No controller? No problem.
Given how seamlessly our devices can work together these days, it’s not surprising to find ways to connect your drone with your smartphone. Better yet, you can convert your phone into a remote controller of sorts.
In this department, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro once again leads our list of the best phone controlled drones. This model is not only easy to use but also packed with digital features to explore. Let’s look at other options as well, along with our leading choice.
DJI has various apps to support its different models. For the second DJI Mavic Pro, and the entire Mavic series, it dishes out DJI Go. It’s an “install, launch, and go” kind of app that is compatible with an array of smartphones and tablets. With your mobile device, you can start leveraging this flagship offering of DJI with its 20-megapixel photo and 4K video capabilities.
The tech behind the professional-grade is the Hasselblad camera, coupled with a 1-inch CMOS sensor that delivers reliable ISO and low light performance. However, its Hyperlapse feature can only produce 1080p videos.
The multi-directional obstacle sensing feature ensures stability and safety of flight – minimizing footage interruption. Shooting and flight modes, such as Waypoint and Active Track, enhance the flying experience.
Leading with 31-minute battery life and DJI Goggles pairing function, your money can go a long way with this one. Further, it caters to all levels of pilot skills and is compatible with most smartphones and tablets.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro is Suitable For:
Beginners and professionals can shoot sharp images and dramatic footage with this DJI Mavic Pro upgrade. It can be controlled using a range of smartphones and tablets, including the latest iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy. Samsung Note, Huawei P Series, Vivo X Series, and Google Pixel models.
- The latest DJI Mavic Pro can deliver 20-megapixel photos and 4K videos for professional production.
- Its ISO and low light performance do not disappoint.
- It has multiple flight and shooting modes for more control.
- It is compatible with a variety of smartphones and tablets.
- It allows immersive shooting through DJI Goggles pairing.
- Its Hyperlapse feature is set to 1080p, which may not be enough for some pros.
- It may not be used in urban environments.
- It is not for the budget-conscious.
Best Overall Runner-Up
Aerial mapping has a lot of applications. All of these rely on the accuracy of the data gathered. For surveyors, the DJI Phantom 4 RTK proves to be a reliable tool in getting accurate, real-time positioning at the centimeter level.
Boosting the benefits you derive from this drone is the feature that lets you plug any Android or iOS device, on which you can install any DJI Mobile SDK-enabled app.
The Phantom platform powers this model, which boasts of a 1-inch, 20-megapixel CMOS sensor for data capture. And responsible for its accurate low-altitude imaging is the shutter and high-resolution combo. Meanwhile, the RTK component lets you correct the location data, and the TimeSync system aligns your camera, controller, and module.
This tool has a ton of other features that cannot be enumerated here. You can fly it for a maximum of 30 minutes, which can give you enough coverage for your fieldwork.
DJI Phantom 4 RTK is Suitable For:
Professionals from surveyors to photographers and videographers can benefit from the mechanical shutter and large sensor found in this unit. Android and iOS users can harness the power of the Phantom platform by plugging their device and installing any compatible DJI Mobile SDK-enabled app.
- It makes aerial mapping easier with accurate positioning at the centimeter level.
- It lets you use any DJI Mobile SDK-enabled app that is compatible with your iOS or Android device.
- It produces high-quality images thanks to a mechanical shutter and a large sensor.
- It can correct location data through the RTK component.
- It has a record of 30-minute flight time at the most.
- It may have a limited range for the live video feed.
- Like other DJI drones, you can bundle this unit with the DJI Care Refresh, which is a paid warranty.
Among those you can connect and transmit to your mobile device is the Holy Stone HS100 Navigator. It is made for professional and amateur users alike. Providing a 500-meter control distance, this quad is stable and easy to fly even in the breeze. It delivers 2K (2048 x 1152) resolution images and videos, available in wide shots and multiple angles.
