The 10 Best Auto Follow Drones

Updated April 30, 2018 by Lydia Chipman

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We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. If taking high-altitude selfies or capturing action footage of your athletic exploits is your thing, try one of these auto follow drones. Boasting high quality image and video recording capabilities, their unique feature is virtual tethering that enables the camera to track its subject wherever it goes – be it rock-climbing, skiing or, well, you get the idea. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best auto follow drone on Amazon.

10. DJI Spreading Wings S900

Coming from one of the biggest names in unmanned flight technology, it's no surprise that the prosumer DJI Spreading Wings S900 carbon-fiber hexacopter packs a wallop in terms of both quality and cost. But if money's no object, it may just be the drone you're looking for.
  • a2 controller and z15 gimbal
  • advanced satellite navigation system
  • customer support is hit-and-miss
Brand DJI
Model S900
Weight pending
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. PowerVision PowerEgg

Taking a wholly unique approach to unmanned flying, the PowerVision PowerEgg brings together a GPS/BeiDou dual positioning system with gestural controls, and curved arms that retract into the oval-shaped body to protect idle propellers and landing gear from loss or damage.
  • orbital subject tracking
  • cmos optical sensors
  • heavier than other quadcopters
Brand PowerVision
Model PEG10
Weight 15.9 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

8. Parrot Bebop 2

The Parrot Bebop 2 has a built-in 14MP fisheye camera for taking high-definition pictures and recording videos at 1080p. It features multiple sensors for exceptional stability, and a 2,700 mAh battery for up to 25 minutes of flying time per charge.
  • highly responsive controls
  • safe for indoor use too
  • low-light resolution could be better
Brand Parrot
Model PF726203
Weight 7.8 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

7. DJI Inspire 2

Designed for professional photographers and filmmakers, the DJI Inspire 2 boasts interchangeable cameras with 360-degree rotation, 5.2K raw image capture, CinemaDNG and ProRes video recording, multidimensional obstacle avoidance, and dual-operator control FPV capabilities.
  • landing gear retracts out of the way
  • various autonomous flight modes
  • tracks fast-moving objects easily
Brand DJI
Model pending
Weight 30 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

6. Hubsan X4 H501S

Follow-me quads can cost a pretty penny, but the Hubsan X4 H501S isn't just a less expensive option, it also packs impressive features into its tiny frame, including GPS navigation and a 1080p HD camera, making it a great alternative for budget-conscious users.
  • lightweight and easy to handle
  • brushless motors
  • up to 20 minutes flight time
Brand Hubsan Tech
Model H501S X4 FPV
Weight 4.7 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. DJI Phantom 4 Pro

The stuff of many a shutterbug's dreams, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro has a 20MP, 1" CMOS camera with 24mm lens, 84° FOV, and a recording bit rate of up to 100Mbps and 6400 maximum ISO for video, all protected from damage by an advanced multidirectional obstacle avoidance system.
  • mp4 and hevc format motion capture
  • altitude hold for smooth recordings
  • 128gb micro sd storage capacity
Brand DJI
Model E2DJIPHAN4PRO
Weight 9.3 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

4. Yuneec Typhoon H Pro

Using intelligent obstacle avoidance to protect its payload at speeds of up to 43.5mph, the Yuneec Typhoon H Pro hexacopter has a 360-degree, anti-vibration, gimbal-mounted 4K camera for taking vivid snapshots and filming high-resolution videos in 8 different flight modes.
  • builds 3d model of its surroundings
  • retractable landing gear
  • 25 minutes maximum flying time
Brand Yuneec
Model YUNTYHBRUS
Weight 16.9 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

3. DJI Spark

Among those for whom snapping and sharing photos and videos are more than just passing fancies, gestural controls and intelligent flight modes are some of the coolest perks of the DJI Spark, which also comes with advanced image-capturing and editing software.
  • extended transmission range
  • dual axis stabilized camera gimbal
  • precise speed and maneuvering
Brand DJI
Model CP.PT.000899
Weight 4.4 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Autel Robotics X-Star Premium

A worthy homage to the elite Phantom line, the Autel Robotics X-Star Premium features a 4K Ultra HD video camera, a quick-release gimbal mount, and dual GPS/GLONASS positioning. It comes with an LCD controller, a 64GB SD card, and its own custom water-resistant rigid case.
  • magnetic interference protection
  • fast-charging power supply
  • over 1 mile live hd tracking range
Brand Autel Robotics
Model XSPRMWH
Weight 14.7 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. DJI Mavic Pro

With a frame that folds down to the size of a water bottle, the hallmark of the DJI Mavic Pro is portability, but a 4K, 12MP camera with a high-precision 3-axis mechanical stabilization system for capturing high-resolution images and videos sweetens the deal.
  • activetrack intelligent following
  • top speed of 40 mph
  • up to 27 minutes flying per charge
Brand DJI
Model CP.PT.000500
Weight 4.1 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Drones, Quadcopters, and UAVs

One of the earliest unmanned aerial vehicles was used by the Austrian military to drop bombs over Venice. This primitive UAV was little more than a balloon filled with explosives. Today's military UAVs are multi-million dollar, satellite-linked, and computer-operated systems capable of remotely projecting might all over the world.

