The best follow-me drone for tracking sports like skateboarding, biking

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 mountain 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:

  1. Your budget
  2. 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 which rank among the best camera drones, period):

All of the above use vision sensors, recognition tech, and complex algorithms to track you — no additional GPS tracker is 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. 

The Skydio 2 followed me AND navigated itself around these dense trees.

That said, the initial DJI Phantom 4 just had one sensor in the front. Useful, but not useful enough. Ever since then, drone makers 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 omnidirectional 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 omnidirectional obstacle avoidance. If you’re seeking a consumer-friendly drone but you also need to ensure your drone won’t crash, ensure it has the omnidirectional obstacle avoidance feature:

The best follow-me drone: DJI Mavic 3 Pro

The DJI Mavic 3

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 the Mavic 2 Zoom.

This drone can claim the title of the world’s first three optical camera drone, featuring the following three cameras:

  1. A custom Hasselblad wide-angle camera (24mm).
  2. Medium tele camera (70mm).
  3. Tele camera (166mm).

And of course, camera quality is awesome, but it’s really the actual tracking features that super matter. The DJI Mavic 3 Pro has an impressive software called FocusTrack. That system includes features including ActiveTrack 5.0, Spotlight, and Point of Interest, all of which enable stable tracking shots.

ActiveTrack 5.0 can track subjects in eight directions, by relying on multiple vision sensors that can simultaneously recognize a subject (and differentiate it from other objects). From there, it can lock the subject in the frame.

DM Productions did a pretty compelling test where the drone followed cars and e-bikes driving out in the desert just to demonstrate how it works. Check this out (there are some pretty epic shots in here):

And sure, the DJI Mavic 3’s tracking and 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

The 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.

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.

Skydio 2+ Pro Kit Upgrade

The best follow-me drone that’s made in America (if you can find it): Skydio 2+

Based in California, Skydio is also one of the relatively few American drone companies out there. Given that, the Skydio 2+ should be a surefire win if you’re seeking a follow-me drone that’s made in America.

Equipped with six, 200-degree color cameras, Skydio 2 can see everything in every direction so it theoretically never crashes as it follows you.

Alas, 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. Consider checking eBay.

It went for $1,099 new, though you might have to pay more now 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
Sally French, The Drone Girl, reviews the DJI Air 3

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 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.

The best action camera if you don’t actually need a drone: DJI Osmo Action 4

I love drones, and you probably came here seeking a drone. But sometimes, drones aren’t always the most ideal for filming. If you’re trying to, say, film a bike ride, you may very well end up way too focused on the drone itself — and not really get a chance to ride. It can also be useful if you want that drone-like style in a place where drones are not allowed, such as a National Park. If that’s the case, you might rather have an action camera then a drone.

The DJI Osmo Action 4 delivers exactly that as a high-quality, durable and teeny tiny camera. It’s 1/1.3″ sensor offers up amazingly high video quality. Plus, an impressive stabilization algorithm makes even a bumpy ride appear smooth. Check it out in this epic demonstration video from DJI:

All the best follow-me drones, compared:

Those are our top picks, so how do they stack up against each other? Here’s all those drones (and the Osmo Action 4 action camera) compared to one another:

DJI Mavic 3 ProDJI Mini 4 ProSkydio 2+DJI Air 3 droneDJI Osmo Action 4
Price$2,199$759No longer sold$1,099$299
Best for…Best overallBest budget pickBest made-in-America optionBest for dual camerasBest non-drone alternative
Sensing typeOmnidirectional obstacle avoidanceOmnidirectional obstacle avoidanceOmnidirectional obstacle avoidanceOmnidirectional obstacle avoidanceN/A
Tracking systemFocusTrack, which includes ActiveTrack 5.0, Spotlight, and Point of InterestActiveTrack 360Tracks people and motor vehicles. Select up to 10 simultaneous objects of interestFocusTrack, which includes ActiveTrack 5.0, Spotlight, and Point of InterestSportsTrack
Weight958 gramsUnder 250 grams775 grams720 grams145 grams
Max flight time43 mins.34 mins.27 minutes46 mins.N/A
Image SensorHasselblad Camera:
4/3 CMOS;
Medium Tele Camera:
1/1.3-inch CMOS;
Tele Camera:
1/2-inch CMOS
1/1.3-inch CMOS1/2.3″ CMOSWide-Angle Camera:
1/1.3-inch CMOS, Effective Pixels;
Medium Tele Camera:
1/1.3-inch CMOS
1/1.3-inch CMOS
Effective Pixels48 MP (medium tele camera), 20 MP (Hasselblad camera), 12 MP (tele camera)48 MP12.3MP 48 MP10 MP (still mode)

What else to know about follow-me drones

Do I need a license to use a follow-me drone?

Maybe. Under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107, people flying drones commercially need a drone pilot license. Formerly referred to as a “remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating” you earn that certificate by passing an in-person written exam., which many people refer to as the “Part 107 test.” I created an entire blog post and video explaining what my test experience was like, which you can see here. Most people learn how to pass this test by enrolling in an online Part 107 course.

Then again, if you’re just flying follow-me drones for fun (e.g. you’re not profiting off the flight), no license is needed. You simply must pass the TRUST test for recreational pilots (it’s super easy), register your drone, and ensure it’s Remote ID compliant.

Can follow-me drones track animals?

Using drones for tracking animals, such as using drones in dog sports, is a key use case. That said, the drone’s ability to track animals (and even smaller objects, like kids) is mixed.

While DJI ActiveTrack 4.0 and 5.0 are technically capable of following pets, the precision can vary depending on conditions. In particular, ActiveTrack performs better when tracking one subject at a time. Especially with situations like a herd of animals you’re trying to follow that all look the same to a drone the drone more easily gets confused. That’s opposed to a person, which the drone can better distinguish given features like outfit, hair color, etc.

What’s the best follow-me drone for mountain biking?

Some drones are better suited to specific use cases. While many of the best drones for mountain biking aren’t any different than the follow-me drones named here, there are some nuances to consider when on a bike. With that, check out my guide to the best follow-me drones for mountain biking.

What is the maximum forward sensing distance on the DJI Mavic 3?

This drone is not just smart, but it can see well ahead of its path. The DJI Mavic 3 Series has a max forward-sensing distance of 200 meters during RTH. That’s far higher than the max distance of just 20 meters on previous generations of Mavic drones.

What is the difference between follow me and active track?

Active Track is effectively a far more advanced version of your standard follow me drone. ActiveTrack can allow you to mark and track multiple moving objects on the controlling device’s screen. That’s all without the need of an external tracking device. DJI’s ActiveTrack system relies on both GPS and vision recognition.

What is P-mode?

P-mode is a feature specific to DJI drones. In fact, flying in P-mode is the only way to enable DJI ActiveTrack. P-mode effectively activates both the drone’s GPS signal strength and visual recognition system. That’s as opposed to something like S-mode, where the drone only uses GPS to locate itself.

What drone do you prefer for action sports? Tell us in the comments, and happy flying!

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