While viewing your footage in real time through an app, you can rely on the wind-resistant modes that make launching, flying, and landing fuss-free. You can activate the Follow Me mode to allow the unit to follow you and keep you in the frame while you move. It can last up to 15 minutes in the air.
This one is compatible with 3D VR glasses. And it only costs around $150, making it one of the most affordable options for people pursuing photography and videography. Its weight can be a downside to some people.
Holy Stone HS100 Navigator is Suitable For:
With a phone app that takes you through the steps of flying, this drone is a dependable choice for both beginners and experts alike. If you are looking for a model to use in photography or videography, you can check out this one. It’s ideal for people on a budget with its pocket-friendly price.
- It is simple and stable during its flight in the breeze.
- It produces 2K resolution photos and videos, available in wide shots and multiple angles.
- It can be connected to a phone for transmission.
- It has a control distance of 500 meters.
- It has a Follow Me feature that keeps you in the frame and follows your movements.
- It is a budget-friendly choice for some consumers.
- It may be too heavy for some users
- Its durability is yet to be tested.
Best Value Runner-Up
DJI Spark users can also sync their smartphones and install the DJI go-to app, DJI. This portable, lightweight mini-drone does not skimp on the signature DJI features. For a smaller quad, it is capable of transmitting 720p videos in real-time, from up to 2 kilometers away. It is also fast and agile when running on Sport Mode. Adventure seekers may find it perfect for outdoors.
Amp up the flight experience with the DJI Goggles. You can launch it with only hand gestures as well. It works indoors and in low altitudes with ease. But at its $600 price tag, it is more expensive than the Mavic Mini, which is another favorite among beginners. Still, it has one of the best aerial photography cameras in its size category.
When it comes to warranty, DJI offers replacement of the product twice in a year through the DJI Care Refresh, which is not included in the unit’s retail price.
DJI Spark is Suitable For:
Tap into your creativity with this portable option for professional photographers and videographers. Its features cater to experts while remaining intuitive and easy to use. However, it is not designed to be a practice drone despite its size. So it can come off as pricey for some buyers. Because of its Sports Modes it is also great for adventure seekers.
- It can transmit 720p videos from up to 2 kilometers away.
- It is portable, lightweight, and easy to use.
- It boasts of intuitive functions and features, such as the use of hand gestures.
- It can connect to a variety of mobile devices.
- It can last up to 16 minutes in the air.
- It works both indoors and outdoors.
- It can be pricey for its category.
- It has low wind-resistance.
Imagine flying a racing drone, capturing aerial footage with a fast aircraft. The Hubsan H122D X4 Storm offers such an experience. Inspired by the game, this quad connects to a head mount or a handset to give you a robotic racing overview. However, it is tinier than actual racing models and works best in low winds or indoors.
With a pre-configured monitor, you can launch the drone with ease. It can then transmit and record footage in real-time. Make sure it is within a 100-meter distance from your device or controller. It has a short flight time as well, only a good six minutes.
But given the $100 price tag, it provides decent aerial photography or videography. You can also use it to practice drone racing with friends. The product is covered by Hubsan’s one-year limited warranty.
Hubsan H122D X4 Storm is Suitable For:
This model is designed for indoors and low winds. It can transmit video well. But it can also be used as a practice drone for racing. Those who want to snag a great deal, this one offers the cheapest option in the industry. Before flying your drone, check out the regulatory rules in your state. Also, remember to register your device with the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).
- It gives you a glimpse of drone racing.
- It can record and transmit 780p high-definition (HD) videos in real-time.
- It arrives with a pre-configured monitor, so a tune-up won’t be necessary.
- With a below $100 price, it can work as a practice drone.
- It is smaller than a standard racing drone.
- Its range is pretty short compared to other models.
- It does not last long in the air.
- It cannot maintain its altitude hold where there are strong or high winds.
Best Budget Runner-Up
Pilot your Parrot Bebop 2 with a FreeFlight 3 piloting app. This model is multipurpose and can work both indoors or outdoors.
