Before every flight, it’s important to make sure that all of your gear is ready to go, that includes running software updates for the drone, remote, and the app on your connected smart device. For your DJI Products, you’re likely using DJI Fly or DJI GO 4.
The same concepts apply for most all drone manufacturers and other apps, so feel free to look past the specifics here today, this post should suffice as a guideline for most any modern drone.
We may reference a computer program called DJI Assistant 2 below. This was PC software that could update your drone, run backups, and more. We haven’t used it for any drone since 2018, but owners of older platforms can follow the directions below.
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.
Older DJI drones may only see a few updates per year, but a new drone is likely to see several updates in the first few months. Remember, the updates we’re talking about are for both the hardware features of a drone, as well as the safety features. As bugs are identified and patched, you get the firmware updates to match.
Pro tip: Be patient
When you first boot up your DJI drone, 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 You may notice that, even after a full update cycle, the DJI GO 4 app on your mobile device claims your firmware is out of date.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.
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. For almost all drones after the Mavic Mini, you’ll be using the DJI Fly app.
The apps are convenient, and can be used on the go. We used to recommend using the DJI Assistant program on your PC. Currently on DJI Assistant 2. However, the assistant program hasn’t been updated to work with all new drones.
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 is not all that small if you are counting your MB on a data plan. As you’ll see below, the latest firmware update for the Air 2S was just over 180MB. 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 GO 4 or DJI Fly mobile app
DJI has made it very easy to update your drone from within the DJI GO 4 and DJI Fly apps on your mobile device. Actually, you’d have to intentionally avoid the updates, if you don’t want them.
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 sit back and allow the update to download and process.
DJI Fly offers a few extra warning bells.
Once complete, the drone will restart, you’ll see the confirmation message and you can get back to flying.
Updating DJI FlySafe database
DJI introduced a geo-fence database into their flight systems with the DJI FlySafe database. Chances are, you’ll see this update far more often than you’ll see software updates for your aircraft. The database lists all of the known no-fly-zones and other important localized information that can affect the safety and legality of your flight. It’s quite accurate, but is not a legal replacement for information direct from the FAA. Please keep this database up to date, but also check in with a LAANC provider before you deem an area safe to fly.
Related reading: DJI GO 4 app alternatives to fly Mavic drones
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I fly on old firmware, or do I have to update right away?
DJI will include anything from minor bug fixes up to patches for serious vulnerabilities in any given update, so it is best to process a firmware upgrade as soon as is feasible. That said, if your drone was operating safely prior to the update notice, it will continue to operate without the new software installed. When it’s super important, DJI can make the update mandatory to install before you fly, otherwise, you can ignore the update for a bit. We’ve been hit with surprise updates in the field in the middle of a flight session, we totally understand.
What are my options if I never want to install updates?
I’m confused why you would not want updates, but your option is to use the DJI GO 4 or DJI Fly app up until an update becomes mandatory. When you cannot fly with the DJI app any longer, there are third-party apps that may let you bypass the updates. Please note that these apps use DJI’s APIs to communicate with the remote, then the remote talks to the drone as normal. If there is a bug in between the drone and remote, a third-party app may not help you out.
What do I do if the updates fail to install?
Like most computing devices, please try restarting your drone and remote before you panic. Make sure all of your batteries are fully charged. Make sure the drone and remote are able to talk to each other before you start any updates as well. Finally, look into your internet connection, your connected mobile device needs to be connected to the drone and the internet simultaneously. If you use the Wi-Fi connection directly between the drone and your phone, you may have to try the wired connection to the remote instead.
Can I get drone Remote ID by software update?
A fantastic question, as we write this, there are no published standards for what technology will be accepted as compliant with Remote ID. If your existing hardware is capable of a compliant broadcast, then yes, a software update will do the trick. Until we know what hardware is required for compliance, stay tuned, we’ll have words to share when we know what’s up.