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Best smartphone controlled drones: here are our picks

This post was originally published on our sister site Charged.io.

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.

Parrot Bebop 2

Parrot is an interesting little company with some great ideas and they look to create a premium experience on most things they do. This sometimes means premium hardware, and sometimes premium experiences through software or features. In the case of their drones, most are able to be flown entirely using just your smartphone. They still offer a controller if you need more, but more than just the basics are only an app away.

The Bebop 2 is one of the newest drones from Parrot, a feature packed quadcopter with a number of autonomous flying modes and a fairly capable camera.

Your smartphone acts as controller as well as FPV (first person view) viewer for the Bebop 2, using their app, called FreeFlight 3, you’ll get the basics for free, then fork over some cash via in-app-payments to unlock advanced flying modes.

The Parrot Bebop 2 can be had for as low as $399 for just the drone, but look to spend about $599 to get the whole package with FPV goggles, dedicated controller and more.

Buy the Parrot Bebop 2 now


Hubsan X4 H501S Pro

We 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.

Buy the Hubsan H501S now


DBPower UDI 818A

Compatible with VR goggles, this is another FPV flyer. Offering up remote control or control by smartphone, the DBPower UDI U818A is a little less capable than the U842, but offers a smoother flight for better aerial footage. The live video stream works up to 100 feet away and can be viewed on your smartphone, just place your phone in the holder on the remote control for easy usage.

Check out the DBPower UDI U818A for $99.99 on Amazon today.

BUY THE DBPOWER UDI U818A NOW


Parrot MiniDrone rolling spider

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 $40 on Amazon.

BUY THE PARROT MINDRONE SPIDER NOW


Sphero BB-8

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 and augmented reality stories and more.

Check out Sphero BB-8 for just over $100 on Amazon today.

Buy Sphero BB-8 now


Special consideration – phone and remote

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 the primary player in this setup, most of their drones are made to 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.


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?


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