The Parrot Bebop 2 is multipurpose, so you can use it in filmmaking, photography, or simply flying. You can take up 1080p full HD visuals with its 14-megapixel lens with RAW or DNG outputs. Your photos and videos can remain clear in low light.
It is considered a lightweight drone HD camera with its weight of below 500 grams. That means it is portable and intuitive, but its 25 minutes is a heavyweight in terms of independent flight time.
It has a Follow Me feature to ensure tracking while you move about. This GPS tracking system is available on the FreeFlight app for a fee. The state-of-the-art visual functions are hard to beat at this price point.
This camera drone costs around $550.
Parrot Bebop 2 is Suitable For:
This model caters to casual, everyday users to professional videographers with its intelligent framing and flying features. With a price that is a little less expensive than those of DJI drones, it can appeal to customers who are looking for a decent drone at a reasonable price.
- It is compact and lightweight for more flexible shooting in any terrain.
- It can deliver videos in 1080p full HD.
- It produces clear photos, even in low light.
- It can frame and follow you intelligently with its smart features.
- It can last up to 25 minutes in the air.
- The product does not include the Follow Me feature already, you need to purchase on the app.
- Its camera focus may be a bit inconsistent.
How Far Can a Drone Be Controlled?
Assuming you’re asking about consumer drones, the answer is – it depends.
First, you can tell how far the quad can go by knowing the range limit of the remote controller. The Hubsan H122D X4 Storm, for instance, has to maintain 100 meters of distance at the most. The likes of the DJI Mavic Pro can transmit from up to 7 kilometers. Other long-distance drones can reach 12 km.
To extend the signal range, you can use a WiFi extender or repeater. Now, if you can extend to 10 km, should you do so? Take note that the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) requires that you operate your drone within the line of sight. So that idea may be far-fetched for now.
How Do You Connect a Drone to Your Phone?
Most drone models come with an app, which you can download to and access on your smartphone. You can then use the app to control your unit as it takes off, lands, or flies.
To connect the app:
- Open Settings on your device.
- Check your WiFi connection.
- Look for the name of your drone and click on it.
Once the connection is up, open the app. You can start controlling your drone from there, as long as you’re following the instructions on how to operate it via the app. Take note that some apps won’t work on certain versions of your smartphone’s OS (operating system).
What App Do I Use For My Drone?
You can download and install the partner app specifically developed for your drone. We mention the right app to match in the review of each model. There are category-based apps as well that you can try to enhance the performance of your unit. Airmap, Hover, Google Maps, and UAV Forecast are some examples.
Some settings like the headless mode can be activated across entry-level drones through apps. Others are specific to a product, such as the Fly More Combo and obstacle avoidance, which usually applies to DJI models.
Some drones come with a remote controller. Usually, the manufacturers of the top models include one in the package to make it easier for the user to get to work. But in case you don’t have it, you can still control your quad with your mobile device. Above, we just listed and reviewed the best examples of smartphone-controlled drones on the market.
DJI leads the way in this department with the DJI Mavic 2 Pro. This version displays versatility in flight, capturing high-quality photos or videos. It’s aimed at the pros, but intermediate users can benefit from its advanced features as well. It’s lightweight and a breeze to launch in fine weather.
Coming in second is the Phantom 4 RTK, again from DJI, which is regarded for its contribution to aerial mapping for surveyors. It’s designed for a different purpose, yet it is consistent in showcasing the DJI brand of photography and videography. These functionalities are on top of the drone’s ability to make accurate measurements.
Of course, it does not end there. Scroll through the rest of the options to discover the specifics that speak to your needs and wants. The technical side is important to know before you shop, but flying a drone should also be fun and carefree (just mind the rules and regulations of the FAA).
Stay tuned for more information about drones, accessories, and aerial photography here on droneswatch.org. All rights reserved, 2020.