9 fun drones you can control with your smartphone

This post was originally published on our sister site DroneRush.com

Traditional RC toys rely on dedicated controllers to operate, but modern technology put an extremely capable smart device in your pocket and many manufacturers look to use it for their new toys. I’m being vague, I refer to quadcopter style drones you can control with your smartphone or tablet.

Higher-end drones still rely on a dedicated remote for actual flight controls, but many toy class units fly using nothing more than an app and a WiFi or Bluetooth connection. Let’s take a look at some of the best on the market today.

DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro

DJI Mavic 2 Pro in hand in New York at the DJI Mavic 2 launch event along with the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

Launched in August 2018, the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro are the same drone, as far as connectivity to your smartphone goes. They have different cameras, offering different modes for different shooting styles, but they are, otherwise, two of the very best drones that DJI has put to market. Through the DJI GO 4 application, or other apps like AirMap and Litchi, you can put a highly capable, speedy but smooth drone into the air.

The DJI Mavic 2 Zoom is $1249 and the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is $1449 ($1849 in Fly More kit bundle.)


Skydio R1

Skydio R1 at InterDrone 2018

Taking things to an entirely new level for obstacle avoidance, the Skydio R1 is a powerful machine with the Nvidia Jetson computer on-board to help navigate. This 4K flying machine pretty much flies itself, just use your mobile device to tell it to take off and follow you, then head on down the road. It’s pretty impressive. Stay tuned for more coverage of this powerful drone. With a significant recent price drop, you’ll still need to save up $1,999 for the Skydio R1

Related reading: Skydio R1 update from InterDrone 2018


DJI Mavic Air

DJI Mavic Air review

I’m sure you’ve heard that DJI has announced the new Mavic Air, a compact, folding drone that packs the best of the Mavic Pro and Spark into one. Well, that goes for flying the quadcopter by hand gestures and using the mobile application. We’ll be bringing you plenty more coverage of this new drone soon, for now, if you like DJI products, were looking for a portable option and wondering which is the best, the Mavic Air is probably the answer. 

Learn more about the Mavic Air:

The Mavic Air is $697 alone, grab the Fly More combo for $894. Regular $799 and $999. 


DJI Mavic Pro

Also seen in our Best drones list, Best camera dronesBest professional drones and DJI Drones guide

DJI Mavic Pro flying mountain featured ch

DJI Mavic Pro reviewWe hesitated to add this here, the Mavic Pro, as with other DJI drones that can be controlled via smartphone, benefit greatly using the controller and smartphone in combination. Thing is, there is a WiFi mode that allows you to take control using just your phone. Range is limited, capabilities are not all utilized, but you can do it. Take the control method out of the equation and I can do nothing more than gush at how great of a drone you are getting here; the compact, folding design is unrivaled today, particularly in this capable of a 4K video recording drone with excellent autonomous features.

Learn more about the Mavic Pro

Check out the DJI Mavic Pro for $875 as the base package, $1,129 in the Fly More bundle from Amazon today. (Watch for sales as low as $800 and $1000. Regular price $999 and $1299.)


DJI Spark

Also seen in our Best drone and Best selfie drones lists

DJI Spark reviewForget your smartphone, control this drone with your bare hands! That’s right, the new DJI Spark was designed for the maximum in ease of use, where a controller can be cumbersome to transport and a smart phone can be used, but maybe you want to save the battery, you can use hand gestures to control the quadcopter. From start to finish, you can fly this drone, capture some aerial selfies and land it right back in your hand.

If you own a larger smartphone, you’ll find it is larger than this drone, it’s that small. I mean, the fuselage is small, there’s still propeller arms and the folding propellers to deal with, but hey, it’s still one of the more portable flying machines around.

Related reading:

Grab the DJI Spark for $310 for the drone alone, a Fly More bundle will run $509. (Regular price $499 and $699.)


Yuneec Mantis Q

yuneec-mantis-q-flying-indoors-6

The compact, folding drone market exploded for consumer class machines, and we’re happy to see Yuneec produce an offering. The Yuneec Mantis Q is one of the smaller offerings, with one of the longest flight times. As far as controlling this drone with your phone goes, it is, perhaps, the most fun around. Yuneec built voice control into this drone! Talk into your phone, it translates your words then transmits the controls to the drone. 

Related: Mantis Q review

You can grab the Yuneec Mantis Q for $439 on Amazon today.


Hubsan X4 H501S Pro

Also seen in our Hubsan drones at CES video

Hubsan Drones GuideWe spent some time with Hubsan at CES behind closed doors, they have some interesting and fun stuff in the pipeline, but next to hit the market will be the new Pro version of the brushless H501S. Despite using their advanced controller with FPV video screen, you can actually fly this drone, as with many other Hubsan drones, using just the app.

