FOLLOW ME DRONES
We take a look at the best follow me drones on the UK market today.
Best Follow Me Drones
If you are interested in buying a new drone then the chances are you will have heard of follow me drones. The lower end UAV’s don’t tend to have this technology but when you start spending upwards of £250 most drones will have either GPS or tracking through recognition technology.
What is a follow me drone?
Quite simply, a follow me drone is one that follows you or a subject of your choosing autonomously. Not only does this make for a much easier piloting, photographing and videoing experience, but it also makes for more natural shots – especially if you want or need to be in them.
One of the biggest issues with manually controlled drones is that whoever is controlling them is usually looking at a controller – this hardly makes for fantastic videography – but with a follow me quadcopter you can pretty much set and forget (for a good few minutes at least).
How Do Follow Me Drones Work?
Follow me drones have two main systems that allow tracking. The first system and the one that was developed first historically is one that uses GPS (Global Positioning System) and the other is one that uses more sophisticated recognition systems.
GPS Drones That Follow You
GPS is hardly new technology these days and most of us carry around devices that have GPS as standard. Using either a GPS enabled smartphone or a controller with a GPS transmitter, the drone then tracks the transmitter and focuses on the subject.
There are advantages and disadvantages to drones that follow you using GPS. The main disadvantage is that the cameras on GPS follow me drones sometimes have a harder time focusing on the actual subject. Contrastingly, they do pretty well at keeping the active tether between drone and transmitter so you rarely lose the subject from the shot.
Active Track/Recognition Drones That Follow You
The accepted standard among premium drone manufacturers these days is active recognition technology for tracking and follow-me purposes. Using either one or a number of the following; camera, sensors and tracking software, these drones are able to track moving subjects with a high degree of accuracy and are very difficult to beat when it comes to image quality and ability to keep the subject in focus in the centre of the shot.
DJI, Parrot and Walkera have led the way when it comes to active tracking using recognition but there are now a number of companies popping up that are offering fully autonomous drones with unbelievable tracking systems on board – the first to launch being the Skydio R1.
Using Follow Me Drones
Using a drone that can follow you might sound like it would be tricky to use but generally speaking most drones are actually very easy to use when using follow-me modes. The software that is built in to either the drone, the receiver or a combination of the two is pretty advanced in most cases and although all drone manufacturers have you use it in a slightly different way, many use a dedicated app (that you install on your smartphone) to set up the tracking and shot types that you want.
DJI and Parrot do a pretty good job of providing you with a range of shots that you can use and you will be able to change the flightpath of the drone, height, angle and distance of the drone in relation to the subject. Some drones that use recognition tracking technology can even track multiple subjects and keep them all in frame whilst automatically avoiding any kind of obstacles in its path.
This combination of shot types and state of the art drone and camera hardware means that you can get some stunning photography and videography using the follow me mode on a drone.
Some of the shot types that you may get on a UAV such as this are:
- Orbit – Continually orbit an object
- Active Track – Up to 16 selectable subjects – perfect for running, cycling and other fast moving action shots
- Circle – Circles around the subject for a full 360 degrees circular shot
- Profile – Allows you to keep the subject in frame from a particular angle
It is worthwhile noting the safety implications of using drones, but more specifically when using more autonomous modes such as follow me – this is even more important with drones that use GPS as the main method of tracking. Nearly all of the newly released drones that have a follow me mode will have some sort of collision avoidance – especially if they use sensors or cameras for recognition tracking.
The extent of the collision avoidance is something that you might want to take a look at in more detail and you should certainly be sure to know the limitations of your own UAV before you take it up to flight. DJI are considered amongst the best for collision avoidance but even the Mavic Air has a lack of side sensors which can become problematic when using the profile mode for follow me shots.
If you want 100% safety in terms of collision avoidance then we would recommend waiting out for the completely autonomous drones such as the Skydio R1 – although at the time of writing this is only available in the United States and is quite costly – we will add it to this list if/when it launches in the UK.
Best Follow Me Drones
If you are still reading you should hopefully now feel quite well versed in drones with follow-me technology. Let’s take a look at the best of the bunch – we will be focusing the review around image quality, stability, ease of use, ability to track subjects accurately, types of shots and overall value.
DJI Mavic Pro
Best All Round
The DJI Mavic Pro (and now the Mavic Pro Platinum) are excellent choices when it comes to choosing a follow me drone to buy. Not only does it come fully equipped with a super high quality 4K camera, precision hovering thanks to a 3 axis gimbal and super long battery life – but it also uses GPS and camera sensing subject recognition for those tracking video shots.
You can quickly and easily switch between standard GPS (which uses the controller and smartphone) or active track and it has been the subject of much debate which one is the best to use. The truth is that both have their place and so to have a drone that offers both of these modes really is a huge advantage.
