Modifying my Mavic 2 Pro remote to act more like an aircraft style controller

Sep 27, 2020

Chris Cameron

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Modifying my Mavic 2 Pro remote to act more like an aircraft style controller

Sep 27, 2020

Chris Cameron

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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I’m having a go at converting my DJI Mavic 2 remote controller from two thumbsticks to a more Aircraft style controller where a whole hand joystick controls Pitch, Roll and Yaw and the left stick only controls Throttle / Altitude.

The first step is opening up a second-hand remote I bought to see if this is possible.

Dismantling and testing

Looks like I can solder on to the back of the thumbstick connections and access the photo trigger button contacts. So looks good up so far.

Here we go…

I managed to get two wires on to the trigger switch contacts, though the soldering iron melted a bit of the case. Should be fine.

Soldered wires to the contacts on the back of the thumbsticks.

Three to the yaw control on the left stick. And four to the Pitch and Roll contacts on the back of the right stick (They share 3.3v and -v).

Don’t look too closely. My soldering skills need work.

Routing the cables and exiting the case.

Found this 4 Axis (fwd/back, left/right, twist left/twist right and a button) joystick on Aliexpress.

The little bundle of wires is from the top switch (which will be the new photo trigger) and the twist axis which will become Yaw.

The two Potentiometers in the base will become Pitch and Roll.

The design stage.

These are the designs for the 3D printed parts.

The two main parts are a frame that fits into the original controller phone mount and supports a bracket for my iPad. The second structural part supports the new joystick and wiring. I designed a handle to go on the Joystick to give a more solid hand feel to it and moved the trigger button to the front for trigger finger operation. The little fork like slide is designed to restrict the existing left controller stick from being able to be moved left and right but allow it to still move forward and back as the Throttle / Altitude control.

Inside the new Joystick handle, I’ve lengthened the cables and moved the trigger button to the top front of the 3D printed extension.

Wiring it all together.

No photos of that I’m afraid. But it’s pretty simple, tho it may not look it in my wiring diagram.

All fitted together and bench testing accomplished.

YouTube video

The 3D top plate needed a redesign to move the iPad support further to the left and away from the new Joystick.

Field testing next. But of course the weather has not been playing nice for the last three days.

UPDATE 22/8/2020

BUGGER

It flies beautifully, super smooth movement and everything works perfectly, except for one thing I forgot about. The photo trigger button on the OEM remote is two-stage.

The first stage of the press is the focus, the second stage fires the shutter.

I’ve only wired into the focus stage.

Next step then is to go back in. Install two new wires to the shutter trigger, run them through to, and then through the new Joystick and find a two-stage button or a way to use two buttons. Which will of course require a redesign of the Joystick handle. Arrrrgggghh, so close.

You can view the first field test here.

UPDATE 23/8/2020

Diving back in to add the second (Vital) stage of the camera trigger.

I had to go a lot deeper into the remote to get to the second stage connections to the photo trigger button.

I ended up cutting out the mounting structure for the OEM button to figure out how it was put together. Simpler than I thought. The trigger button circuit board is double side taped to a piece of the internal framework. I added two new wires and routed them out then reassembled the remote.

I had to completely dismantle the new joystick to route the two new cables into the handle. I was lucky enough to find a two-stage button in a box of electronic bits and pieces I’ve retrieved from surplus electronics over the years.

A redesign of the handle to accommodate the new, larger, two-stage trigger button.

I took the opportunity to add some ergonomics. Much more comfortable.

Bench test went perfectly. All axes are working, plus focus, plus shutter trigger.

Next stage is practising with this new mode of flying.

UPDATE 27/9/2020

I have now used my new and improved Mavic 2 Pro remote control on a few commercial jobs and I am loving it.

The large handle joystick allows me much finer granular input over the three axes it controls. (Pitch, Roll and Yaw) Small movements of the stick equal small inputs and small reactions.

Whereas with the original thumbsticks fine movements were much more difficult and hence fine, smooth control was harder to achieve. Not to mention the contortion required of your hand in order to get your thumb on the stick, index finger on the shutter button and support the remote with the other three fingers.

I mostly use my Drone to shoot still images. My primary impetus for building this modification was that the Mavic 2 Pro interrupts the FPV video feed while it takes the photo. It’s only about half a second I suspect. Which is fine if you are hovering over a house shooting real estate images but is pretty scary when you are flying backwards at 70kph a few metres in front of a million-dollar powerboat.

With the original remote I would get the drone in position, fire the trigger as I pulled the right stick backwards to ensure the yacht didn’t run into the drone, wait for the video feed to return, sigh with relief, get back into position and repeat. Now I can much more easily match the yachts speed and maintain the position between shots with a much higher degree of confidence.

