Phone Controlled Drones for Android and iPhone Users [2023]

The consumer market is overflowing with drones of all different sizes and types. 

These unmanned aerial vehicles are versatile, sophisticated, affordable and easy to fly. 

Typically, you’d use a dedicated RC controller to control the drone. 

However, it is not the only way as some drones can be controlled through hand gestures or smartphones using special apps. 

Some units may even offer all three. 

Some higher-end drones may still require you to use a dedicated RC controller but many toy-class and hobbyist drones fly with just an app and a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the best cell phone controlled drones available today.

Drone

Features

Price

Ryze Tech Tello - Mini Drone Quadcopter UAV for Kids...
  • Control range: 100 meters
  • Flight Time: 13 minutes
  • Weight: 3 ounces
Altair 818 Hornet Beginner Drone with Camera | Live Video...
  • Control range: 60 meters
  • Flight Time: 15 minutes
  • Weight: 2.9 ounces
Contixo F18 2K FPV RC Drone with Camera for Adults -...
  • Control range: 1 mile
  • Flight Time: 20 minutes
  • Weight: 1 pound
DJI Mavic Pro Fly More Combo: Foldable Propeller Quadcopter...
  • Control range: 4.3 miles
  • Flight Time: 21 minutes
  • Weight: 4 pounds
DJI Air 2S Fly More Combo, Drone with 3-Axis Gimbal Camera,...
  • Control range: 7.5 miles
  • Flight Time: 31 minutes
  • Weight: 1.31 pounds

 

Phone controlled drones

Ryze Tech Tello - Mini Drone Quadcopter UAV for Kids...
  • Control range: 100 meters
  • Flight Time: 13 minutes
  • Weight: 3 ounces

The Ryze Tech Tello is a fantastic starter drone if you’re looking for something affordable that is packed with some pretty neat features/

It was made to be flown by using a mobile device but there is an optional remote control.

Simply grab your phone and fly anytime, anywhere with intuitive controls.

This drone is more of a learning curve and will help you to get a hang of drone piloting in an easy and hassle-free way.

It packs some advanced tech like a flight controller powered by DJI that allows you to perform awesome and complex tricks with a simple tap on your phone screen.

The camera quality is average and if you don’t know how to fly you can record pro-level videos with EZ Shots and share them directly to social media from your smartphone.

The Ryze Tello Also allows you to code some custom flight routines before you fly if you know a bit of programming.

This makes the unit even cooler and great for learning.

 

Ryze Tech Tello - Mini Drone Quadcopter UAV for Kids...
  • Equipped with a high-quality image processor, the Tello drone shoots incredible photos and videos....
  • Camera features 5MP (2592x1936) photos and HD720 videos at a maximum flight time of 13 minutes.
  • Tello has two antennas that make video transmission extra stable and a high-capacity battery that...
  • Thanks to all the tech that Tello’s packing, like a flight controller powered by DJI, you can...
  • What you get: RyzeTech Tello powered by DJI, 4x Propellers (Pair), Propeller Guards (Set), Battery,...
  • Video capture resolution: HD 720p

Altair 818 Hornet Beginner Drone with Camera | Live Video...
  • Control range: 60 meters
  • Flight Time: 15 minutes
  • Weight: 2.9 ounces

The Altair 818 Hornet quadcopter is one of the best drones for anyone looking to upgrade from a toy model but not ready for a high-quality camera drone.

This attractive beginner drone comes with a small 2MP wide-angle HD camera capable of shooting 720P videos and flying in First-Person View(FPV) using the screen of a smartphone.

FPV allows you to see what the camera sees in real-time.

The quality of the cameras is average and aerial photos and videos are clear and easy to view.

Setting up the FlyingSee app for iOS and Android phones is fairly simple and trouble-free.

The quick setup puts you in charge of the drone and the camera in no time.

The intuitive controls make flying hassle-free and the three-speed modes allow beginners to take to the sky and fly at their own pace.

There’s also Headless Mode so no need to worry about the drone’s orientation when flying.

Other features on this unit include altitude hold, 1-touch takeoff and landing, Custom Flight routes and others.

