You love flying drones recreationally, and one of your favorite parts of UAV ownership is showing off to your friends. After doing lots of loops and other aerial maneuvers with your drone, you want to show off that it can follow you. How does that feature work?
Follow me works through either vision recognition technology or GPS. You simply turn on follow me mode, select the object to follow, and the drone follows you automatically. Some of the best follow-me drones currently on the market are the Skydio 2, the DJI Mavic Air 2, and the Yuneec Typhoon H.
This highly detailed guide will be chock full of information to help you become a master of your drone’s follow me function. First, we’ll explain the technology so you can better appreciate it and how it works. Then we’ll delve into the 9 best drones that can follow your every move when commanded to.
|» JUMP TO: This year’s best Follow Me drones (this link takes you to a table lower on this page)|
How does Follow Me technology work?
The follow-me feature is one that everyone expects out of drones today, and the technology has advanced quickly. Here is a brief look at how the fascinating technology emerged as well as how it works.
A brief history of follow me
It’s only taken a couple of years for follow-me technology to become commonplace, but we didn’t always have it. As recently as 2016, drones couldn’t follow their operator as they can now.
Back in the early days of follow me, you had to use a tracking device such as those included with the AirDog ADII. This device, which AirDog calls the AirLeash, worked well enough at the time, but it certainly didn’t look very cool.
The closest thing that drones had to the follow-me feature then was customizable flight paths. In other words, you could automate the flight direction of your drone, and if it happened to follow you, that was mostly incidental.
DJI changed the game – as they tend to do – in 2016 with their Phantom 4 drone. This drone was noteworthy not only because it was the latest DJI drone (at the time), but because it had something the company’s other UAVs did not: a feature called DJI ActiveTrack.
ActiveTrack was the first version of follow me. With ActiveTrack, you could identify yourself as the subject and then configure your Phantom 4 to follow you. This feature wasn’t limited to basic tracking, such as if you were walking. You could do other activities too and ActiveTrack would still work, including swimming or even driving.
The single sensor worked well enough at the time, but it could have been better. That’s why today’s drones with follow-me technology include several sensors to make the follow-me feature even more sophisticated.
Here’s how follow me drone tech works
Today’s follow-me drones use one of two types of technology: vision recognition and/or GPS. Let’s take a closer look at each of these types of follow me.
1. Vision Recognition
Obstacle detection has given rise to obstacle avoidance in today’s drones. The original DJI Phantom 4 had obstacle detection as well. Even aside from their usefulness in features like follow me, obstacle detection is very useful in your UAV.
With obstacle detection, the drone can tell if it’s going to collide with a tree, a building, a bird, or even another drone. Obstacle avoidance kicks things up a notch, as the drone can then redirect itself away from a passing threat before a collision occurs.
Vision recognition technology is the most advanced version of obstacle detection and obstacle avoidance that we have at the present time.
How does vision recognition work, and how does it help the drone follow you?
First, the drone sensors and camera will gather sound and image data of its surroundings. This data quickly goes to the drone’s processor. The processor can determine what is in the background of the drone’s location and the obstacles in motion, such as yourself.
Then, as you start to walk, the drone will follow. Since vision recognition in drones detects motion, you don’t necessarily have to be on foot for your drone to follow you. You can also be in a car, on a bike, or on a skateboard. If you want your drone to track your dog as he runs through the field, that’s also doable.
To activate a vision recognition-based follow-me mode, you can either use your drone’s remote control or the accompanying phone app.
The downside of vision recognition technology is that it works best in clear conditions. If you want your drone to follow you on a foggy morning or an overcast afternoon, the results might not be great. The same is also true if you’re shrouded in a lot of shadows, as the technology can’t pick up your image clearly enough to follow you successfully.
The second option for allowing drones to follow you is through GPS. This is how drones first used follow me, and since the technology still works well enough today, drone manufacturers continue to rely on it, albeit with greater advancements.
If your drone uses GPS, its transmitter will be in the remote control. By keeping the remote in hand, your drone will shadow you, following the transmitter signal in the controller. GPS doesn’t have to “see” you, so even if the lighting and clarity are less than ideal, you can still have your drone follow you, or more specifically the controller.
What are the benefits of Follow Me drones?
If you don’t have a drone with follow me mode, you might wonder, are you really missing out on much? We think so! Here are some of the things you can do with your drone, but only if your drone can follow you with vision recognition technology or GPS.
