Sharing the same basic platform as many DJI drones, the new DJI Mavic Air shares the same experience when it comes to updates. This means that you’ll end up seeing that same message saying your DJI Spark, DJI Mavic Pro or new DJI Mavic Air require a firmware update. There are a few ways to process the updates for these drones, and some things to think about when you do, that’s what we’re here for, let’s walk through the process.
Please note, the steps that follow will work for many DJI drones, but not all. Also, the exact screens have been known to change from time to time: please use the following as guideline, follow the prompts in the software for best results.
Update: This process is the same for the newer DJI Mavic 2 Pro and DJI Mavic 2 Zoom drones.
These days, it seams DJI pumps out an update to their machines on a monthly basis, if not more often. They may have an internal schedule to follow, but for the most part, the updates push out when there is a security/safety patch to process, or when new features are ready for prime time.
In the case of the DJI Spark, there have only been a few updates by the time we wrote this article. Which makes sense, the drone was only announced a couple months prior. Of course, I’m writing this in August of 2017, there are sure to be more updates by the time you read this.
Related reading: DJI Spark update improves flight modes and camera resolution
Pro tip: Be patient
When you first boot up your DJI Spark, Mavic Air or Mavic Pro, they take a moment or two to perform all of their self tests and otherwise initialize for flight. You may notice that, even after a full update cycle, the DJI GO 4 app on your mobile device claims your firmware is out of date. Give it a moment. Let your drone find some satellites, sync some settings and perform all of its self tests before you react.
This goes for IMU calibration and more. Give your machine a moment, it may not need quite as many updates and calibrations as it initially says it does.
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.
As mentioned, there are multiple ways to process an update for a DJI drone. For your Spark or Mavic Pro you’ll either be plugging into your PC, or utilizing the DJI GO 4 app on your connected smartphone or tablet.
The app is convenient, and can be used on the go, but let me make it clear, I recommend using the DJI Assistant program on your PC. Currently on DJI Assistant 2. The main reason I recommend the PC program is that you can take advantage of the connection to backup your flight logs. A good idea at least once a month or so anyway.
Before you update
Before you process an update on your DJI drone, we have a few things we’d like to recommend you do. They’re easy and predictable, but allow us to say them aloud just in case.
First, remove your microSD card and manually backup your flight footage and photos. This is not necessary, not at all, just a habit we’ve gotten used to to ensure we have our files. This is also a good time to delete files from the card to make room for more, but we’ll leave file management for another day.
Re-insert your microSD card before you update. Again, not necessary, just good practice.
Second, charge everything. No, seriously, go into an update with a full battery on your drone, the remote, your mobile device and your computer, if applicable. This is especially true if you are updating via the mobile app, I’ve seen an update consume an entire Mavic Pro battery before.
DJI requires a minimum battery level of 50% on the drone, 30% on the remote, before you can initiate an update anyway, go in full and avoid any hassle.
Third, give yourself time. It rarely takes more than five minutes to process an update to these drones, but it can. I believe my longest Mavic Pro update was just shy of fifteen minutes, but that other Mavic I spoke of above was over thirty minutes, which is why it ate an entire battery.
Fourth, have good internet. Updating on the go is fine, a firmware update for the Spark, Mavic Air or Mavic Pro is not a huge download, but it is not all that small if you are counting your MB on a data plan. More important, your home internet is likely faster and more reliable than your mobile internet connection. Especially true if you forgot to update sooner and you are already up a mountain or far from a tower out at the beach.
Update via DJI Assistant 2
The process is actually fairly simple, DJI Assistant 2 on your PC is a program like any other, then you use a USB cable to connect the drone, follow the on-screen instructions and your drone updates. Easy stuff. Let’s see it in action, just for fun.
Fire up the DJI Assistant 2 program on your PC.
Connect your drone to the PC via USB cable and then power on the drone.
You will see your drone listed in the DJI Assistant 2 program, click on it to proceed.
You will see the most recent firmware releases for your drone. Look for the “Current” and “Latest Version” indicators to see which software you have installed. If not fully updated, click on the big blue Upgrade button to continue.
A self check is initiated, if your setup does not satisfy some simple needs you will be asked to remedy before you can continue. Click Start Update when ready.
Sit back and enjoy!
DJI Assistant 2 will process through a few screens, keeping you in the loop what is going on with a progress bar for each process. Watch through Downloading, Transmitting and Updating until you see the big green check mark. Congratulations, your machine is up to date.
Hit that Back button to exit back to the firmware list, feel free to look through the other tabs available, but hit that left arrow in the very top left when you are ready to exit. Then power down the drone and disconnect the USB cable.
Repeat the process for the remote control of the Mavic Pro as well. The Spark remote must be done through the DJI GO 4 application, for some reason.
Update: February 2018. In updating the DJI Mavic Air for its first flight, I also went to update the Mavic Pro and Spark at the same time. All of the machines connected, but none of them listed any software. I could not see what version I was on, nor what version I should be on. I was forced to use the DJI GO 4 app, as you’ll see below.
Drone legal and safety
Update via DJI GO 4 mobile app
DJI has made it very easy to update your Spark or Mavic Pro from within the DJI GO 4 app on your mobile device. Actually, you’d have to intentionally avoid the update, if you don’t want it.
Even before you ‘Enter the drone’ in the app, you will see a generic notification that there is an update available. The default check on my app was for the Spark – if you were wondering why you see the Spark update on the Mavic Pro in the image.
As you well know, each time you fire up your drone and the application, it self-checks for firmware consistency and more. In earlier days a notification saying you needed to update was about all you got, today, a little window pops up with a button to install the update. Super simple.
Swipe the button over to initiate the update. Then, just like on your PC, sit back and allow the update to download and process.
Once complete, the drone will restart, you’ll see the confirmation message and you can get back to flying.
Related reading: DJI GO 4 app alternatives to fly Mavic Pro and Spark
Please note, when updating the Mavic Pro through the DJI GO 4 app on my Android phone, I was not informed of any updates to the remote control. At this time, there is no update pending for the remote. I recommend connecting to your PC to make sure.
Updating the firmware on your DJI Drone is getting easier and easier as the drone manufacturer perfects its systems. Your Mavic Pro and Spark are popular machines destined to receive many new and exciting features added through these firmware updates. Don’t be afraid to install them, there may be a treat hidden in there.
For now, I hope DJI is listening, all I want to see is DJI Quickshot added to my Mavic Pro, please. Update: Thank you DJI for adding Quickshots to the Mavic Pro!