If you’ve got a drone that needs a smartphone to connect with the controller for a screen, you may be wondering if you can swap out the smartphone for an iPad (or some other tablet). The question is, can you use an iPad to fly a drone?
Yes, you can fly a drone with your iPad. Most iPad models will support the flight control apps that are needed to fly a drone. And the best part is that you don’t need cellular data on your iPad or tablet, since they connect with the drone via a WiFi signal.
I’ll help you consider what to look for in an iPad to use with your drone, as well as which drones will work with an iPad. Yup, they need to be compatible both ways. I’ll also talk about the software apps that will work with an iPad, as that’s an important part of whether the iPad can be used with a particular drone.
Why use an iPad to fly your drone?
For drones that need a separate display screen, i.e., one that’s not built into the controller, the solution is typically to connect a smartphone to the controller. The smartphone provides the screen to view the live feed.
It also provides the computing power to run the flight app that will enable intelligent flight feature controls as well as the ability to control the camera. But there are a number of reasons why you might not want to plug in your smartphone to control your drone.
For one thing, if your phone is in use while you’re flying the drone, you won’t be able to receive calls or messages. And if your phone is busy with other background apps, it can cause connection problems with the drone. Having an iPad to use frees up your phone to do all the other things you need your phone for.
Another reason you might want to use an iPad instead of a smartphone to control your drone is that the iPad offers a larger display screen, for a better view of the drone controls and the FPV feed. All those tiny buttons to tap and toggle can be done much more easily on a larger screen. Not to mention a better idea of what your pictures will turn out like.
Do I need cellular data on my iPad to fly a drone?
You don’t need cellular data on your iPad to fly your drone with it. With DJI drones, for example, you simply need to connect your iPad to the flight controller with a cable, and the flight controller will connect with the drone via the drone’s WiFi signal.
However, be sure that you have downloaded the correct flight control app onto your iPad where you have a WiFi signal, and that you have done any necessary firmware updates, before you leave home. Without cellular data, you won’t be able to do this out in the field.
Another thing to keep in mind is that a WiFi only iPad does not have a GPS system built in. Without GPS in your iPad, you won’t be able to use some of the functions of the drone such as Follow Me, or setting your return to home location as the controller (rather than the take off point).
What to look for in an iPad?
If you’re planning to purchase an iPad for your quadcopter experience, you should keep in mind the following considerations.
Compatibility with drone app
It is important to know if the iPad of your choice will support the apps you need to use in flying your drone. We all know that Apple devices keep on upgrading their app requirements time after time. Eventually some devices lose the ability to support certain apps.
You don’t want to remain grounded if your iPad doesn’t support the app you need to fly your drone.
Bracket mount size
If your drone flight controller has a small mount bracket for the display screen, you’ll have to take that into consideration when choosing an iPad to use with it. For some drones, this means you won’t be able to fit in anything larger than an iPad mini.
Check the specs of your drone flight controller to find out how large of a device will fit in the display mount.
One of the main reasons to use an iPad instead of a smartphone is have a bigger viewing screen. The bigger the screen the better the view. This is important particularly if you want to have a better user experience, and more details on a single screen. Look for an iPad that will give you the kind of viewing experience you want.
You will do pretty much all of your flying out there in the sun. We all know how sunlight affects your ability to see your phone screen.
With the right brightness and light balance, you should be able to comfortably control your drone even when the sun is at it’s brightest. The latest Apple devices are designed with a technology that makes the screen visible even in very bright sunlight.
Is the build suitable for outdoor use?
Most iPads are not ideal for outdoor use since they are brittle and vulnerable to scratches. When choosing one for your quadcopter experience, you should do so bearing in mind those limitations.
Choose a model that can handle outdoor challenges, or be sure to get a protective cover that will not get in the way of the controller attachment bracket.
For some recommendations on the best tablets that will work well with a drone,check out our article here »
Which drones can I fly with an iPad?
If you’re wondering which drones will work with an iPad, you have a wide range of quadcopter models to choose from.
From DJI, you can fly any drone that uses a smartphone to connect to the flight controller. This list includes:
- Phantom 4/ Phantom 4 Pro
- Phantom 3
- Mavic 2 Pro/Mavic 2 Zoom
- Mavic Mini
- Mini 2
- Mavic Air 2
- Air 2S
From other brands, it’s pretty much the same story. If the flight controller uses a smartphone for a display screen, you can be pretty sure that an iPad will work as well. Some examples of drones that work with an iPad include:
- Holy Stone HS720
- Potensic T25 Drone
- Parrot ANAFI
This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you’re looking for a drone that will work with your iPad, check with the model you’re looking into. If it uses a smartphone with the controller, it should work with your iPad or tablet as well.