Show off to your friends
As someone who just flies drones for fun, it’s always cool to do tricks that leave your friends’ jaws on the ground. Once you program your UAV to follow you, especially if you’re driving, or skiing, or something like that, your friends won’t be able to believe how cool your drone is! You might even inspire some of them to buy a drone.
Enjoy the drone’s full functionality
Today’s drones come with more features than ever. Depending on how you like to use your drone, you might not find every feature useful, but activating follow me will allow you to use your drone to the fullest.
Speed and convenience
Here’s a sign of just how much drone technology has advanced in a very short timeframe. Today, it takes only seconds for you to activate follow me via your drone’s remote or the app on your phone. You can set the mode and your drone will do the rest right away.
Capture unique footage hands-free
Lots of people use their drones for professional purposes, including in such areas as news, real estate, photography, land surveying, ecological surveying, mining, filming, and more. The problem with using your drone’s camera for photography or videography though is that you have to both watch where your drone is flying and operate it at the same time.
That can make it hard to get the precise shot you need. When your drone is in follow-me mode, it will fly on one track and so you can get the footage you want without trying to multitask.
This year’s best Follow Me drones
You were thinking of buying a new drone anyway, and you’d really like one with follow me mode. What are some of the best drones with this feature? We compiled a list of 9 of the best follow me drones available, so let’s talk about their specs, pricing, follow me mode, and other features now.
|Drone||Range||Max Flight Time||Top Flight Speed||Camera||Price|
|Skydio 2||2 miles (3.5km)||23 min||36mph||12MP/4K||check price|
|DJI Mavic Air 2||11.5 miles||34 min||42mph||48MP/4K||check price|
|DJI Mavic 2 Pro||5 miles||31 min||44mph||20MP/4K||check price|
|DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0||11 miles||30 min||45mph||20MP/4K||check price|
|Yuneec Typhoon H||1 mile||25 min||22mph||12MP/4K||check price|
|Autel Evo II||5.5 miles||40 min||45mph||48MP/8K||check price|
|Holy Stone HS270||0.5 miles||26 min||15mph||12MP/4K||check price|
|Swellpro Spry+||0.5 miles||17 min||40mph||12MP/4K||check price|
First on our list is what many regard as the best follow-me drone on the market (at least as of this writing). It’s none other than the Skydio 2. Yes, you might be surprised that it’s not a DJI drone topping this list, but don’t worry, there are plenty of DJI drones to consider as well.
Skydio is a drone manufacturer that, while not as popular as DJI, is acquiring a base of loyal supporters. The Skydio 2 is a large part of that popularity.
The Skydio 2, like a lot of modern drones, works best when you download the Skydio 2 app, which is free. The app is also where you access follow me mode.
Within the app, you can manage your photos and videos and even edit them on the go. You can also share your footage directly from the app when you’re ready. Of course, the app also lets you preplan flights with integrated satellite and street maps for planning your route.
The camera of the Skydio 2 will impress as well. It can take photos in 12 MP HDR and videos in 4K60 HDR. With Qualcomm RedDragon QCS605 tech and a sensor inspired by the Sony IMX557, you get multiple photo shooting modes such as interval or single modes.
The Skydio 2 boasts a NVIDIA Tegra TX2 AI computed processing core embedded within it. Its 256 GPU cores make this drone almost like a supercomputer. Visual sensing at 45 megapixels with six 200-degree color cameras means the Skydio 2 sees with excellent clarity.
The other features of this drone are a 2 mile (3.5-kilometer) range, a 23-minute battery life, speeds up to 36 miles per hour, a three-axis gimbal, and greater noise reduction compared to older Skydio drones. The Skydio 2 costs $1,349.
DJI Mavic Air 2
Next on our list is the first of a handful of DJI drones, beginning with the Mavic Air 2. Its spot is rightfully deserved considering this drone includes Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems or APAS 3.0 technology.
What is APAS? It’s a type of mapping technology for obstacle avoidance, even in what DJI calls “complex scenarios.” Besides avoiding trees and birds, APAS 3.0 also has a new and improved flight planning mode.
Active Track, which is one of the most renowned follow me modes, is only part of the suite of modes you have available to you with the Mavic Air 2. This suite, known as FocusTrack, also includes Point of Interest 3.0 and Spotlight 2.0.
Select from preestablished flight patterns to send your Mavic 2 up, up, and away with just a quick tap on your smartphone screen. Your options are called Asteroid, Boomerang, Rocket, Helix, Circle, and Dronie.
