Drone companies have been incorporating smart features into their consumer drones, to allow for an easier and better experience for customers. One of the first smart features added to make pilot’s lives easier was a follow me mode. Today we will be looking into follow-me mode, and give you a list of the best drones that follow you.
What is Follow me mode?
As the name suggests, follow me mode on your drone is a smart flight feature that allows your drone to follow you, or another selected object, completely autonomously. This is achieved through various techniques, including object detection, controller follow, and GPS/GLONASS follow. All of these modes use their own unique setups of ultrasonic sensors, GPS/GLONASS, Bluetooth connectivity, and/or cameras to get the best shot possible for the user.
There is a large gap between the entry level drones and the best machines on this list. Some of the basic follow-me functionality is to use a Bluetooth connection between the drone and remote. For these machines, there may not be obstacle avoidance, you need to tread carefully, literally. Advanced machines combine visioning systems that perform smart computational object detection, with laser and other sensors to avoid obstacles, and many can even self-navigate around trees and more to keep a lock on you.
Related reading: DJI Quickshot smart modes
The Best follow me drones
This list is in no particular order, have a look through for the drone that best fits your budget and needs. Although, if we had to absolutely pick the very best follow me drone, that would be the Skydio R1, it has some serious next-level capabilities compared to most drones out there.
Skydio 2 is the follow up to the impressive Skydio R1, a powerful drone with unheard of autonomy for its time. The power of both Skydio drones is in the Nvidia Jetson on-board computer and an array of obstacle avoidance sensors. The Skydio 2 uses six cameras, with a total of 48MP of resolution, for obstacle avoidance purposes, making it one of the safest drones around, in terms of avoiding a crash. They believe in this tech so much that they offer free repair or replacement if your machine happens to crash.
Skydio is not the only company that has drones powered by the Nvidia Jetson computer system, but at the time of launch, we know of no other Jetson powered drone that is designed for consumer use with a price tag less than a thousand dollars. Of course, the Skydio 2 integrates with DroneDeploy, for those looking to perform inspection or mapping tasks.
For the consumer side, the Skydio 2 offers a fairly standard 4K camera, that shoots at up to 60 fps. It is a class-leader in follow-me modes and finally offers additional control options. You can control Skydio 2 via your smartphone, just like the earlier models, or you can opt for the new remote control or the Skydio Beacon, which gives you some control of the drone, but mostly acts as a wireless tether, to ensure the drone follow you even when it cant see you.
Launch price for the Skydio 2 is $999 with pre-orders in October 2019, first shipments due in November 2019.
Purchase links coming soon!Full Drone Review
The Skydio R1 got the entire drone world excited. At a time when most drones offered some basic follow-me modes, and moderate obstacle avoidance capabilities, the Skydio R1 came along with near unbeatable follow and extreme obstacle avoidance. This was not the drone for folks wanting to put a serious camera into the sky, but this was a dream device for action cam fans. It wasn’t perfect, however, a lack of dedicated remote controller was a problem for many, and the price tag was, well, prohibitive.
Considering the parts used to create this drone, and the features made available for custom coding flight modes, we don’t think the price is out of hand. The advanced nature of the Nvidia Jetson on-board computer makes this a niche product that isn’t actually ideal for someone that just wants a flying GoPro, so to speak. Sadly, that’s exactly what this drone is best at, so we hope a new version of this product comes soon with a more consumer friendly price tag.
The Skydio R1 runs $1999 before any discounts.
Note: Skydio is teasing the new drone coming Fall 2019. As such, the Skydio R1 is out of stock most places.Full Drone Review
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
Introduced in August of 2018, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro instantly became the best consumer-class folding drone that DJI had to offer. A marked upgrade over the original Mavic Pro, the Mavic 2 Pro rocks a 1-inch camera sensor for 4K video capture at 100Mbps, multi-direction obstacle avoidance sensors for some of the safest drone flight possible, and much more. OcuSync 2.0 enhances connectivity to the remote control and other accessories, now able to transmit 1080p live stream video well beyond the legal line-of-sight.
With an initial launch price of $1449, plus another $319 to get the Fly More kit with extra batteries, there is a barrier to entry with this machine, but if the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is within your budget, we think you will not be disappointed.Full Drone Review
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
If you run down the spec sheet, the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro are the same machine, with one major exception, the camera. The folding quadcopter design offers great portability, the multi-direction obstacle avoidance sensors assist in safe flight, and the new capabilities of OcuSync 2.0 add versatility for control and accessories. That is true for both of the drones, the Mavic 2 Zoom, on the other hand, rocks a 2x optical zoom lens on top of a 12MP camera. It shoots 4K video at 100Mbps and can digitally double that zoom for an impressive close-up.
