While most drones come with a remote controller - the amount of stuff it allows you to do with your drone is pretty limited. Thankfully there are plenty of drone apps you can try out to bring your UAV piloting skills to the next level.
The drone app landscape has exploded in the last couple of years. Nowadays, every drone company worth its salt has a companion app you can use to plan and organize flights, control the camera, and do crazy stunts.
Since drone apps are so diverse, there are some bad apples. Good thing there are user reviews, which is why it’s pretty easy to spot a lackluster app.
In this article, we’ll cover the top 5 apps for drones you need to have if you want to bring your piloting skills to the next level.
But before we get into the reviews, here is a bit of advice:
Choosing The Right Drone App For Your Needs
Before downloading drone apps, you need to ask yourself what you hope to do with your UAV.
Are you trying to keep it legal by ensuring you’re not flying it in restricted airspace? There’s an app for that.
Do you want to keep track of your flights? There are plenty of apps for that, too.
Maybe you just want a weather report so you can know when it’s safe to fly your drone - there are apps that specialize in weather reporting just for drones.
Moreover, your app requirements will differ based on the type of drone you have. For example, a camera drone will greatly benefit from an app that features advanced camera control. On the other hand, if you have a toy drone, you only need a map of areas where it’s legal to fly a drone.
I suggest you take a look at the apps we’ve reviewed below. It will give you a clearer picture of what drone app you actually need.
Top 5 Apps For Drones - In-Depth Reviews
Now that you’re familiar with what apps for drones have to offer, it’s time to go over the reviews.
I made sure to include a wide array of apps - from piloting apps to support apps that will make your drone flight a bit safer and cooler.
So, let’s start with the absolute king among drone apps and move on from there.
Whether you’re new to camera drones or a seasoned prosumer, the DJI Fly app is an essential tool you need to make the best of your DJI drone.
This app is compatible with most DJI drones, including the Mavic series, Phantom 4, Spark, and more. Moreover, this app supports a whole slew of other devices, including tablets, VR headsets, wireless earbuds and earphones, controllers, and more.
But what does this app have to offer in terms of drone piloting? In short, this app does it all. Although the initial login can be a bit frustrating, once you get used to it - you’ll have access to one of the most powerful drone apps on the market.
One of the coolest features this app offers are the intelligent flying modes. This feature allows you to capture cool shots relatively easily. Moreover, it has many fine camera settings where you can play with exposure, color, and style.
There’s also a flying tutorial. So if you're completely new to drones, this mode will help you learn the basics of piloting one.
While flying the drone, you can use screen gestures to enter/exit the full-screen view quickly, open quick settings, adjust the gimbal, and more.
The app comes with a whole slew of beginner-friendly piloting modes, including tapfly, waypoints, active track, and cinematic mode, just to name a few.
And if you’re wondering where you can fly your DJI drone, there’s a feature for that too. You can use the search feature to discover new fly spots and GEO zones.
The DJI Fly is an excellent app for both new and recreational UAV pilots. It comes with a whole lot of features that make flying easy while allowing you to take some stunning shots.
One of the toughest things to do when owning a drone is deciding where to fly it. There are so many cool places you can visit and take stunning aerial photos of. Even if you know your region as the back of your hand, there can be a few hidden spots that can net you stunning visuals.
The best way to figure out where to fly your drone next is to use one of the most ubiquitous geographic systems in the world - Google Earth. An integral part of 99% of Android phones, this app comes with everything you need to plan your flights.
Google Earth’s best feature is the satellite picture overlay. Using satellite imaging overlaid with vector-based representations of state borders, roads, train lines, and other data, you can plan your flight to the tiniest detail.
Moreover, the app has a huge community of explorers that constantly update the map with new points of interest, such as cool vistas, open webcams, and more. You can also create your own customized icons for locations you want to visit.
Google Earth also allows you to download maps in JPEG format so you can use them offline or share them with your friends. On top of that, you can save locations in KMZ coordinate format and share it with others so they can check out your find.
