Best Follow me drones in 2021

Ultimate guide and tutorial

best-follow-me-drones-and-how-does-it-work

In this article we're looking at the best follow me drones on the market, what they can be used for and what technology is used to make this work.

Let's gooo...

What is follow me mode?

Follow me mode in drones works by autonomously tracking a subject either through GPS or image processing and keeping a fixed distance from it while it’s moving.

In more advanced quadcopters this can include complex flight modes or even detecting what kind of object you’re tracking and use obstacle avoidance as a safety feature during the flight.

How does follow me work in a drone?

A drone that follows you can work in 2 different ways depending on the technology and price you paid for it:

  1. GPS tracking and following - follows the ground station controller or your phone at a certain distance while trying to keep it in frame (found in cheaper drones, not as accurate)
  2. Vision Recognition tech - found in more advanced drones, this is able to detect subjects in the image and make real time calculations with the data it collects from the image and sensors, which is then transmitted to the processor.

My top drones with follow me

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In this first section we'll go through some of the best drones with the ability to track a subject and after that we'll go a bit more in detail on how follow me actually works.

Here are my favorite follow me drones compared in a table (in no particular order).

Skydio 2Mavic Air 2Mavic 3Autel EvoSimrex X20
battery-test23 min34 min46 min30 min25 min
wifi-test3.5km10km15km7km0.5km
camera-icon.png4k 60p4k 60p5k4k 60p1080p
drone-slim-icon6 camerasFollow MeFollow meFollow meGPS follow
$$$$$$$$$$
drone-price-dollar-icon.png Check Price Check Price Check Price Check Price Check Price

1.Skydio 2 - the best follow me drone for sports

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4k 60p

drone-battery-specs-180 icon

23min

range

3.5km

drone

6 cameras

The Skydio 2, as the name suggests is the upgrade from the already impressive Skydio R1, which increased its specs and obstacle avoidance and tracking capabilities.

It has an Nvidia Jetson on-board computer that calculates a ton of data from the six cameras all around it and processes it in real time to control the drones movement.

There’s no other better drone in terms of pure follow me and obstacle avoidance capability. DJI comes pretty close, but it’s still obviously less advanced.

The drone can avoid crashes, calculate new trajectories, even if it doesn’t see you anymore.

It’s manufacturers (all ex-MIT students) are so confident in the obstacle avoidance of this drone that it comes with free repair in case it breaks.

Besides that, it’s a drone that integrates with Drone Deploy for mapping and has a pretty capable 4k  60FPS camera. In terms of raw camera power it is inferior to the high end drones in the DJI lineup, but it compensates if what you’re looking for is hassle-free tracking.

The Skydio 2 comes with intelligent flying modes like Dronie, hover, Angle Track, Orbit, Cable Cam.

It comes with different control options like a smartphone only, a separate remote controller, and the Skydio beacon that acts like a wireless tether.

ADVANTAGES

  • Can shoot in slow motion 60fps 4k
  • fast speed of 36mph(58km/h)
  • 6 cameras for obstacle avoidance
  • the best tracking and avoidance on the market (for the price)
  • quite light weight
  • best drones for sport tracking
  • made in the US entirely (By MIT)

DISADVANTAGES

  • Not foldable
  • Range could be better
  • Camera is great, but slightly inferior to high end DJI drones

2.Mavic Air 2 (Best Follow me drone for the price)

camera-icon-specs-180

4k 60p

drone-battery-specs-180 icon

34 min

range

10 km

drone

Active Track 3.0

Shoots 12mp stills but from a 48mp sensor pixel binning by quad bayer technology  120mbps bitrate

 

The Mavic Air 2 is my go to drone when I recommend a good follow-me drone to someone. It’s affordable, it has Active track 3.0, which is the best in the DJI lineup and has mind-blowing specs.

 

DJI calls this new tracking system “FocusTrack” and it can detect the difference between boats, bicycles, cars, people etc.

 

Being even smaller than the Mavic 2 and with a foldable design you can include it in the “pocket drone” category I would say, with considerable performances compared to other small GPS drones.

