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.
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.
A drone that follows you can work in 2 different ways depending on the technology and price you paid for it:
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).
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.
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:
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.
Both DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and pro come with the same body and follow me capability, they just differ in terms of camera. You should get the Mavic 2 instead of the Mavic Air only if you need some of its specific camera specs, like the zoom feature or 1 inch sensor.
They come with the DJI Active track 2.0 technology and can sense up to 16 subjects, including making the difference between a boat, a car or a human for example. Although DJI has released Active track 3.0 now with their DJI Mavic Air 2, these drones are still amazing because of a few reasons:
They come with a number of active track follow modes like:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Tracking by recognition requires a more advanced piece of equipment, so they tend to be more expensive. 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.
Not every follow me system is created equall.
There are huge differences between the types and how well other drone specs can influence the quality of the tracking.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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