With 8K Hyperlapse, you can condense what is minutes of footage into seconds yet without the complication of editing in post-processing. Select modes such as Waypoint, Course Lock, Circle, or Free and experiment with the fun of Hyperlapse!
The Mavic Air 2 boasts not one, not two, but three sensors. One faces forward, another one is backward, and the third sensor is downward. According to DJI, the accuracy of their sensors is applicable between 22 and 23 meters.
With a built-in auxiliary light, the Mavic 2 can maintain its visibility even on overcast days or in the dark. To reduce interference, this drone has 2.4 to 5.8-hertz dual-frequency communication capabilities so it can shift between whichever frequency is the strongest.
With OcuSync 2.0, your video transmission distance is also fantastic, with a max distance of 10 kilometers. All along, you can do FHD live streaming in quality up to 1080p.
Do you feel like flying your drone for a bit longer? With the Mavic 2, that’s possible. Its max flight time is 34 minutes, which should give you plenty of time to take photos and videos of your surroundings while the Mavic 2 follows you.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
The Mavic 2 Pro is another DJI drone with a great follow-me mode. It too includes ActiveTrack 2.0, which has undergone software and hardware upgrades from prior models. This time, ActiveTrack 2.0 includes features such as obstacle sensing, trajectory prediction, advanced recognition, and even high-speed tracking such as if you’re in a car.
Augmenting ActiveTrack is Mavic 2’s FlightAutonomy setting. This has Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing with sensors on every side of the drone.
Photographing with this UAV is like a dream, as you can switch between aerial photography modes such as Boomerang, Asteroid, Dolly Zoom, Waypoint 2.0, and POI 2.0 for taking all nature of awesome shots.
The Hasselblad camera has a one-inch CMOS sensor with an increased ISO range as well as a 10-bit D-Log-M color profile for a greater dynamic range in your photography.
In the mood for some panoramas? Select between Vertical, Horizontal, 180, or Sphere modes. This drone can fly for 31 consecutive minutes so you have plenty of time to try the different panoramas out.
OcuSync 2.0 makes a comeback in the Mavic 2. With this, you can easily send your FHD-quality videos to social media. And when you take photos, they go straight to your smartphone without you having to download them.
Those photos will look better than ever thanks to the inclusion of HyperLight, a noise-reducing feature. Hybrid autofocus keeps your photo subjects centered and with zooming while in flight, you can get a closer view of subjects without having to physically get closer. HyperLapse is back in the Mavic 2 too!
DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
The latest edition of the Phantom 4 from DJI is the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0. It can sense obstacles coming at the drone from five different directions. This means you can have even greater confidence in the drone’s ability to track you without collisions when you run the follow me mode, which is known as DJI’s ActiveTrack.
You also get more than one Intelligent Flight Mode with the Phantom 4 Pro. And you can toggle Gesture Mode to take selfies that are centered perfectly each time. Draw Mode lets you create a flight path with your finger. Then you can sit back and watch the Phantom 4 Pro comply.
TapFly, the third Intelligent Flight Mode, is another flight-mapping feature. When you tap on the screen, you confirm a route. Return to Home is self-explanatory.
Operate your Phantom 4 Pro within the DJI GO 4 app. The app will also indicate when the drone’s Intelligent Flight Battery has depleted so you never fly with two percent battery power left.
The remote of this drone features a sizable screen measuring 5.5 inches with great color range and brightness settings. You don’t even have to download the DJI GO 4 app on your phone, as it’s preloaded on the Phantom 4 Pro’s remote.
OcuSync 2.0 video transmission returns for this DJI drone so you can transmit video feeds and live stream if the mood strikes. The Phantom 4 Pro will also find the highest-quality frequency and stick within it so your stream doesn’t crash in the middle.
For photographers, the mechanical shutter with Burst mode lets you take photos at 14 frames per second and in 20 MP. The mechanical shutter feature is intended to reduce distortion.
With 4K video at 100 Mbps and 60 fps, the Phantom 4 Pro’s camera also includes a full D-Log color profile for vivid videography. That camera features a one-inch CMOS sensor and a wide-angle lens. This drone can also fly for up to 30 minutes at a time and has a FlightAutonomy platform that features real-time 3D mapping.
Yuneec Typhoon H
Moving away from DJI drones now, next is the Yuneec Typhoon H, a high-end drone with lots of follow-me features.