We found that shots from high altitude or long distances were tracked to a much higher degree of accuracy when using GPS but for those close in shots the active tracking worked much better – the only issue you may have with active tracking is if you have obstacles (such as trees or buildings) between the subject and the camera as this can cause the drone to lose the tracking of the subject.
What we do love about the Mavic Pro is the collision avoidance sensors that make it almost impossible to crash this drone – even when using all of the follow me modes which include:
- Spotlight – Perfect for close up shots and will enable the drone to fly nearby and keep the subject in shot
- Trace – The Mavic Pro will fly and keep you in shot at all times
- TapFly – Select a point on the screen and the Mavic Pro will fly in a straight line to that point whilst keeping the subject in view
- Profile – Fly next to the subject whilst keeping them in shot
- Terrain – The Mavic Pro will follow but stay at the same height above the ground regardless of incline or decline – perfect for hilly environments
Overall, we found the Mavic Pro to be the best pick based on overall ease of use, flight times, image quality and value for money.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
Best for 4K and Collision Avoidance
As you might have already realised, DJI are the daddy when it comes to follow me drones and their latest reincarnation of one of their flagship products is no different – in that it excels at everything it does and provides some of the best videography we have seen on a mainstream drone.
If 4K video is your thing then the Phantom Pro 4 V2 is a must – so long as budget allows. It is not cheap, but it is capable of providing 4K video at a whopping 60FPS (most on this page are limited to 30FPS) and has a battery life of around 30 minutes – which is market leading right now.
If you are concerned about safety then there is no need to be with the Pro 4 V2 as it features no less than 5 directions of obstacle avoidance meaning the hardware has you covered all ends up (and down).
Equipped with a 1 inch 20MP CMOS sensor, the camera on the Pro 4 V2 is the first DJI drone to utilise a mechanical rather than an electronic shutter and makes for some of the best high resolution drone photography and video we have ever witnessed – it even puts the Inspire 2 to the test!
Utilising a 6 camera navigation system the Pro 4 V2 is adept at flying in tricky environments and can navigate the smallest of spaces very well with very little help from a pilot. This 6 camera system also allows the drone to excel when it comes to using follow me and active tracking as it is able to keep a precise distance from camera to subject to ensure the shot looks as smooth as possible – it really has to be seen to be believed.
The DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2 has GPS and GLONASS systems in place, infrared sensors, ultrasonic sensors and 7 cameras in total to assist with obstacle avoidance and tracking. It has all the shot types of the Mavic Pro and more and if budget is not an issue then this could well be the perfect pick.
Best DJI Alternative (and affordable)
Parrot have dabbled in drones for long enough now to know what they are doing. In fact, to say they have dabbled is a little insulting as they have pioneered some of the technology that we now see across the board. They have sometimes been let down by buggy software or hardware that doesn’t quite stack up but the Anafi looks like a beast that is set to take on DJI’s mid range offerings such as the Mavic Pro and Mavic Air.
The Anafi has plenty going for it but with two key advantages over the Mavic Air – its closest rival:
- Price – The Anafi is cheaper than the Mavic Air
- Portability – It folds right down in less than 3 seconds and is ultra portable (it even comes with a case)
Featuring a 4K HDR camera and 3 axis stabilisation (2 axis mechanical gimbal plus 1 electronic) the Anafi certainly packs a punch when it comes to the specs – you can read our full review here.
When it comes to the follow me modes the Anafi has a clear advantage over its rivals and one that Parrot is quick to point out – it has 2.8x lossless zoom which means you can fly the drone up high at a very safe distance (away from tall buildings or trees) but still get shots that are close up. This is an excellent feature and one that we are very happy to see – and indeed we found that using the zoom caused no loss in image quality whatsoever.
The Anafi uses the dedicated app FreeFlight 6 and on the whole the app works seamlessly – the only negative is that to get access to the follow me modes within the app you need to make an in-app purchase. This is relatively inexpensive but is something that Parrot have persisted with over the years despite causing much customer annoyance.
The shot types that are possible with the Anafi are all about cinematic experience and with Reveal, Epic, Rise and 360 you can imagine how those shots might look.
Overall, the Anafi is an excellent choice in the mid range 4K drone category and is a worthy contender to DJI.
DJI Mavic Air
The DJI Mavic Air sports many of the same features as the DJI Mavic Pro and Phantom 4 Pro V2 when it comes to the follow me mode and uses the same DJI Go 4 app that it’s bigger brothers utilise. The Mavic Air is compact, versatile and performs admirably in testing conditions and does so at a snip of the price of a Phantom 4 and even comes in cheaper than the Pro – hence we gave it the best value follow me drone title.