 

Altair 818 Hornet Beginner Drone with Camera | Live Video...
  • 720p HD Camera for amazing aerial photos and videos
  • Easy to fly for all ages! Multiple Skill Settings Included
  • Flight Modes like Altitude Hole, One Button Takeoff and Landing, and Headless Mode
  • Smartphone Ready but Not Required!
  • Durably Built for Stable Flights!

Contixo F18 2K FPV RC Drone with Camera for Adults -...
  • Control range: 1 mile
  • Flight Time: 20 minutes
  • Weight: 1 pound

The Contixo F18 is a popular camera quadcopter that comes with a built-in 1080P HD Wi-Fi camera.

It also comes with an intuitive controller with a holder to accommodate your smartphone.

You can use the screen of the phone to see what the drone sees in real-time by using the free app for Android or Apple iOS.

Downloading and setting up the app is quick and easy so you get the live streaming and all other app-controlled functions at your fingertips.

The drone uses powerful brushless motors which is something you would not find in drones in this price category.;

Brushless motors add more power and they are also quieter, require less maintenance and last longer than brushed motors.

These motors work along with Electronic Speed Controllers(ESCs)  that are super fast which makes the F18 faster, more agile and responsive than others.

This unit also boasts a water-resistant feature so a little weather protection is provided.

However, it is water-resistant and not waterproof so while it may be able to fly in a little bit of rain, it cannot survive in heavy downpours or being submerged.

 

Contixo F18 2K FPV RC Drone with Camera for Adults -...
  • ✈ Ultra HD Camera and 5G FPV Transmission--2K WiFi camera (2048*1152P) catches much detail for...
  • ✈ Safer Flight with GPS--Assisted with GPS location system, you will locate the position of F18...
  • ✈ Long-life Brushless Motor--The advantages of it over brushed motors are high power to weight...
  • ✈ 20-Min Flying Time--Enjoy a maximum of 20-min long flight time at a time. With the modular...
  • ✈ Smart and Powerful Performance--Follow Me and Orbit modes free your hands to take ideal selfie....

DJI Mavic Pro Fly More Combo: Foldable Propeller Quadcopter...
  • Control range: 4.3 miles
  • Flight Time: 21 minutes
  • Weight: 4 pounds

The DJI Mavic Pro remains a favorite among drone enthusiasts due to its foldable design, ease of use and wide range of flexible flying options.

The Mavic Pro has a gimbal-stabilized 12-megapixel camera that is capable of shooting high-quality 4K videos at 30 fps.

Don’t be fooled by the small size of this drone or its camera since its impressive camera spec sheet is close to that of a full-size drone.

The camera can rotate by 90 degrees and focus on subjects as close as 0.5 meters which makes it ideal for selfies and taking pictures of people.

The drone is equipped with five other sensors that make up its flight autonomy, a system that provides high precision long-range optical sensing and effective collision avoidance.

To control the drone you’ll have to download the DJI Go App.

Once completed, artificial control sticks will appear once your fingers or thumbs touch the phone’s screen.

The app’s layout is pretty uncluttered and easy to follow.

You’ll find that the drone can take off and autoland using simple tap commands and can automatically return home if the battery dies or the app crashes.

It is recommended that you use the smartphone control for shorter restricted flights and use a dedicated RC controller if you are flying long distances.

 

DJI Mavic Pro Fly More Combo: Foldable Propeller Quadcopter...
  • What's in this combo: MAVIC PRO Original Package, 2 Extra batteries, 2 Extra propellers, 2 charging...
  • The DJI Mavic Pro folds down as small as a bottle of water, making it small enough to bring with you...
  • Fly at up to 40mph (64kmh) or for as long as 27-minutes.True 4K, fully stabilized ensures smooth...
  • Obstacle Avoidance combined with sensor redundancy increases flight safety and reliability.
  • Vision positioning paired with GPS and GLONASS ensures precise positioning indoor and outdoors.Fly...