These advanced and prohibitively expensive UAVs may look drastically different than modern consumer drones, but they share a number of advanced components, including GPS guidance and precision controls that employ a camera and video link in place of cockpit windows.

Drone is a broad term that applies to military, consumer, and commercial drones, while UAV is typically only applied to higher-end commercial vehicles and military models. Quadcopter applies to those vehicles based on the four-rotor design.

For consumer drones, commands are usually sent by radio, and many systems feature autopilot functionality and programmable flight maneuvers. Military drones can be radio guided, particularly on takeoff and landing, but while operating at a distance they are controlled by a satellite data link.

Consumer drones are based mostly on the quadcopter form factor, which uses four rotors for propulsion. For this reason, they are technically considered rotorcraft, and not fixed-wing aircraft like standard contemporary airplanes. Control is achieved in the quadcopter design by varying the speed of each rotor. Unlike conventional helicopters, quadcopters are unable to vary the pitch of their blades.

Among the largest and highest-powered UAVs is the Global Hawk, designed by Northrop Grumman. This surveillance UAV is used both by the Air Force, and by NASA, which value its high-altitude and long-range capabilities. The Global Hawk's wingspan rivals that of a 737, and its Rolls-Royce jet engine can take it to the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere for as many as 30 hours. While there, it is used to survey the planet, snapping images of massive storms, and even measuring atmospheric pollutants.

Uncle Sam And Safety

The United States Federal Aviation Administration required consumers to register their drones...until it didn't. Starting in December 2014 the FAA required all drones weighing more than .55 pounds and less than 55 pounds to be registered with the government. However, in May 2017, a federal court in Washington, D.C. determined the FAA's drone registration rules were in violation of a law passed by Congress in 2012.

That ruling meant consumers operating a drone for non-commercial uses no longer needed to register the aircraft with the FAA. However, a reversal in late 2017 renewed the FAA registration requirement for some drones. The issue of consumer unmanned aircraft registration remains contentious, and users would be wise to review the current guidelines before flying anywhere beyond the shelter of their own homes.

The FAA also shared a number of rules for the safe and courteous operation of drones in a December 2015 notice. The administration advises flying below 400 feet in altitude and keeping the craft in sight at all times, to avoid losing control of its flight path. While consumer drones feature advanced auto-descent programs for loss-of-signal incidents, it is still unwise to push a consumer drone out to its maximum control distance. The FAA also warns against flying near manned aircraft, airports, and emergency response workers, and over groups of people, stadiums, and sporting events. Collisions with manned aircraft could prove deadly, and the high-speed rotors of quadcopters could cause injury to those they strike.

While the FAA learned that falling drones are not as dangerous as similarly weighted items, it still requires businesses to secure approval from the government before flying drones over people. Guards that shield quadcopter blades from outside contact are critical to safe flight over people, according to FAA research.

Of particular concern is the threat consumer drones pose to emergency workers. Commercial drones detected by firefighters flying in the vicinity of a southern California wildfire in 2015 led officials to suspend fire-fighting air missions twice in the span of a week. Firefighting aircraft, including large tankers and helicopters, fly at low altitudes, similar to those of commercial quadcopters. A mid-air collision could injure or kill workers in the air and on the ground, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

A Brief History Of Auto Follow Drones

While the quadcopter design is nearly as old as manned flight, it didn't achieve popularity until the late 2000s when it was used by manufacturers of the first unmanned aerial vehicles.

Early quadcopters were proposed by some as an alternative to the fixed-wing design in manned aircraft, and praised for their vertical takeoff potential. However, the design performed poorly, and proved unstable and difficult to pilot relative to the fixed-wing configuration.

Today's auto follow drones descend from these early UAVs, and were made possible by the proliferation of affordable and lightweight flight controllers, GPS units, cameras, and accelerometers.

Called drones because of the sound made by the first military unmanned aircraft, which was similar to a honeybee drone, today's consumer UAVs are often powered by batteries. Battery power is not yet feasible for mainstream use by larger manned and unmanned aircraft, but it is acceptable for use with the smaller, less powerful quadcopter-based propulsion systems.

As quadcopters increased in popularity, consumers and researchers found myriad applications for their onboard cameras. On film shoots photography-focused drones replaced costly helicopter shots, and in disaster areas they can be used to re-establish wireless communications.

The onboard cameras were also used to track subjects in the first auto-follow drones, which can follow a subject without the need for manual control. As computer power and navigation camera technology improved, so too did auto follow drones.


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Last updated on April 30, 2018 by Lydia Chipman

An itinerant wordsmith with a broad constellation of interests, Lydia Chipman has turned iconoclasm into a livelihood of sorts. Bearing the scars and stripes of an uncommon diversity of experience—with the notable exceptions of joining a religious order or becoming an artist—she still can’t resist the temptation to learn something new.


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