What’s the best follow-me drone for sports that can track your movement as you bike, skateboard, ski, or snowboard? Whatever your hobby is, follow-me drones are one of the best ways to photograph or video record action sports.
Drones that cost under $1,000 are capable of setting flight paths and tracking subjects all without any human interaction in-flight, making it so you can capture video while in the midst of action sports like skating or biking.
By the way, if you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here!
There are surprisingly a solid amount of options for follow-me drones that can track you as you move at high speeds, such as on a skateboard or bike. The two biggest factors you’ll have to consider are:
- Your budget
- Camera quality
We’ll break down the best follow-me drones in greater detail later on, but of the follow-me drones out there today, here are the handful that I’d at least recommend in some capacity:
All of the above use vision sensors, recognition tech and complex algorithms to track you — no additional GPS tracker needed (and that’s a good thing). Before we dive into the best follow-me drones, I’ll explain why follow-me drones based on vision sensors are better than follow-me drones based strictly on GPS trackers.
A brief history of follow-me drones
Before advanced sensor recognition technology was widely available in drones, the best follow-me drones used GPS devices like the Yuneec Wizard that synced with the drone. Thus, had you asked me this question in 2017, I would have recommended you buy something like the AirDog ADII, which had users wear a waterproof “AirLeash” tracking device that looked like a large watch.
Other drones had customizable flight path features, where the drone would fly a pre-programmed flight path. The AirDog II actually did both, able to fly in a manner that was a hybrid of the preprogrammed flight path, while still following you and keeping you framed in the shot.
But then the DJI Phantom 4 hit the scene in March 2016, and with it came a revolution. The drone had a sensor that could detect obstacles — and it was smart enough to stall its flight to avoid crashing into them. The DJI ActiveTrack function also debuted with the Phantom 4, making it easy to capture a cinematic shot while flying. That’s because — when enabled — ActiveTrack follows a chosen subject throughout the shot, whether they are walking along a trail, driving a car, or even swimming in the ocean.
That said, the initial DJI Phantom 4 just had one sensor in the front. Useful, but not useful enough. Ever since then, dronemakers have been working to add more sensors to make their drones even smarter. And today, you have loads of options.
These days, the best follow-me drones have omni-directional obstacle avoidance sensors. That should make them smart enough that they can navigate through forests, under bridges and in other dense areas, sensing the obstacles near them and finding ways to navigate around them.
Note that some of the drones listed above have obstacle avoidance sensors on some sides, but not all. Thus, they can’t be considered to have omni-directional obstacle avoidance. If you’re seeking a consumer-friendly drone but you also need to ensure your drone won’t crash, pick from one of these two options below.
These two drones are one step short of being crash-proof (I’d say they are, but the lawyers won’t let them call it that. Plus, inevitably someone will find a way to crash it).
The best follow-me drone: DJI Mavic 3 Pro
As far as consumer grade camera drones go, the best drone that can follow you is the DJI Mavic 3 Pro. Besides its multiple vision sensors (six fish-eye vision sensors and two wide-angle sensors) with an extended sensing range to precisely sense obstacles in all directions, this drone has some pretty sweet tech specs.
The DJI Mavic 3 Pro stands out not just as a follow-me drone, but as a high-quality camera system. The DJI Mavic 3 Pro has a fancy camera system that combines the best of its predecessors, which has included the DJI Mavic 3, the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom.
This drone can claim the title of world’s first three optical camera drone, featuring the following three cameras:
- A custom Hasselblad wide-angle camera (24mm).
- Medium tele camera (70mm).
- Tele camera (166mm).
The camera is awesome, but here’s another standout feature for action sports: the battery life. You don’t want to lose out on the action because you had to fly your drone home to replace the battery. The DJI Mavic 3 battery life is an incredible 43 minutes and can achieve a max flight distance per battery charge of 30 km.
