
As seen in our Best drone apps list
That’s right, the Litchi app for DJI drones is almost entirely a DJI GO 4 replacement. The list of drones that this app can control goes well beyond those listed in the name of the app, including all of the Phantom 4 variants, Phantom 3 variants, Inspire 1 variants and, of course, the Spark and Mavic Pro.
There are a few key features that make Litchi great. Okay, there are more than a few, but the two that most stood out for me, the reasons I explored the app in the first place, the Waypoint flight control and the Virtual Reality mode. Don’t get me wrong, the DJI Goggles are far superior to a Google Cardboard type VR experience, but that does not stop me from being excited for mobile FPV on a DJI drone.
The Panorama mode and a few other camera based modes for tracking a subject or keeping an object in focus have been solid for my testing as well.
As I’ve been overwhelmed with the tools in the app, trying to learn them all, I only just now realized that there is a cool companion app from Litchi. This new app allows you to use another mobile device as a beacon for your drone. Camera detected object detection is pretty good from DJI, but putting a GPS enabled beacon in your pocket ensures the drone will keep an eye on you no matter where you go. Download Litchi Magic Leash here.
Litchi is an impressive app. Now I must inform you that you get what you pay for, Litchi is not free. When you’re ready to take your flight to the next level, pickup Litchi for DJI drones for $24.99 in the Google Play Store for your Android device. This is the version I’ve been testing, thank you to VC Technology Ltd. for providing our review copy.
For the iOS crowd, grab Litchi for DJI drones for $22.99 for your iPad or iPhone.
We were pretty excited to see this update roll out to our mobile device. Airmap has been one of our favorite drone airspace and drone mapping tools for a while now, used along with the FAA’s B4UFly app, we head out with confidence that we are flying somewhere legal. Now, you can use Airmap to control some of your DJI drones. As best we can tell, if DJI GO 4 supported your DJI drone, Airmap can now do the job as well. Look for fun new control methods, and great integration into flight services for commercial pilots.
Check out Airmap for your basic needs, or for your commercial piloting business. We visited with AirMap at InterDrone 2018.
UgCS for DJI
The folks at SPH Engineering offer deep rooted systems for all manner of unmanned aerial vehicles. Flying something like the DJI Spark is just one of the may features available in their software suite. Their mobile app is only half of the story, however. The app may issue the flight commands, but it more of a proxy for the connected desktop application that does the real magic.
UgCS Desktop is robust flight planning software, the combined product with the mobile application make for the ability to create and analyze Waypoint driven routes and so much more. Best of all, from a fun perspective, this allows you to fly your drone using point and click on your computer, or even connect a game joystick to fly like a pro.
The free version of the UgCS software enables the sort of features that us backyard pilots would want. Commercial users have three tiers to choose from, each adding more and more advanced capabilities for automated flight: $65, $600 and $2000 options are available.
Also seen in our Best drone apps list
Instead of completely replacing DJI GO 4 to fly your DJI drone, Pix4D is a powerful companion app for mapping and 3D modeling. Put your drone to work doing more than just capturing those boring (epic) videos of the world around you.
Pix4D is a little like UgCS above, allowing you to design flight paths and patterns for your drone. Tracking the machine in the air, plus putting the video and images it automatically captures to use is all part of the game. Great as a commercial operator’s tool, Pix4D excels at mapping, flying a grid to create the most effective view of an area possible.
Pix4D is free to install on your mobile device, their advanced services and flight tracking tools vary from as low as $50/month up to nearly $1000/month.
Not an app: Fluidity FT Aviator
Announced at CES 2019, with a shipping date in later February, the Fluidity FT Aviator is a brand new remote control that you can connect to most DJI drones. Utilizing the DJI SDK, this one-handed joystick remote is a powerful and unique way to control your drones. Designed by an Astronaut and pilot, using the FT Aviator may make you feel like a fighter pilot at the helm of your drone. Stay tuned for more coverage and a review of this remote as soon as shipments go out.
That was a short list, rest assured we are testing new and promising alternatives to the DJI GO 4 app and will update this article when we find solutions worth recommending. These replacement and enhancement apps should keep you busy for now, exploring new ways of flying your favorite drone.
Do you use DJI GO 4 exclusively, or have you tried an alternative app worth recommending?