They have a special tiny controller in the works that seems little more than a phone dock, which, to be fair, is basically what it is. Put your phone to use on a number of Hubsan drones, including the X4 H501S Pro. or the lesser expensive X4 H501S Brushless for $178 on Amazon today.


Parrot MiniDrone rolling spider

Also seen in our Best drones for kids and Parrot drones guide

It’s a car, nope, it’s a quadcopter? Parrot is not offering both in one device, but the MiniDrone Rolling Spider has large wheels that can spin along, adding a new level of fun and safety to indoor flying. These are not powered wheels, but they do protect the drone from crashing, allow you to scoot along the floor when there is not enough battery life left to take off, and have fun ‘crawling’ up walls when there is power.

Equipped with a small camera, this small drone is controlled by smartphone or tablet and can be yours for $25 on Amazon


Sphero BB-8

Not on any other list, but it’s Star Wars!

What is a drone? The military builds them as highly capable unmanned aircraft for reconnaissance and more, the toy store says it’s a flying multi-rotor remote controlled toy, but if we are to be fairly exact about it, we’re looking at an unmanned craft of pretty much any sort. Under the water, in the air or across the ground, whether autonomous or remote controlled, there are many types of drones, and within these guidelines, Sphero’s BB-8 has got to be one of our favorite.

Control BB-8 with your smartphone, roll along the ground and enjoy some fun sound effects, augmented reality stories and more. Check out our initial thoughts on this toy. I might add that Edgar, who wrote the post, got his hands on this droid at CES 2016. We’re serious fans around here.

Check out Sphero BB-8 for $60 on Amazon today.


Drone Rush Drone Pilot Training banner Pilot-Training-Banner

Special considerations – phone and remote, plus VR

While there are few drones that accept your smartphone as the only input method, don’t forget that you can enhance or augment most flying experiences by adding your phone or tablet into the mix. DJI is a primary player in this setup, most of their drones are made to be control by remote, but then use your phone as FPV video screen.

Our favorite DJI Mavic Pro is a primary example of this, your connected phone displays what the camera on the drone sees. Further, you can control the camera from the phone and you initiate most advanced flying modes from the app on your mobile device.

In this regard, there are many, many drones that you can control, at least in part, using your smartphone.

In terms of VR capabilities with your smartphone and your drone, head on over to our partner site VRSource for David Imel’s take on the best VR drones.

While you’re looking into VR, and flying by phone, why not also check out the DJI Goggles. This new headset can connect to your DJI Mavic Pro, the new DJI Spark and has an HDMI input, so it can act as display for way more than just your drone.


Wrap-up

That sums up some of the best drones you can fly using your smartphone or tablet. There are many, but mostly just toy-class units that you can control completely via mobile device, however, keep your phone charged, it is a valuable tool for most drones even if you can’t directly control them.

Read: The best drones for kids

What is your favorite drone to fly using just your Android phone or tablet?

What’s next?
We’ve got all the Best drones here, or check out our master Drone Rush drones list!

Drone Pilot Training   |   Drone starter guide   |   Drone Manufacturers

Drone Pilot Ground School 1920x238 banner

New FAA rule: Display your drone registration or face fines

FAA drone registration number placement

For more information, see the full article on Drone Rush.

Did you know you have to register your drone with the FAA before you fly in the United States? If you’ve ever been in control of a craft in the sky, I certainly hope you know this rule. Next, the FAA is stepping up the requirements, you’ll need to display your registration number before flight.

Going into effect February 25, 2019, all drones requiring registration will have to display the registration number on the exterior of the craft.

The concept is straightforward, or at least the explanation is. Your car has a license plate, manned aircraft have a tail number and now your drone has a little license plate of its own. These unique identifying numbers are designed to identify the owner of these machines, but only to authorized groups, such as law enforcement and air traffic control.

Your registration number must be visible on your drone.

The average person walking down the street cannot gather your name or address from your car license plate, and nor will they be able to do so from your drone registration number.

The name of the game is accountability. There are other benefits, such as helping identify the owner of a lost drone, but law enforcement is the main goal here. We’ve all heard stories of drones being used to harass people and fly in restricted areas resulting in the shutdown of airports and more. I am sure the folks stuck in the Gatwick airport would have loved to hear that a drone pilot was arrested and prosecuted for the delays. (If it even was a drone causing the grief, but that’s another story.)

Related: New drone? Things to know before you fly

DJI Mavic Pro registration number on propeller arm

What do you do?

