iView: Drone On

I’ve long thought about using a drone to capture footage of my Iowa woods. Knowing nothing about drones, I hesitated for years, concerned that I would crash it and it would disappear. I yielded and purchased the 5-star-rated DJI Mini 2 Fly More Combo ($599). About half a pound, the Mini 2 looks like a bug-like creature (the light weight means no government registration is required). I am impressed despite a frustrating first few weeks.

For safety, I decided to launch my first flight with the DJI Mini in a baseball field. I quit after 45 minutes of error messages about the over-loaded gimbal motor and the not-ready GPS. Through some glitch, the tutorial in the iPhone DJI Fly app was in Japanese.

The next day, using simple tips I learned from YouTube tutorials, I successfully launched and landed the drone. As I got more familiar with the controls, I let the drone roam.

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Soon, the drone disappeared! I decided to land it using the built-in Home feature. Land in Place appeared instead with several warnings and beepings, so I aborted the landing. Ten minutes later, amid loud and flashing low battery warnings, I pressed the Land button. I must have also pressed something else for when all seemed lost, like a miracle, the drone suddenly appeared in the sky above.

I decided to try the drone at home. Recording, I flew the drone a few yards ahead as my wife and I walked a path through the trees to the creek. Luck ran out when the drone hit a branch and disappeared into our muddy creek.

Using Find My Drone from the app, a loud noise and flashing light revealed its location. Some minor scratches and muddy shoes later, I rescued the drone.

The DJI controller joins with the iPhone to create an enhanced controller. A microSD card stores photos and videos. The app lets you transfer selected files to your iPhone. The battery allows about 30 minutes of flying time.

The app displays live video during flight with options to take photos and record. It provides controls for takeoff and landing; maps your flight; displays flight metrics; issues strong wind, low battery, and other warnings; and can find a lost drone.

The Mini 2 has proven great fun. Pairing drones with the powerful computing capabilities of a mobile device allows drones to be feature-rich, intuitive to use, and affordable. However, if I wish to properly map my land, I will eventually need a more expensive, heavier drone with a better camera and omni-directional object avoidance.


  • No government registration needed
  • Lightweight & affordable
  • Surprisingly durable despite size & fragile appearance
  • Integration with iPhone


  • Somewhat steep learning curve
  • Lack of object avoidance
  • Awkward physical integration of controller with iPhone.

Illustration by Mikaila Maidment, mikailamaidment.com

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Author Details

Hal Goldstein's picture

Author Details

Hal Goldstein

Hal Goldstein is Founder & Columnist at iPhone Life. In 1985, armed with the first HP LaserJet, the original HP Laptop, and his enthusiasm for mobile computing, Hal began a publishing company, Thaddeus Computing. Through the years, the company supported users of HP palmtops, Microsoft Pocket PCs, early smartphones, and the iPhone—Hal is now an avid iPhone and iPad user. Author of the book Meditating Entrepreneurs, he teaches classes and coaches individuals in the Release Technique.  Hal lives in Fairfield, Iowa, with his wife, Lynda. You can contact Hal at Hal @iPhoneLife.com.