Like its siblings, the Air is capable of producing 4K video (although this is limited to 30FPS) but we have to say how impressed we have been with the footage we took from this UAV. When it comes to tracking and autonomy you get many of the same functions as the rest of the DJI lineup with one key exception – the Air can track up to 16 subjects at a time – perfect for cycling races, marathons and such like.
Again you have the choice of follow me GPS or Active Track and the precision of both of these has to be admired. A 21 minute battery life should be ample for most amateurs to capture some immense footage and the addition of the ability to take 32MP sphere-like panoramas brings a whole new world to the Mavic Air. Quick shots allows you to quickly take some fantastically complex looking videos with Rocket, Asteroid and Boomerang amongst our favourites.
This is a drone that’s made to be used and as such its design lends itself to being portable. In fact, this is the most portable of all the DJI drones with the whole drone being foldable as well as the controller.
The Mavic Air is incredibly easy to fly and visioning sensors to the front, behind, above and below the drone will allow you to stay collision free for your flights.
If you are looking for a follow me drone in the mid-price then the Mavic Air is probably the best bet and it is certainly the best value.
DJI Inspire 2
Best By Far If Budget Is Not A Factor
Most people reading this will most likely gloss straight over the Inspire 2 due to its price point but it still warrants inclusion in our list. Available with or without a camera it is fair to say that the Inspire 2 is designed for professionals rather than the casual user – if you opt for the premium package then you are looking at very serious money for the Inspire 2 cinema package.
The Inspire 2 is the creme de la creme of drones that are available to purchase without the need for a professional licence and this is displayed in the tech specs behind some of the lenses you can use. Capable of 6K video resolution, 7KM range and 94KM/H speed, you start to see what sets this drone apart from the rest – and we haven’t even mentioned image stabilisation (it’s incredible by the way) – if you do want to read more on this drone then check out our full Inspire 2 review.
Best For Portability
Walkera are a well know drone manufacturer (more so in the US than in the UK) and their latest offering, the Vitus is right up there with the Mavic Air and the Parrot Anafi when it comes to portability with quality.
The Walkera Vitus has certainly be designed with both of these features in mind and competes on price with both. Capable of 4K at 30FPS or 1080p HD at 60FPS, the Vitus features front and side obstacle avoidance, GPS and GLONASS positioning to help keep the drone super steady in flight and uses and active tracking recognition system for follow me modes. It has the ability to perform follow me in circle mode, sport mode and waypoint mode as well as being able to perform well indoors.
With speeds of up to 45KMH the Vitus can keep up with most subjects at high speeds and does so whilst producing some superbly smooth videography.
Best Budget Option
Holystone are pretty synonymous with budget drones and they have a pretty good reputation in the industry for producing high quality products at low(er) prices. The HS100 is no exception to this and if you are looking for a cheap drone to follow you around then the HS100 is a good option – so long as you don’t need full 1080p HD that is. The HS100 records at 720p but does have a 120 degree field of view from the 90 degree rotatable camera.
The limitations are of course evident at this price point with just a 0.5KM range and a 15 minute battery life (still not too shabby) but you do get GPS assisted flight to help for smooth shots as well as security in knowing that you won’t lose your drone.
You might not be using the Holystone HS100 for professional video but for creating memories and sharing with your friends it is a dream. There is no active tracking or recognition to speak of but it does use the GPS signal from your smartphone to track and it does so with a good degree of success. It can be used in sync with VR goggles of your choosing and is perfect for selfies or a bit of self indulgent video.
Overall, if you are on a budget and need a quadcopter with GPS tracking then this is a great option.
Best HD Budget Follow Me Drone
The Hubsan H501s has been a favourite of ours for sometime and tops one of our best cheap drones charts. What sets the Hubsan apart at the at the price point is that it has a whopping 20 minutes of battery life as well as full 1080p HD video capture.
It uses GPS for the follow me functions and the only way it is let down is by the fixed camera. That being said, it has an impressive field of view and performs well for video and photography.
You can read more about the Hubsan H501s in our full review or just go straight ahead and check the price using the button below.
Best Follow Me Drones
Our number one pick is the DJI Mavic Pro when it comes to follow me drones, however for that you could just as easily read the Mavic Air or the Phantom Pro 4 V2.0. Realistically, it will come down to budget as to which one you opt for and which one you think will provide you with exactly what you need. Either way, by choosing a drone with GPS and active tracking you are future proofing your purchase and will have everything you need for a good few years to come.
- Ease of use
- Value for money
Easy to use
Quality is awesome in the true sense of the word
Excellent battery life
The software and hardware combined will make you look like a pro
Will be seen as costly by some