DJI Air 2S Fly More Combo, Drone with 3-Axis Gimbal Camera,...
  • Control range: 7.5 miles
  • Flight Time: 31 minutes
  • Weight: 1.31 pounds

 

It’s no surprise that we have yet another DJI unit on our list.

Almost all DJI drones can connect directly to a mobile device and offer nearly the same control functionality.

The DJI Air 2S is no different and is great for any pilot that wants to fly a camera drone around for fun.

It is also one of the best drones in terms of range since you can fly it up to 7.5 miles when using the dedicated RC controller.

However, controlling it with the DJI app on your smartphone limits the range to a great extent.

That being said, you should always follow the FAA guidelines which state that your drone should always be in your line of sight while flying so using the app is perfect to do so.

This unit comes with all of the advanced technologies you’d expect from a DJI drone.

It comes with obstacle sensors, expanded automatic camera movements and safety features that put DJI as the leader in aerial imaging.

The Air 2S comes with a large camera sensor and 5K recordings that professional photographers and videographers will enjoy.

DJI Air 2S Fly More Combo, Drone with 3-Axis Gimbal Camera,...
  • 【1-INCH IMAGE SENSOR】Equipped with a 1-inch image sensor and large 2.4μm pixels, DJI Air 2S is...
  • 【MASTERSHOTS】The next evolution of QuickShots, MasterShots is an advanced intelligent feature...
  • 【THE CENTER OF ATTENTION】FocusTrack features Spotlight 2.0, ActiveTrack 4.0, and Point of...
  • 【ONE BILLION COLORS】The 10-bit Dlog-M color profile can record up to one billion colors while...
  • 【7.5 MILES MAX VIDEO TRANSMISSION】DJI Air 2S features DJI's most advanced O3 (OcuSync 3.0) image...
  • 【ENVIRONMENT SENSING】DJI Air 2S has the ability to perceive its environment in four directions:...

Dedicated controller vs. gesture vs. phone controlled drones

app controlled drones

Dedicated controllers

Majority of drones on the market fly with an RC transmitter aka controller. 

These controllers are similar to video game controllers and are ergonomic with intuitive buttons, sticks, and dials for simple fingertip handling. 

The main benefit of using dedicated drone controllers to fly your drone is the range they allow.

The range refers to the distance you can fly the drone away from you. 

Most drone controllers use a frequency of over 2.4Ghz which allows them to have a much stronger signal and a longer range than Wi-Fi or Bluetooth 

This is why some drone pilots prefer to use dedicated controllers to fly their units. 

Read here for the best long range drone

Hand gesture 

Drones that fly using facial recognition and hand gestures need to see you at all times 

This means that the drone control distance is going to be reasonably short. 

It is best to take aerial photos and videos within a short range by controlling the drone with hand gestures. 

These types of drones are going to be pretty small and may be able to take off and land in the palm of your hand. 

Smartphone app controlled drones

Some units can only fly using a smartphone or other Android or iOS-enabled mobile devices. 

Controlling a drone by phone is becoming increasingly popular since most of us always have our cell phones with us. 

While a mobile device has more range than hand gestures, it still does not have as much a transmitter or controller. 

Smartphone and controller 

Other drones will have the option to use either a smartphone or a controller or both.  

The controller of these units may have a holder to place your smartphone.

This way you can fly to the drone using the controller while the smartphone screen allows you to see what the drone camera sees. 

However, some controllers do come with built-in LCD screens so you would not need to use your mobile device. 

One of the benefits of smartphone controls is the dedicated apps they use since app control can sometimes provide more advanced and autonomous features not found on controllers. 

Advantages of phone controlled drones

If you’re wondering what some of the advantages of using phone or app controlled drones are, here’s a few.

  • You have a familiar platform for controlling the drone with easier functions.
  • The phone screen gives you live-video transmission.
  • All the functions are controlled by just a simple touch on the screen
  • The camera angle can be changed from the mobile app.

Disadvantages of cell phone controlled drones

As with everything in life, phone-controlled drones have a few disadvantages. These include:

  • Your phone needs to be fully charged before flying.
  • The mobile application may require regular updates to function properly.
  • Limits the range

FAQs: smartphone controlled drones

smartphone controlled drones

Do I need a smartphone to fly a drone? 

