Drone is a general term used for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). It is a smaller version of a real aircraft but has no crew inside the vehicle itself.
Although unmanned, the pilot of a drone flies and controls it from a distance using a remote controller. However, drone technology is evolving so rapidly that there are drones that may not even need pilots. Instead of you following your drone, how about a drone that follows you?
The Evolution Of Drone Technology
From the time it was developed as target practice for the Air Force, drones have surpassed their initial utility and have become a handy and fancy gadget for common consumers. The popular forms of drones can be put into two broad categories, commercial and recreational.
Companies like Amazon use commercial drones for delivery purposes. While you need a Remote Pilot Certificate (drone license) to fly a commercial drone, you can start flying a recreational drone without a license. However, you have to register your drone with the FAA (Federation Aviation Administration) if it weighs more than 8.8 pounds (250 grams). There are also some basic rules you have to adhere to while flying a small recreational drone-like, never letting it out of your “line of vision.”
Of the recreational drones, the selfie drones or the drones with cameras have soared in popularity, without a doubt, because of the amazing aerial pictures and videos they can capture. These drones could not evolve faster, and every newer version comes with enhanced features.
The competition is fierce in the industry. With every new model on the market, you see better cameras, longer battery life, a lighter weight, etc. Each feature adds to the quality of its owner’s experience. The latest drones come with a special feature that allows them to autonomously follow their pilot – in other words, a drone that follows you.
Drones That Follow You
Recreational drones with cameras have been all the rage. Selfie drones became a must-have gadget for creative ventures. These drones allowed their owners to go on adventure trails and take aerial pictures and videos. However, one of the problems that these drones had was requiring their pilots to be actively engaged in flying, maneuvering, operating, and controlling the drone. Then came the solution: a drone that follows you.
Why Do You Need A Drone That Follows You?
First of all, why not?
Imagine walking through a nature trail alone with your camera. Every few steps, you are tempted to stop and take a photo, the vista, the trees, the view from the hilltop. It’s time consuming, isn’t it?
Camera drones have helped many adventure seekers capture pictures and videos better than aerial footage of landscapes. But then, as a photographer drone pilot, you may have often missed out on the actual experience. You were too busy flying the drone, and your eyes were checking out the transmitted video instead of the scenery.
But with the advent of these new drones that can follow you, you can enjoy sightseeing without having to look at a screen or adjusting angles. The drone does it all for you. It takes your picture while following you at a safe distance.
You can appreciate the scenery, ride along rough trails, and capture the entire experience at the same time. With the drone’s follow-me feature, you don’t have to worry about traveling solo and not have someone take a photos and video of you with amazing backdrops. You and your drone will be enough to create and recreate memories to last a lifetime.
How Does The Drone Follow You?
Whether you are a vlogger, a blogger, or just another drone enthusiast, this is one drone that will fulfill all your needs. As a vlogger, you can capture aerial footage to feature on your blogs; as a blogger, you can use pictures or videos as well. And as a drone enthusiast, you can explore the various technologies which allow these drones to follow you. So, how do these drones follow you?
GPS in a drone not only allows it to be found when lost, but it can also help the follow-me technology. The remote controller used by the pilot has a built-in GPS transmitter, which tethers the drone to the remote controller. As the drone follows the GPS signal, it automatically follows the pilot. The “follow-me” function in your drone controller uses the GPS tracker.
The downside of using a GPS transmitter to have your drone follow you is the restriction in the distance you have to maintain between the controller and the drone. The recommended altitude to take a standard video is 10-30m and maintain a distance of 10-20m.
Drones can detect and track their owner/ pilot with the vision-based system. This system collects data using the built-in camera. The data then goes through the image processing chain like template matching and morphological filtering, making it possible for the drone to navigate autonomously within a range of distances.
This system also allows the drone to accurately detect the pilot despite variations in lighting conditions or other moving objects/people. It can also detect and avoid obstacles, and overall improve the navigation and control of a drone. With the vision-based system, the drone can follow its pilot within a short-range while navigating autonomously through obstacles.
Some drones like the DJI models come with Active Track mode. This system uses the drone’s camera to focus on a subject/person and then follow it. When you activate this mode in your drone, the camera scans you/the subject, and once the image is locked, it will start following.
Unlike the “Follow me” function, this system allows a longer distance between the subject and the drone. With this system, the drone will follow you despite the distance or other minor obstacles. You can also make the drone follow other objects like your bike, which is impossible with the “Follow me” option.
A drone is equipped with various sensors, like accelerometers, tilt sensors, magnetic sensors, etc., which help maintain overall flight control. A drone that follows you also has obstacle avoidance sensors with algorithms to detect the obstacles in their field of view.
These sensors are placed on different sides of the drone to detect and avoid obstacles from all sides during its flight. Arch obstacle avoidance sensors help the drone to avoid crashing while flying autonomously as it follows its subject/owner.
The 3 Best Options For A Drone That Follows You
The “Follow me” feature is popular in almost all recreational drones or drones with cameras. So, you can choose from a range of drones depending on your budget or the features you seek. Here is a list of the popular drones to follow you:
Priced at $999, this drone boasts breakthrough intelligence in the follow-me drone category. The drone has the best tracking and obstacle avoidance feature. The drone can move around the obstacles in its way and avoid crashing while taking incredible videos with its 4K60 HDR camera.
This lightweight drone comes with the ActiveTrack mode, which allows it to track the pilot/any subject at a constant angle and distance. It also has obstacle avoidance sensors at the front, back and bottom, and maneuvers competently when it detects obstacles.
This compact foldable drone has dual GPS and GLONASS systems to enable the “follow-me” mode. It is equipped with Autel’s Dynamic Track technology, which integrates the vision system with obstacle avoidance sensors. This technology makes this drone one of the best follow-me drones.
A Drone That Follows You Is The Wave Of The Future
The technologies in drones are developing fast and evolving faster. Each new model comes with advanced and refined technology. The same is happening with the follow-me drones. At the moment, these drones have come as a blessing for creative artists and adventure seekers who want to capture rare and difficult videos and photographs.
In the past, it was only possible capture such footage using a large group of people with a variety of tools and equipment. However, a single follow-me drone with a good camera can do what filmmakers with a large crew have been doing until only a few years ago.
Thus, many people can showcase their creative talents and many explorers can bring back clips from their adventures, even when they take up such ventures all alone. It is thanks to technologies like follow-me drones.
These drones still have room for improvement, as the follow-me feature still isn’t perfect yet and does sometimes make mistakes. And even the drones with the best tracking technology cannot fly through a dense forest with tall trees.
So, enhancing sensors and expanding the distance for virtual tethering could allow drones to navigate through forests as well. Also, improving sensors can help the drones navigate through adverse weather, especially windy conditions.
Although every added feature in the latest drone models seems to enhance a consumer’s experience, in the future, these advanced features can be used for rescue missions as well. Since the drone’s tracking feature can be made to track subjects like cars, bikes, trains, airplanes and other objects, there is a lot of possibility still unexplored for such technologies.