To simplify the science behind the technology, there’s two ways the feature works. The first is via tracking equipment. The subject will wear a tracking device that transmits a signal to the drone, and it’ll process the data in real-time to sustain position. The second way is a bit more intelligent, as newer systems can process aerial data and track a subject without the need of a transmitter.
This is always another question involved with drones that have integrated tracking features. The short answer is yes. Of course it’s unit-dependent, but there are drones out there that can fly over 70mph while the tracking mode is engaged. To further this, now that obstacle-avoidance-sensors are a thing, they can also track along difficult terrain (think following a motocross rider through a forest–the drone having to autonomously avoid smashing into a tree). How intuitively and efficiently a drone can track a subject depends on its build–usually pertaining to the quality–but these are all problems that have been solved.
If that’s what you want to know, look no further. We’ve made a long list of some of the best tracking-capable drones on the market. Enjoy.
Best Follow Me Drones
The Solo was built by 3D Robotics. They teamed up with GoPro to create a drone that can fluidly integrate their line of cameras. With great success, the 3DR Solo--when released--was the first drone that could live-stream FPV directly from a GoPro. The reason it’s listed is--amidst their intelligent components--they also sport a ‘follow me’ mode. Better yet, with the GoPro Hero line, they can capture their subject in 4k. With a quick Google search you’ll see the testaments of pilots that have implemented this flight mode, and just how effective it is. But perhaps one of the biggest selling points is that the 3DR Solo can fly up to 55mph while tracking, which makes it faster than a lot of drones in the price range. It also can sustain flight for half an hour each go. If you already own a GoPro Hero 3 or the generation above, then this is a perfect choice for you. If not, it’ll be a bit more expensive, but remains to be a fantastic follow me drone.
Coined the ‘selfie’ drone, this machine was engineered specifically for the follow me feature. It can hold and integrate GoPros, and sustain the tracking feature at speeds up to 45mph. For under 1k you’re getting a drone that has a system built for tracking (everything from different flight patterns to framing algorithms), can fly for up to 20~ minutes a time, and has a stomach full of failsafe tech to ensure your bird won’t crash land behind you when you’re charging that fifteen foot jump on your unicycle.
Arguably the best bang-for-your-buck on the market right now, the sub 1k DJI Mavic Pro is truly the mark to beat. It’s a compact, intelligent, highly-capable drone that dropped at the end of last year, and has become rapidly popular in the community. Three things to know about the tracking capabilities of this drone: it can track a subject using aerial data, fly up to 35mph while tracking, and can keep an obstacle avoidance system active. Not to mention that it can shoot in 4k at 60fps. Truth is: you’ll find that most DJI products have some form of tracking (often with a follow me feature available), but it’s the Mavic Pro and the DJI Phantom 4 Pro that can do it at higher speeds, while the obstacle avoidance system is active.
Now the Phantom 4 Pro and the Phantom 4 Advanced are streamlining the top of the Phantom line. The 4 Pro is an incredible ‘follow me’ drone, being that it can shoot in 4k with a wider FOV than the Mavic, and its obstacle avoidance system is actually 360 degrees, meaning it covers more. While it can’t keep the OAS on while flying at 45 mph, it can if the drone is going a bit slower, and while the ‘follow me’ mode is active. Enjoy any activity and let your Phantom 4 Pro swim through the air behind you: also, DJI’s tracking feature is intuitive enough to allow for different variations of the shot framing. Meaning when the drone is tracking you, it can capture multiple different angles, dependent on what you desire.
This drone--which looks like it plays for the Lakers--was built specifically to be an auto-follow machine. It can fly for around 20~ minutes per charge, supports GoPros, and is highly portable. One of the most impressive aspects of the AirDog is a feature that allows it to follow the grade of terrain. This means if you’re constantly changing elevations (think snowboarding), it’ll adapt to your position. While most drones can only follow you up in altitude, the AirDog can do both (this is extremely rewarding--and often a selling point). It’s built for the outdoors, so it’s water-resistant and can sustain low winds. It too, like the aforementioned drone, can follow at different angles (although a bit more limited). It flies up to 40mph~ and has integrated ground-collision-avoidance technology, although it doesn’t have full on obstacle avoidance. If you’re wondering how this drone fares against the Phantom machines or 3DR Solo, we’ll explain in one sentence: while it’s not as intuitive as those units, it’s built to be ‘right in the action’, and it does it better than perhaps any drone on this list.
The predecessor of the before mentioned Phantom 4 Pro, the Phantom 4 too incorporates the ‘follow me’ feature. The difference is--while having an obstacle collision avoidance system--it’s not 360 degrees (only the front and sides). Just as well the camera isn’t as optimized, but a big plus is there isn’t that big of a difference between the two units, and the Phantom 4 is a lot cheaper now due to the release of the two upgraded models. It can shoot in 4k, fly up to 45mph, and track a subject without the subject needing to wear any sort of device. This is the drone that disrupted the market and borne a new potential to the consumer drone, one that exploded with so much competition and drive we’re where we are now because of it. It’s a fantastic drone to use as a ‘follow me’ machine, and it’s DJI engineered (you can’t go wrong there).
Flypro--in the same vein as the AirDog--engineered this drone specifically to follow a person during their action shots. It’s built to autonomously follow and detect your movements, and then adapt to the terrain around you. Best yet, like the DJI machines, it comes with its own 4k camera so you won’t have to invest in a GoPro or an aerial camera of that sort. In terms of the follow me function, the Xwatch (their controller) fits snuggly on the users wrist and allows you to fully control the flight altitude, speed, and position of your drone all the while live-streaming flight data (not the FPV, that’s a bit too high-tech for a little watch as of now). The dual-compass and GPS unit allot impressively high position accuracy, and the drone can actually fly up to 16,000 feet. This is a great purchase for those of you that want to record your high-intensity sports.