Not exactly.  

Most drones on the market are designed to work with a smartphone but the actual controls are handled by the transmitter or controller, not the app. 

In these cases, the drone app will provide some advanced features and access to important settings but you can still fly the drone without your phone if you want. 

How do I connect my smartphone to my drone? 

The first thing you will need to do is to install the mobile application recommended by the manufacturer on your smartphone. 

You’ll then need to connect to the drone as though it were a Wi-Fi network. 

This process varies from drone to drone so consult the drone’s manual or do some research online to ensure that you connect your smartphone to the drone in the correct way.  

How can I control a drone using a smartphone? 

This will vary from drone to drone as well but usually, you will be able to control it with buttons on the screen similar to that of a gaming app control. 

Some drones may only have a few specific features instead of full control while others will have features to give you full control. 

If you’re still not sure how to do it, again, consult the manual for your smartphone controlled drone or do some research online. 

Can I use an older phone to fly my drone? 

The answer is yes and no because this depends on the operating system of your phone. 

You see, the smartphone is not actually in control of the drone so your older phone or tablet can be used. 

However, the problem with that is that many drone apps demand a relatively new phone to keep up. 

These apps may have many operating system requirements or others that your older phone may not be able to meet. 

This can cause your phone to stop working mid-flight which can make you lose access to the live stream from the camera and other advanced flight modes. 

In some instances, as long as you’re flying within line of sight and can bring the drone back safely using manual navigation the connected smartphone does not matter much. 

Should I use a phone or tablet to fly my drone? 

Your flight situation can help you to decide your mobile device needs. 

It all depends on how big of a display you want or need.

Most times a phone screen is good enough but if you want to get the shot lined up right or need to inspect something in the camera,  a larger display is important. 

If you are going to be using a phone try to use a secondary phone so you are not distracted by incoming calls which can take your focus away from piloting your drone. 

You can also switch the do not disturb feature on if you opt to use your regular phone.

You can check out this guide for the best drone tablet if you need a bigger display.

Do phone controlled drones use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth?

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have made it possible for drone manufacturers to create devices that can be controlled using smartphones or tablets. 

Several manufacturers have created mobile apps that give you high-tech controls and are not just a smartphone version of your RC transmitter. 

These apps give you advanced positioning, first-person video controls, programmable flight routes and a whole lot more. 

Some drones will come with both an RC transmitter and a mobile application.

This way you can view the drone’s position using GPS and flight stats like speed, battery life and flight time. 

Most drones today use Wi-Fi while very few rely on Bluetooth.

Read manufacturer’s specifications before purchasing to know which technology they’ve used on the unit you’re interested in.

Is it better to use an Android or iOS device to fly my drone?

At one time, iOS devices had a monopoly on things but drones have never been one of them. 

Some drones fly better with Android devices while others fly better with iOS devices.

With that said, some drone pilots have said that drone control by iPhone is better than android controlled drones.

However, this leaves room for much debate but they both work equally good and it depends on the unit as well as other factors like interference that can make one better than the other.

Check out these Android controlled drones.

Drone

Features

Price

Ryze Tech Tello - Mini Drone Quadcopter UAV for Kids...
  • Control range: 100 meters
  • Flight Time: 13 minutes
  • Weight: 3 ounces
Altair 818 Hornet Beginner Drone with Camera | Live Video...
  • Control range: 60 meters
  • Flight Time: 15 minutes
  • Weight: 2.9 ounces
Contixo F18 2K FPV RC Drone with Camera for Adults -...
  • Control range: 1 mile
  • Flight Time: 20 minutes
  • Weight: 1 pound
DJI Mavic Pro Fly More Combo: Foldable Propeller Quadcopter...
  • Control range: 4.3 miles
  • Flight Time: 21 minutes
  • Weight: 4 pounds
DJI Air 2S Fly More Combo, Drone with 3-Axis Gimbal Camera,...
  • Control range: 7.5 miles
  • Flight Time: 31 minutes
  • Weight: 1.31 pounds

 

Leave a Comment