Follow Me Drones: What Are They & How Do They Work?

Last updated December 17th, 2019
A woman at the top of a mountain

Drones are taking the world by storm and getting more popular each year. With the help of a simple, hand-held controller, you can direct your drone to capture stunning images and videos of your surrounding for miles.

But what happens when you want to be the subject of the videos or pictures?

It would be hard to look Insta-perfect when you are rooted to the spot with a lumpy controller in your hands.

Do you call a friend to take over the controls while you pose or move along?

Luckily, that doesn’t have to happen in this day and age.

Drones have come a long way and there are now many drones on the market that are perfectly capable of following you around and are as efficient at doing so as any human pilot would be — maybe even moreso.

Today, with follow me drones, you could be your own cast and crew, performing and filming the perfect holiday video all on your own.

You could film yourself walking your dog, skiing down a snowcapped mountain, diving into the pool, or doing whatever action-filled event you deem worthy of being captured on camera.

What Is a “Follow Me” Drone?

Follow Me drones are drones that come programmed with software to automatically follow you around once that feature is chosen.

These drones first came on the market in 2016, and have come with better innovations every year since then. Today they come with a host of innovations and options designed to give you several flying and filming options.

How Does a Follow Me Drone Work?

There are 2 ways in which drones make use of Follow Me technology.

GPS Technology/GPS Beacon Tracking

This is the most straightforward way to program a drone to stay on your tail and follow you. GPS beacon tracking involves putting a tracking device on the person or object which you want your drone to follow.

Different manufacturers use different approaches to enable this effect. For example, some use a WiFi connected phone; others use waterproof wristband trackers.

GPS technology works so well in transforming your device into a drone that follows you because it gives the drone a specific target to aim for.

A follow me drone that uses GPS technology would be great for filming action sports and other activities that require quick, sometimes sudden movement. So long as you are wearing the wristband, the drone should be able to keep up, effectively keeping the subject in the picture at all times.

Machine Vision Tracking/Recognition Technology

This is the technology that you would find in most commercial drones found on the market today. A drone that follows you through this system is equipped with sophisticated software that tries to recognize the object that it is supposed to be tracking.

As you can imagine, this technology was fraught with problems at its inception.

Making sure your drone stayed on your tail was often hit and miss and sometimes a simple shadow would throw your drone off its target and have it chasing something else. But that was a long time ago.

Today, the technology has advanced so much that a drone that follows you using recognition technology is able to even predict where an object will reappear if it disappears behind another object.

Machine vision even comes now with the spatial sensors that can detect objects in 3D space and prevent drones from crashing.

Follow Me Drone Software

The software that enables these follow drones to work effectively is usually built into the overall drone application or system. A lot of these applications are proprietary, with each manufacturer owning theirs.

Some other manufacturers program their follow me mode software into the Ground Station Controller instead, enabling the pilot to be followed in the click of a button.

In both cases, the software makes use of sophisticated algorithms to track the object and keep it in view at all times. Most pieces of software even allow the pilot to program the gimbal and camera with preset distances, heights, and angles that fit with their cinematic vision and perspectives.

Follow Me Maximum Distances

Each drone manufacturer assigns different distance ranges with their follow me technology. You’re best off checking on the packaging or within the instructions to find out the maximum distance for your device.

However, you probably want to keep the distance short while you are still getting used to your drone. Putting too much distance between you and your transmitter would increase the risk of both losing connection.

Flight Safety

To avoid your drone crashing into an obstacle and causing your grief, you want to activate the Follow Me mode while you are in a great, open, outdoor space so that there can be no breaks in the GPS signal.

It would be advisable to plan your route in advance, and be mindful of any obstacles on the way which could possibly damage your drone or obstruct the signal. If you can’t do that, you can program your drone to fly over these obstacles and film you from the air.

And also, when you activate the follow me function, make sure to keep one eye on your battery. It’s easy to get carried away with filming yourself in follow me mode that you forget about the batteries. The last thing you want is to be reminded when your drone powers down and lands from the sky.

Home Point

Almost every drone today allows pilots to designate a physical position as a “home point” by activating a “return to home” function. It is advisable to take advantage of this function, rather than skip over it.

Advantages of Follow Me Drones

Follow me drones are used for capturing a wide range of fast paced activities. They give you the ability to free your hands so that you can enjoy the moment, while assured that the best bits are captured in high-resolution.

Some of the recent models also come with 360-obstacle avoidance that functions even at high speed. This means you don’t have to keep one eye on your merchandise as you go forward.

Unlike other drones that can only ever enable you concentrate on the environment around you, follow me drones allow you become the star of the show. And that is something that millions of people consider worth paying for.

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