The 10 Best Auto Follow Drones

Updated November 30, 2017 by Lydia Chipman

10 Best Auto Follow Drones
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 43 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. Walkera Scout X4

The Walkera Scout X4 offers intelligent mission routing with the ability to store up to 128 waypoints, enabling it to proceed autonomously along a programmed flight path without additional remote piloting. It also features a one-key automatic return to home.
  • can add up to 4 more motors
  • smart orientation control
  • camera sold separately
Brand Walkera
Weight 15.7 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. GoPro Karma

The GoPro Karma comes with a removable stabilizer and grip to let your imagination take flight and produce smooth, high-precision footage wherever your adventures take you -- into the air across rugged terrain, as far as you dare to go.
  • top speed of 35mph for 20 minutes
  • compatible with hero5 camera mounts
  • limited controller range
Brand GoPro
Model QKWXX-015
Weight 13.2 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

8. Hubsan H502S FPV

Follow-me quads can cost a pretty penny, but the Hubsan H502S FPV isn't just a less expensive option, it also packs impressive features into its tiny frame, including GPS hold and automatic return to home, making it a great alternative for budget-conscious users.
  • gets 12-13 minutes of flight time
  • built-in 720p hd camera
  • not as durable as higher-end models
Brand Hubsan Tech
Model H501SW
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

7. 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 pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. 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
Weight 17.1 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 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 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 CP.PT.000312
Weight 9.3 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

4. Walkera Aibao

Touted as an augmented-reality gaming drone, the Walkera Aibao records video at 4K/25p and still images at 16MP for as long as 20 minutes of flying time per charge. It features brushless motors and sophisticated waypoint planning technology.
  • over 1 mile of transmission range
  • flies at speeds of up to 35mph
  • performs aerial acrobatic maneuvers
Brand Walkera
Model pending
Weight 7.3 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

3. 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
  • easily tracks fast-moving objects
Brand DJI
Model pending
Weight 30 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

2. Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K

Capture amazingly detailed imagery anywhere using the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K, which features a gimbal-mounted 12MP camera for recording still photos, 4K/30fps UHD video and 1080p/120fps slow-motion pictures, with reliable follow-me tethering for exceptional ease of use.
  • comes with personal ground station
  • ready to fly right out of the box
  • 5-inch touchscreen controller
Brand Yuneec
Weight 27.2 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 video sweetens the deal.
  • activetrack intelligent following
  • top speed of 40mph
  • up to 27 minutes flying per charge
Brand DJI
Model CP.PT.000500
Weight 4.5 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 need to register the aircraft with the FAA.

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 November 30, 2017 by Lydia Chipman

An itinerant wordsmith with an alphabet-soup of credentials to her name, Lydia has turned iconoclasm into a livelihood of sorts, throwing herself into a broad constellation of interests. From antithetical cultural analysis to interdisciplinary combat training, she bears the scars and stripes of an uncommon diversity of experience. Reading, biking and exploring are favorite pastimes, but – with the notable exceptions of joining a religious order (not on speaking terms with a higher power) and becoming an artist (can’t even draw a respectable stick-figure) – she’d try almost anything once.

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