Much cheaper than all of the aforementioned drones (and by that we mean a fraction of the price), this little drone is a great way to get started with ‘follow me’ drones. It shoots in 1080p and can sustain flight for around 20 minutes. It flies up around 20~ mph and transmits at 5.8GHz. Thing is, without a gimbal, the footage--while already being of lower quality--doesn’t stabilize well. But you have to know what you’re getting for $200, and this drone can still follow you as you go on mountain biking adventures or if you’re longboarding down a long stretch of road. It’s a great taste into what the technology offers, and might even inspire you to ‘up your game’ once you’ve gotten comfortable piloting it, and you’ve become fluid in the intelligent flight systems. Still, the 1080p footage isn’t bad for a drone of this caliber, and it’s still guaranteed to be tons of fun.
In a league of its own, this machine engineered specifically for top league professional drone photographers has a fantastic ‘follow me’ feature. Not to mention that it can record 4k at 25fps (RAW), fly further than 15,000 feet in the air, and hit speeds up to 60mph. When the follow me feature is activated, you’ll have no issues with this drone keeping position behind you. The quality of the footage vastly trumps that of the aforementioned drones on this list, and it can compete with high-speed live action sports. However, due to these capabilities, it does suffer a bit with flight time; it can only fly for around 15~ minutes per flight.
This hexacopter comes with a 360 degree gimbal (retractable landing gear) and a camera that can capture footage in 4k (the CGO3+). It’s versatile enough that it allows you to choose between two different ‘follow me’ modes. One of which requires a GPS transmitter, while the other just locks onto a subject and uses aerial data to analyze tracking positioning and follow along. The Wizard stick, a little mini-stick controller that comes with the drone, allows you to actually pilot it (and for it to follow you). A lot of adventurers love this device, being that not only does it work when ‘follow me’ is activated, but it allows you to control the drone while on the go. It flies for around 25~ minutes and can hit speeds up to 45mph. Yuneec has really made a stand lately in the drone world--and their drones continue to gain popularity. Also, despite integrated fail-safe systems, this drone is a hexacopter, allotting more room for rotor failure in the case that something bad happens.
This dynamic, ‘follow me’ drone comes equipped with a camera that can shoot in 4k at 60fps. Similar to the aforementioned wizard stick, the Ehang sports a new system called the ‘Avatar Control.’ Basically you download the application to your phone and then you can control the drone by the movement of your phone. Meaning you tilt your phone a certain way, and the drone follows suit. It flies for around 15~ minutes (notable for having some battery issues, heads up), and can hit speeds around 30mph, dependent on the payload. While the Ghost Drone 2.0 isn’t a community favorite, a lot of novice pilots choose it because of its ease of use. It’s ready-to-fly right out of the box, capable, and can take 4k footage. All that for under $500 is certainly worth considering.
Another 3D Robotics machine, the Iris features the ‘follow me’ feature. The GPS unit allows for high position accuracy, and fares well in air. It comes with a camera that shoots in 720p, but can also sport GoPros (Hero 3 and above). It’s a very user-friendly drone and you don’t need a transmitter for it to track along with you. It’s ready-to-fly right out of the box, and flies for around 20~ minutes per charge (payload dependent). While it’s no Solo, it’s a perfect fit for novice pilots that have a bit bigger budget than a ‘toy drone’ and want some footage of their adventures. To make matters better, there’s room for improvement. As we mentioned you can strap a GoPro on the machine and create a 4k capable aerial camera. However, don’t expect it to fare well in harsher conditions.
This is an expensive mini drone capable of the ‘follow me’ feature. It shoots in 1080p and the camera isn’t stabilized by a gimbal, rather it’s built into the drone itself. While this may not be the best choice for rigorous outdoor activity, it’s still highly capable. Fit with both Glonass and GPS units, it has high-position accuracy and responds well when tracking. It flies for around 20~ minutes and can hit speeds up to 25mph (faster if the camera is removed and the payload lessened). Aside from the follow me feature, it also can live-stream FPV, return home autonomously, and hover in place if you let go of the controls. One downside is there isn’t a dedicated controller, so it will need to be piloted via a smartphone, and that can often be a deciding factor for some people. However, it’s capable, nimble, portable, and is sure to follow you around on your not-so-rigorous adventures.
Autel Robotics X-Star Premium
A lot of people say that this is a Phantom 4 knockoff, which is actually a compliment when you compare their specs and see that they aren’t so different. Any comparison to a DJI machine is a good one. The X-Star Premium can fly for 25~ minutes, shoot in 4k, and has a stomach full of intelligent tech guts. The ‘follow me’ feature of the drone doesn’t require a GPS honing device, and can instead be used like the DJI models (by selecting a subject on the screen and tracking via aerial data). While it’s dramatically slower than the models (clocks in somewhere around 20mph), it’s still a fantastic tracking drone if you don’t need it to follow your sports car in a drag race, or through a forest when you’re dirt biking. The 3-axis gimbal stabilizes and controls the picture, and the modular design balances flight autonomously. While Autel Robotics has kept their arsenal of drones rather simple, the X-Star Premium has wowed a lot of pilots that gave it a chance.
As you can see, there’s a slew of ‘follow me’ drones on the market. Better yet, they’re all incredibly dynamic. You have some models tailored towards you GoPro lovers. Others for those of you that care less about the flight capabilities, and more about the footage quality. And then those that can follow you closely despite your elevation, and be your companion when you hit that 30 foot kicker on your snowboard and land elegantly on your tail. It’s important that–when purchasing a drone specifically for the ‘follow me’ feature–you do the proper research to ensure the drone you’re purchasing is capable of the type of play you want.