The best follow-me drone if you’re on a budget: DJI Mini 4 Pro
While you lose out on the Mavic 3 Pro’s high-tech camera quality, you’ll save majorly on price with the DJI Mini 4 Pro. The Mini 4 Pro starts at $759.
And as a first for the Mini line, the Mini 4 Pro has omnidirectional sensing, ensuring that the Mini 4 Pro has no blind spots. Using APAS 5.0 technology, the drone actively avoids obstacles and generates new routes to bypass them smoothly.
The Mini 4 Pro is not only safe but portable. It’s the smallest drone on this list with the take off weight of 249g. Read why that is a big deal here.
The Mini 4 Pro has a 1/1.3-inch CMOS camera sensor which will provide good enough quality for most people, especially if you are looking to post to mostly social media.
If your goal is a reliable and safe follow-me drone, then the DJI Mini 4 Pro delivers. It’s got an impressive 34 minutes of flight time, an O4 transmission system, and omnidirectional sensing.
Read my full review of the DJI Mini 4 Pro here.
The best follow-me drone that’s made in America (if you can find it): Skydio 2+
This recommendation only comes to you as a “kind of.” Unfortunately in August 2023, Skydio called it quits on its consumer drone arm, meaning this drone is no longer in production. I’m still recommending it, largely because there just really aren’t any good options for camera drones made in America.
If you can get your hands on one (and yes, you might have luck buying a used Skydio drone), then this drone is an American-made gem. Equipped with six, 200-degree color cameras, Skydio 2 can see everything in every direction so it theoretically never crashes as it follows you.
It costs $1,099 new (though you might have to pay more given that scarcity premium). Other potential upgrades include the controller and Beacon (two must-have accessories).
Unlike the aforementioned follow-me drones that were popular in the past, but that relied on following a device attached to you, the Skydio uses its cameras to lock onto you, while also watching everything around it so it doesn’t hit those things. Plus, it can calculate how to navigate around those things so it can continue on its path, following you as you ski down a mountain or bike through a tunnel.
You can see the Skydio 2, which is the slightly older sibling of the newer Skydio 2+ in action, here:
Some other specs:
- Drone weight (including battery): 775 grams
- Flight time: 27 minutes
- Max Wind Speed Resistance: 25 mph
- 3D World Model Update Rate: > 1 million points per second
- Camera Sensor Type: Sony 1/2.3” 12.3MP CMOS
- Lens: f/2.8, 20 mm (at 35 mm equivalent)
- Communication Range to Phone: 200m
- Communication Range to Beacon: 3 km
- Communication Range to Controller: 3.5 km
Based in California, Skydio is also one of the relatively few American drone companies out there.
The best budget pick if you prioritize dual-cameras: DJI Air 3 drone
The DJI Air 3 is the first drone in the Air Series to include omnidirectional obstacle sensing, which is the key feature you’d need if you’re seeking a follow-me drone for action sports.
The DJI Air 3 is equipped with a pair of fisheye lenses on the front and the back to detect obstacles in all directions, offering up that standard forward, backward, left, right and upward sensing. Meanwhile, the bottom is equipped with binocular lenses and a 3D TOF, which are what contribute to the full, omnidirectional obstacle sensing. From there, obstacle avoidance is achieved via APAS 5.0 tech.
The closest comparison to the DJI Air 3 is the aforementioned Mavic 3 Classic, which is slightly more expensive (the Air 3 starts at $1,099, while the Mavic 3 Classic starts at $1,599). The two each offer various tradeoffs. You’ll get that superior Hasselblad camera on the Mavic 3 Classic, but the Air 3 has two cameras (a wide-angle camera and a 3x medium tele camera). If you need zoom (say, you can’t actually fly the drone over athletic fields) but you still want to film with a drone, then the Air 3 is the best budget pick.
- Order the DJI Air 3 drone from Amazon now, starting at $1,099.
- Order the DJI Air 3 drone from B&H Photo now, starting at $1,099.
What drone do you prefer for action sports? Tell us in the comments, and happy flying!