While there is no rule on how to display your registration number, the FAA specifically mentions three possible techniques. You can engrave the registration number into the craft, you can use a label maker, or you can grab a marker and just start writing.

Of course, if you do not yet have your registration complete, you’ll have to start there.

Important reminder: If you fly your drone for pay, or are in any way compensated for your drone flight, and take photos or video from the sky — including collecting monetization from a YouTube video — that’s a commercial flight requiring your Part 107 drone license and to follow a different set of rules.

Read more: Learn more about commercial operations

I know this all sounds daunting, but it’s much easier in practice than it appears on paper, I promise. There’s no way around it — if you want to fly, you have to follow the rules.


We’ve got all the Best drones here, or check out our master Drone Rush drones list!

Drone Pilot Training   |   Drone starter guide   |   Drone Manufacturers

Drone Pilot Ground School 1920x238 banner

The gift of flight: Buy drones for Christmas

Drone Rush holiday drone deals 2018

We know many of you do not celebrate Christmas, but we can all take advantage of some great drone deals for the holidays. Whether you are shopping for yourself or for a loved one, here are some drones on sale this year.

Most of these drone deals will last the entire holiday season. Some are just new prices that will remain in place into the new year and beyond.

Following the great Black Friday deals from last month, more than a few top manufacturers have new drone deals on deck. DJI and UVify are leading the way in terms of savings, but sales go beyond the brands, look for general deals from most re-sellers.

DJI holiday deals

(Active until the end of January 1, 2019)

DJI holiday deals 2018

DJI is offering savings on many drones and most of its smaller hand-held camera systems. Some products have savings as much as 30 percent… not too bad!

DJI Drones on sale (Click button below to access)

  • DJI Mavic Air – $699 (save $100)
  • DJI Mavic Air Fly More combo – $899 (save $100)
  • DJI Mavic Pro Fly More combo – $1,199 (Save $100)
  • DJI Spark with controller – $349 (save $50)
  • DJI Spark Fly More combo – $459 (save $50)
  • Ryze Tech Tello – $79 (save $20)
  • Ryze Boost combo – $99 (save $50)
  • DJI Mavic Pro Platinum – $999 (save $100)
  • DJI Goggles RE – $499 (save $100)
  • DJI Goggles RE & backpack – $509 (save $100)
  • DJI Goggles RE racing combo – $639 (save $140)

DJI camera products on sale

  • DJI Osmo Mobile 2 – $119 (save $20)
  • DJI Ronin-S – $549 (save $200)

Don’t forget about that brand new DJI Osmo Pocket, a handheld camera system with superb stabilization in a mobile-sized camera. The Osmo Pocket is $349, and is exactly what some GoPro shoppers actually wanted in the first place.

UVify holiday deals

(Began December 7th, with a new deal each day for 12 days)

UVify holiday deals 2018

Our friends over at UVify have some more racing drones and combos on sale for you this holiday season. Drone racing enthusiasts are the real winners here. (Click button below to access)

  • Dec. 7th: UVify Draco combo – $899
  • Dec. 8th: UVify Draco HD combo – $1,199
  • Dec. 9th: UVify OOri – $389
  • Dec. 10th: UVify Warp9 frame kit – $199
  • Dec. 11th: Avegant Glyph HD headset – $399
  • Dec. 12th: Turnigy Evolution remote – $99
  • Dec. 13th: UVify OOri combo – $399
  • Dec. 14th: Fat Shark Dominator V3 – $299
  • Dec. 15th: Draco camera mount – $50
  • Dec. 16th: Connex ProSight digital receiver – $229
  • Dec. 17th: UVify Flysky controller
  • Dec. 18th: To be announced…

We are still big fans of the UVify OOri. It’s a tiny 50MPH-plus drone that can fly safely in doors. It’s perfect for the winter months when it’s not so hot outside.

Other great drone deals

Nothing specific to see here, folks, just a lump of drone deals we’ve found and think you can take advantage of this holiday season.

  • Eachine E58 (fun Mavic Pro knock-off) – $50 (save $30)
  • Anki Vector toy robot – $175 (save $75)
  • Potensic F181DH beginner’s drone – $80 (save $20)
  • Syma X22W mini camera drone – $41 (save $15)
  • Potensic U51 UFO drone – $16 (save $4)

Check back for more deals as we go!

Please hit the comments section below to share any great deals you stumble across. The holiday season has many savings to offer!

What’s next?

We’ve got all the best drones here, or check out our master Drone Rush drones list!

Drone Pilot Training   |   Drone starter guide   |   Drone Manufacturers

Drone Pilot Ground School 1920x238 banner