It’s comprised of the following modes:

  1. Active track 3.0 (even better than Mavic 2) using APAS 3.0
  2. Spotlight 2.0 - which keeps your subject in focus and drone in place
  3. Point of interest 2.0 - an advanced point of interest mode
  4. Regular Quickshots

If we talk about the other drone features, it comes with 4k 60p recording (also beating the Mavic 2 here) shooting in 120mbps and can take 48 megapixel photos with the Quad Bayer technology.

It can also fly at incredible speeds of up to 42.5 mph or 69 km/h.

ADVANTAGES

  • very fast following speed (43mph/69kph)
  • best Active track drone from DJI
  • multiple flight modes
  • 4k 60p camera
  • long battery life
  • huuuge range (6.2miles/10km)

DISADVANTAGES

  • Doesn't have lateral sensors

3. Mavic 3 - Best Pro camera drone

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4k 120p

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46 min

range

15 km

drone

Omnidirectional sensors

The Mavic 3 is the newest addition to the foldable lineup of drones from DJI and it certainly doesn't disappoint.

It's made for pros and you can see that from the huge camera it handles in front, one carrying a micro 4/3rds Hasselblad sensor.

It's a great machine for professional filmmakers who want portability or for photographers who want more control over aperture, thanks to the adjustable aperture.

The new APAS 5.0 system allows for an incredible follow me experience, which coupled with the omnidirectional sensors are almost unmatched in the industry.

 

ADVANTAGES

  • Huge Sensor
  • Omnidirectional sensors (even sideways)
  • Upgraded battery life 46 min
  • Secondary 7x Zoom camera
  • Changeable apperture
  • Solid build and huge range

DISADVANTAGES

  • Can be pricy if you don't need all the functions.

4. Autel Evo (DJI alternative that follows you)

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4k 60p

drone-battery-specs-180 icon

30 min

range

7km

drone

Follow me

Autel is probably the biggest direct competitor of DJI, and they make amazing quadcopters that also come with sophisticated follow me and tracking options.

The Autel Evo uses what they call Dynamic Track technology to track subjects using a combination of sensors and AI to track everything from people to vehicles.

It also comes with sensors for obstacle avoidance and has 3 different modes to follow:

  • Follow mode - track and follow someone from a fixed distance
  • Tripod mode - this is the equivalent for orbit in other drones.
  • Parallel mode- same as with DJI, this follows you in a linear fashion, horizontally

ADVANTAGES

  • Not DJI (I guess)
  • Solid Active tracking system
  • Great 60 fps footage in 4k
  • Long range and battery life
  • Good price

DISADVANTAGES

  • Follow me is a bit inferior to the likes of Mavic Air 2

5. Cheap Follow me drone (Simrex X20)

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1080p

drone-battery-specs-180 icon

25 min

range

500m

drone

GPS follow

simrex x20 drone

One of my top recommended drones for limited budgets, the Simrex X20 comes with a 2 axis gimbal, GPS and the follow me option for under $250, which is really hard to beat.

 

Manufacturer says it’s a 4k drone, but let’s consider it a 1080p drone for now, since the footage quality isn’t even near one of the drones we talked about earlier.

But having the follow me option by following the phone GPS or transmitter and a stabilized camera it already beats most of the competition.

It’s also foldable and comes with an incredible battery life for the price.

ADVANTAGES

  • 2 axis gimbal (amazing for the price)
  • Brushless motors
  • Foldable design
  • GPS flight functions

DISADVANTAGES

  • GPS follow me isn't as good as vision recognition

6. Cheapest Follow me Drone (JJRC X5 Epik)

camera-icon-specs-180

1080p

drone-battery-specs-180 icon

16 min

range

500m

drone

GPS follow

JJRC-JJPRO-X5-EPIK-5G-WIFI-1080P-FHD-FPV-RC-Drone-RTF-694314-.jpg

If you are on a really tight budget, the JJRC X5 is the best way to go, for way under $200 you get a capable GPS drone that comes with GPS follow me mode and  a pretty good camera.

The camera can move up and down and it also comes with a few flight modes, including return to home.

 

It’s definitely one of the drones I liked the most and have also reviewed over here.

ADVANTAGES

  • Great build quality
  • Solid camera for the price
  • Stable GPS
  • Brushless motors

DISADVANTAGES

  • Camera isn't stabilized
  • GPS follow me

Best sports follow me drone (skiing, mountain biking, etc.)