Some samples of the type of shots I use my Mavic for.

About the Author

Chris Cameron is commercial photographer based in New Zealand. After spending many years travelling the world as paid crew on yachts, he switched his vocation to photographing them. You can find out more about Chris on his website. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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10 responses to “Modifying my Mavic 2 Pro remote to act more like an aircraft style controller”

  1. Pops Garrett Avatar
    Pops Garrett

    Looks awesome and also another reason to dust off my 3D printer!
    Copter type controls; yes?
    Always wondered why drone controls weren’t made that way to begin with.
    Once you’ve finished; Maybe you’ll be able to answer that question.
    Best of luck! Pops

    1. Chris Cameron Avatar
      Chris Cameron

      It’s finished and works better than I’d hoped. Similar to a Helicopter I guess. Left thumb operates the equivalent of the Collective/Throttle. The right stick is the equivalent of the Cyclic and peddles in one.

      1. PanView Avatar
        PanView

        Dear Chris, thanks for sharing this awesome idea. As a person with one (left) hand, eversince i got my first dji phantom 1 up until now with
        Mavic Air 2, I hoped one day I could fly with a single joystick (neutral for either hand). I got happy when I found Fluidity FT Aviator but it disappointed me in its many limitations in terms of connectivity (not working with Air 2 for instance). I also much rather stay in dji app over another not-so-complete app of theirs.
        Seeing your solution is exactly what I had been wishing all the time. Now, one major question: is there any way you would be willing to assist us in creating a lefty joystick and basically a mirror version of your latest design ? I always use mode 2 for the sticks where the right stick is for altitude and roll and left stick for yaw and pitch.

        It will also be so incredibly great to have the whole thing encapsulated and enclosed mounted inside some sort of pelicase like some military grade fast deploying cases where the monitor (ipad in our case) is fixed into the case door and the controller with its buttons and the single joystick are all in the case so to speak. Now, if you ever decided to build and sell such a product, I will be happy to be your first customer. Heck, I would love to just buy a lefty version of your unit to use with my Air 2 RC. Do you think you could help realize this wish?
        Best wishes
        Reza from Sweden

        1. Chris Cameron Avatar
          Chris Cameron

          Hi Reza,
          I think what you’re asking for could very easily be achieved. As the original controller is symmetric I could mirror the 3D print files so that the Joystick would be on the left. If you are happy to do the modifications and have access to 3D printing let me know and I will mirror the files for you. Regarding the custom case tho. Not really sure on that one I have modified an old Phantom case for my Mavic 2, iPad and this controller.

          1. PanView Avatar
            PanView

            Thank you Chris. If it will work with Mavic 2 Pro, I will be happy to get it. I have friend who can help me 3D print it.
            Cheers.

  2. Alex Potemkin Avatar
    Alex Potemkin

    It’s awesome!
    I tried the FT Aviator controller which is similar by idea, but returned it. It was unusable by many reasons.

    Your modification looks way better, and I believe it eliminates problems FT Aviator had.

    I really want to try it with my Inspire controller. Maybe you may help to modify one? :)

    BTW, one thing I believe may be chanfed in your design. I think that tge shoot butyon is better to be moved to a left side, for usage with a left index finger. Why? Positioned on a joystick it may (and most likely will) produce slight but unwanted movenent of the drone by pressing. Positioned at the left on the controller body it will allow to keep the dribe rock-solid when pressing under any circumstances.

    But I may be wrong :) just a speculation. Greag gob anyway!

    1. Chris Cameron Avatar
      Chris Cameron

      Thanks Alex. The trigger style button works pretty well and I haven’t noticed it affecting movement of the Joystick. It’s a pretty gentle finger squeeze to activate while my whole hand and wrist control the Drone

  3. JustnHarrison Avatar
    JustnHarrison

    Have you tried using the tracking options to get the backward flight photos of the boats? It’s great at matching speeds and let’s you focus on getting the shots and framing

    1. Chris Cameron Avatar
      Chris Cameron

      Hi Justn, I haven’t tried tracking for a long time. When I did tho, the drone would always fall behind the vehicle and only follow. Is it possible for the drone to fly backwards while tracking?
      The other problem I have with tracking is needing to switch in and out of modes requires taking a hand off the flight controls to activate it on the screen.

  4. Gene Brennan Avatar
    Gene Brennan

    Well done, great work! It’d be awesome if dji allowed us to simply plug in a usb joystick like a logitech extreme 3d pro to the bottom usb input on the controller.