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 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 Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection. Let’s take a look at some of the best on the market today.
Why trust Drone Rush?
I’ve been a fan of flight since a young age; while I’ve had few opportunities at the helm of manned aircraft, the hours on my fleet of drones continue to grow. I enjoy putting cameras into the sky, silky smooth aerial imagery makes me happy. My goal is to help all pilots enjoy flight legally and safely.
Drones controlled by smartphone
DJI Air 2S: Best drone under $1,000
The DJI Air 2S is simply our top pick for the best drone under $1,000, which makes it our top pick for any pilot that wants to fly a camera for fun. To be fair, almost all DJI drones can connect directly to a mobile device, and they all offer nearly the same control functionality, so the advantage to this drone is the drone itself not the connectivity. Ignoring the mobile connectivity range, the Air 2S is a class-leader in terms of range, with up to 7.5 miles of connectivity when connected to the remote control.
Should I buy the DJI Air 2S?
If you are looking for the best possible camera drone that can connect directly to a mobile device, the Air 2S is the one for you!
- Great 5.4K camera
- Easy and fun to fly
- Limited controls without the remote
DJI Mini 2: Best drone under $500
The DJI Mini 2 is the best drone under $500. It includes a capable 4K camera, good flight time, and weighs under 250g, so you do not have to register with the FAA before you fly. If portability is your goal, there are few drones that travel as easily as the Mini 2.
Should I buy the DJI Mini 2?
We love the DJI Mini 2 for how portable it is, and we are genuinely impressed with the camera output at this price point and size of drone, however, we use bigger drones for professional video shoots.
- Fun and easy to fly
- Good 4K camera
- Weighs under 250g
- Very portable
- Only a ‘good’ camera
DJI Mavic 2 Pro: Best consumer drone
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro may be an older drone, but it still ranks as the best consumer drone on the market. The large camera sensor captures great 4K video, and the drone is equipped with multiple obstacle avoidance sensors, making it one of the safest flying hobby craft around.
Should I buy the DJI Mavic 2 Pro?
As the big brother to the Mini and Air series of drones, the Mavic 2 Pro is one of our favorite machines, but we admit that it is the biggest and heaviest Mavic drone around, still easy to transport, but not as easy as the smaller models. If your goal is to get the best possible camera from a mobile controlled drone, we can happily recommend the Mavic 2 Pro.
- Great 4K camera
- Large and powerful hobby drone
- Best consumer drone
- Older drone
- Relatively large and heavy
Skydio 2: Best AI drone
The Skydio 2 is the cream of the crop in terms of flight capabilities when controlled by your mobile device. That being said, there’s not much to flying the Skydio 2, it’s made to lock on to an object and follow it wherever it may go.
Should I buy the Skydio 2?
The Skydio 2 is a tough recommendation, it is unmatched for its ease of use and follow-me modes, but it is otherwise an unremarkable drone. The optional remote control is not packed with flight features like many other drones, this is a follow-me drone through and through.
- Exceptional follow-me modes
- Self-piloted master
- Very safe
- Limited use
Ryze Tello: Fun and educational toy drone
The Ryze Tello is a fantastic starter drone. It was made to fly by mobile device, but there is an optional remote control. before you fly, Ryze can let you code some custom flight routines, making the Tello a cool tool for the classroom.
Should I buy the Ryze Tello?
The Tello is an older drone, and it’s a simple toy craft that isn’t great for outdoor flight or to capture photos and video from the sky, but, it’s easy to fly, and an excellent starter for a pilots of all ages.
- Easy to operate
- Fun to fly
- Versatile controls
- Limited uses
- Low quality camera
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 over on Android Authority. 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 from $39 on Amazon today.
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?
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a smartphone to fly these drones?
Most of the drones on the market are designed to work along with your connected mobile device, but the actual controls for the drone are handled by the remote control, not the app. In most cases, the app provides many quality of life and advanced features, along with access to important settings, but you can still fly the drone without a connected smart device, if you want.
Can I use an old phone to fly my drone?
Yes, and no. As with the question above, your smart device is not actually in control of the drone, so your chosen phone or tablet can be older. However, many drone apps are demanding apps, requiring a relatively new phone to keep up. It is a nuisance when your phone stops working mid-flight, particularly because you lose access to the live view from the camera and other advanced flight modes, but as long as you are flying within line-of-site and can bring the drone in safely with manual navigation, your connected smartphone does not much matter.
Is it better to use a phone or tablet to fly my drone?
Your flight situation should dictate your mobile device needs. Truth is, it all depends on how big of a display you need. Most of the time a phone is enough, but if you really need to get the shot lined up right, or need to inspect something in the camera, a larger display is crucial. No matter what, we recommend not using your daily driver phone, use a secondary phone so you are not distracted by incoming calls or lose your phone if something goes wrong.