I covered a few drones for water sports in this article, just as I have with the best drones for motorcyclistsIn the same manner, skiing and mountain biking require similar specs and features.

I would say the Skydio 2 is still the overall winner for the best sports follow me drone category. Closely followed up by the DJI Mavic Air 2 as a cheaper, foldable alternative with a ton of options.

You simply can’t beat the tracking of the Skydio 2 for now, but the Mavic Air 2 is absolutely stunning and with the new Active Track 3.0 it can take care of most shots you need it to do, be it motocross or mountain biking.

How does Follow me work in drones?

how-does-follow-me-work

In this section we're taking a look at more details about how the follow me systems actually work in drones as well as what to look for in such a quadcopter.

Follow me can have a considerably different meaning depending on the type and price point of the drone. There are two main categories of follow me:

  • GPS follow (following the transmitter or mobile phone)
  • Recognition tracking (more advanced processing in high end drones)

Drones that follow you using GPS Transmitter/GSC

Some of the cheaper drones are programmed to follow the controller/transmitter or the mobile phone that has GPS activated. The drone is programmed to follow it and have the subject in focus at all times. This mode is more inaccurate compared to more advanced types like auto tracking.

 

This technology creates a virtual tether between your mobile device and the drones and can even come with a mode where the drone stays in place and just rotates towards the general direction of your phone.

 

There are drones like the Holy stone HS 270 and Holy Stone HS700 Ophelia that use this GSC in the transmitter to follow it around in a basic manner.

Drones that follow you around using recognition technology

sports active track with a drones

Tracking by recognition requires a more advanced piece of equipment, usually found in more high-end expensive drones. Drones in the medium to high range from DJI, Yuneec, and Autel all have these features.

DJI calls their system ActiveTrack and it’s using advanced image processing software and hardware inside the drone to recognize up to 16 separate objects on the screen.

Recent versions can even detect if it’s a human, a boat, a car, etc.

What to look for in a drone with auto follow

Not every follow me system is created equall. 

 

Actually…

 

There are huge differences between the types and how well other drone specs can influence the quality of the tracking.

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Drone Follow Me Speed

 

The speed at which a drone can follow you might not mean a lot when we try to track a cyclist or a person running, but if you want to track a fast moving car, that’s another story.

 

That’s why drones like the Mavic 2 or Mavic Air come with higher speeds and wind resistance, to face up to such challenges.

Drone Follow Me Software

 

The software itself is usually built within the app that you use to control the drone with, for DJI that would be either the DJI Go 4 App or the newer DJI Fly.

 

If the drone doesn’t use a phone, it’s built within the Ground station controller itself. The software uses sophisticated algorithms and even AI in some instances to keep the object on the screen and even predict its movements.

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Obstacle avoidance sensors and flight safety

 

When it comes to most GPS drones that use follow me software, they don’t necessarily come with obstacle avoidance or any safety measures, and that’s why you should use them in an open environment, as they can’t “see around”.

 

However, more advanced drones, like DJI ones, Autel and especially Skydio 2 come with sensors (sometimes all around) that help stop the drone in time, and even avoid obstacles.

 

To the users discontent, DJI hasn’t actually released an active track feature for cheaper drones like the DJI Mini or Mini 2 because they don’t come with sensors.

 

So, although they have the capability to do perfect active track, it’s not implemented because of safety concerns.

 

Not having obstacle avoidance sensors would result in many accidents, especially since DJI drones are so widely used.

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Follow me Distance

 

The distance at which a drone can follow you ranges a lot from drone to drone and especially determined by the price you pay.

 

We have fixed follow me distance in cheaper GPS drones while more complex drones that use tracking software can detect objects at tens of meters away with no issue.

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Conclusion about drones that follow you

Just like with everything else, you get what you pay for, so what you need to do now is decide what is the sweet spot for you. As a final recommendation, I think the most ideal drone in terms of price and follow me capability is the DJI Mavic Air 2.

Paul Posea
Paul Posea

Hi, I'm a long-time drone reviewer and I hope my articles and comparisons on this site as well as Dronesgator's youtube channel are of as much help as possible.

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