DJI Mavic Air 2
The DJI Mavic Air 2 drone is more than just a successor to the original Mavic Air, it’s more of a transition from its own form-factor into a true Mavic drone. The Mavic Air 2 maintains its place as a mid-tier drone in DJI’s lineup. In terms of size, price, and capability, the Mavic Air 2 sits almost perfectly in between the Mavic Mini and the Mavic 2 series drones.
In the same way that the Mavic Air stepped up the camera game for small drones, the Mavic Air 2 is an exciting update in the camera department as well. You’re looking at a new 1/2-inch sensor that shoots 12MP stills, but does so from a 48MP sensor! You can capture 48MP stills as well, but the 12MP shots are better, using pixel binning managed by Quad Bayer technology. Photos are great, but the new 4K video capture at 60fps, and a data bit rate of 120Mbps, are more exciting to many users.
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DJI Mini 2
The original DJI Mavic Mini was a very important machine for the consumer hobby drone market. The DJI Mini 2 is the next generation of super-compact camera drone, it’s a solid improvement over the original Mini, especially in terms of the camera and flight capabilities. You still get a sub-250 gram drone, but now get a 4K camera, vastly improved connectivity, a more durable design, and more power.
The newer 1/2.3-inch sensor produces 12MP stills, and 4K video at 30 fps and 100Mbps data rate. For some, the most exciting update is lossless zoom. With up to 4X zoom, you can safely fly at distance from your subject, perfect for those pet photos or to capture shots of a waterfall in the distance.
Yuneec Typhoon H Plus
The hexacopter design of Yuneec’s Typhoon line of drones has been quite popular, if not successful. The design has become an icon in the industry and the safety of having extra propellers has been well accepted in the commercial market. The Yuneec Typhoon H Plus is a second generation model of their consumer focus. The Typhoon H Plus lands somewhere in between the DJI Phantom and DJI Inspire line of drones in terms of specs and price. Packing a 20MP 4K camera on a 3-axis gimbal, folding design and market average flight times and speeds, the Intel RealSense obstacle avoidance sensor may a leading reason to consider this drone over others.
Swellpro announced the Spry, waterproof drone, at CES 2019, followed by the Spry+ at CES 2020. Compared to their previous models, this is a compact machine that floats on water and enjoys time in the sky. The 4K camera sits inside of a waterproof housing that submerges below the surface when the drone sits on water. You can fully submerge the drone, but it does not dive on its own, it’s made to float. The Spry+ puts the GPS antenna in the disk on top, enabling better connectivity even while the drone is mostly submerged.
In case things go wrong, the remote control is also waterproof and made to float, making the Swellpro Spry one of the only drones you can safely take out surfing and kayaking, never mind boating or just flying at the lake.
There you have it, the best follow me drones on the market today. What are your thoughts on drones doing the work for you? Would you rather fly a drone yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments below or head over to our social media accounts. FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I want a drone that can follow me?
As you know, there are many uses for drones today, pilots of racing drones or those looking to capture amazing video from the sky might not care so much about follow-me modes, but action sports enthusiasts rely on the feature to capture their epic moves. The bottom line is that a follow-me mode is an automated flight, helping you get some epic shots without having to manually control your aircraft.
What if my drone doesn’t follow me?
Each drone will offer a different way to control the follow-me modes. Some drones lock onto the remote control, so your drone will simply follow you, but others use vision systems and AI to track an object. It is fairly easy to trick the second type of drone, it can lock onto another person, lose sight of you behind an obstacle and more. You can put a certain amount of trust in the drone, but it is always best to be paying attention and ready to manually take control if something isn’t going as planned. You’ll have to practice with your drone to find out what factors lend to a successful flight.
If you are asking about turning a drone that does not have a follow feature into a drone that follows you, things get more difficult. Bottom line, adding third-party navigation tools can be very expensive, and will require a flight controller and systems that let you plug in modules and code to make them work. It’s very fun to equip Intel RealSense technology onto a PX4 powered drone, especially if that drone is powered by an NVIDIA Jetson computer, but I’ve just named components that each cost about as much as a DJI Mini 2.