There’s Journey Mode, which lets the Typhoon fly 150 feet out and take your photo. You can also choose points of interest and map a route that way. Orbit Me allows the Typhoon to rotate around you!
You get eight flight modes in all, including Orbit, Journey, and Curved Cable. The Curved Cable cam lets you plan flight coordinates in seconds so you can wow your family and friends.
Speaking of wowing someone, the CGO3+ 4K, three-axis gimbal camera has anti-vibration mode for clear shots even when in flight. The field of view for the camera is 98 expansive degrees, and its wide lens also makes it easier to see more of the world through this camera.
RealSense technology with an Intel Atom module learns and recalls its environment. The GPS-driven obstacle avoidance also allows the Typhoon to stay closer to the drone user.
Autel EVO 2
The Autel EVO II is the updated version of the Autel EVO, which is no longer available. The Autel Robotics EVO II offers the Dynamic Track 2.0 follow-me mode, for outstanding follow-me drone performance, with the ability to model the location and speed of multiple targets simultaneously. It can even continuously identify up to 64 objects at the same time, making it one of the most robust obstacle avoidance features on the market.
The other autonomous flight features include Waypoint for planning your drone’s flight route, VR first-person for seeing drone flight in a whole new way, and Orbit. You will need the Autel Explorer app to use these features, but that app is available to download for free.
The remote control of the EVO includes an OLED screen that’s 3.3 inches much like the remotes of most DJI drones. The video feed that’s continually transmitted to you while your EVO drone is in flight arrives in stunning 720p HD quality.
Fly up to 5.5 miles for 40 minutes at a clip, which even makes DJI look a little weak. It also offers Phase Detection Auto Focus to lock on and track fast-moving objects with ease.
The three-axis camera features a stabilizing gimbal for recording videos in a jaw-dropping 8k, unmatched by any other aerial camera. The glass optics of the camera capture photos in 48 MP quality. Set the dynamic range to increase the colors and details so your photos come to life in screaming detail.
The Autel EVO II comes with 360-degree obstacle avoidance powered by 19 sensors all over the drone so you can fly safely when using the EVO II. One of the best parts of this drone besides its follow-me mode is that it’s foldable for easy transport.
Holy Stone HS270
Another GPS drone for your consideration is the Holy Stone HS270. This much more budget-friendly follow-me drone uses an Intelligent Flight GPS positioning to keep the HS270 in your vicinity as you walk. You can also choose a takeoff point that the drone will launch from.
Custom flight paths will show you what this drone can really do as you let it fly free on a route that you predetermined. Altitude Hold lets you pause the drone’s height at a certain point, which is an especially handy feature for drone photographers and videographers.
The long-distance control range will let you capture videos and photos up to 3000 feet (900m) out, which is great if you want to photograph your landscape when hiking, camping, or even just walking around your local park.
The UHD camera has a shock absorption holder that keeps your shots even and smooth. The resolution of the images is 3840×2160. You can transmit FPV footage at a rate of 5 gigahertz. The lens is also adjustable to 90 degrees for easily shifting your camera angle.
Do you feel like taking your drone underwater? You can’t do that with any of the drones on this list except for the Swellpro Spry+.
This is yet another GPS drone with autonomous follow me. You can configure this mode to follow the Spry+ remote control or you personally. Set the height and distance for this mode as well.
The Return to Me mode will always bring your Spry+ back to you, well, unless it’s out of battery. Smart Orbit lets the Spry+ orbit around a point of your choosing, moving slowly to get a 360-degree shot.
With a high-thrust motor, the Spry+ can move quickly. If you’re into fishing, the TrollSafe mode will capture more of your precious fishing moments. The truly waterproof feature of this drone make it a great choice if you’re planning to use your follow-me mode to take videos of yourself swimming, surfing, or boating.
Otherwise, you can always use any of this drone’s six other flight modes, the others of which we haven’t mentioned yet including circle mode, GPS mode, and ATTI mode.
The included 4K camera shoots photos in 12 MP and video in 4K at 30 fps. Since this drone is corrosion-proof and waterproof, including the camera, feel free to get it wet. The underwater photos and videos you can take will astound everyone you know!
Follow me mode has quickly become the drone standard, being featured in drones from smaller brands like Holy Stone to bigger names like DJI. Now that you better understand this tech and how it works, you can use your drone in impressive new ways!