The biggest disadvantage to Google Earth is that it’s a real bandwidth hog. So, if you have a limited data plan or a poor connection on your phone, don’t bother using this app. On the other hand, If you’re on a computer, I recommend you download the desktop app since the browser version of Google Earth is prone to lagging.
Aloft (Formerly Kittyhawk)
When you think about it, flying a drone is the easiest part. What’s actually difficult is finding the right place to do it safely and without violating any laws. Before launching your drone, you need to find a place where that’s allowed and ensure the weather conditions are ideal, so you don’t crash it.
Aloft (formerly known as Kittyhawk) can help you with that and much more. For starters, Aloft provides you with a map of controlled airspace so you know where you can fly your drone. The map can be endlessly customized. You can add or remove marker layers such as emergencies, airports, helipads, brush fires, etc.
This drone app also provides you with a weather forecast. Thanks to this nifty feature, you’ll know where and when it’s safe to fly your drone. The forecast includes all the vital data, including the wind speed, temperature, and chance for precipitation.
On top of all that, Aloft is compatible with DJI drones. You can use it to get drones telemetry during flights.
Unfortunately, there are some downsides to this drone app. For starters, navigating all the menus can be confusing, especially if you’re new. On top of that, some bugs still need ironing out. I personally didn’t have any issues with it, but I know a lot of people that had trouble running it or even pairing their DJI drone with it.
One of the biggest fears of any UAV pilot is crashing. No matter how experienced you are, accidents can happen. And when drone accidents happen, it usually sets the pilot back for at least a couple of hundred dollars.
Thankfully, there’s an app that lets you know your damage will be covered in case of an accident. Enter Verifly, the first app in the world that provides drone insurance.
How it works is dead simple. First, you need to select your flight area. Then you can view the price for up to 8 hours of coverage. If you’re ok with the price, you can register with a credit card. Now you can purchase an insurance policy specially tailored for drones.
The Verifly drone insurance policy covers an area of up to 2 miles around and can be purchased for both hobby and commercial flights, which is pretty generous if you ask me. Recently, they’ve introduced indoor flight support, which is pretty cool if you’re a drone racer or just want to fly your drone indoors.
The only downside to this app is that it somewhat hides the terms of the policy. There are lots of hoops you need to go through before you get to the terms and conditions. Thankfully, you can always visit their website or simply google the Verifly Drone Insurance policy terms.
I’ve tried my best to showcase as few DJI apps as possible - but that’s hard to do when this company is such a major player. If you’re not completely satisfied with the DJI Go 4 app, or you just want to check out an alternative - I recommend you check out Litchi.
Just like the Go 4 app, Litchi comes with quite a few cool features. For starters, it’s compatible with most DJI drones, excluding the Mini 3 Pro and Mavic 3, since there are no developer SDKs out yet.
On the other hand, Litchi supports a lot of third-party accessories, such as VR headsets and Bluetooth controllers.
When it comes to piloting modes, Litchi covers it all. You can use the waypoint mode to plan out a flight course and let the drone fly itself. Or you can use the orbit mode to have the drone circle around a subject.
One of the best features for beginners is the focus mode. In this mode, the Litchi app will take over the control of the drone’s gimbal and y-axis so you can concentrate on horizontal movement.
The only downside to this app is that you have to pay for it. Currently, it costs $24.99, but the price may change in the future. If you have the cash, I recommend you give this app a try.
The One App For Drones You Should Avoid - Rainbow For DJI
A month back, I gave the Rainbow for DJI a try. This app promises quite a few things and can be an excellent DJI Go 4 alternative if it wasn’t for the terrible autopilot configuration.
But before I get to the heart of the issue, let’s see what this app has to offer.
Just like the DJI Go app, Rainbow supports waypoint, orbit, and follow-me modes. It also supports first-person view mode - albeit only via a phone screen.
On top of that, it features advanced waypoint support. This feature allows you to put in as many as 99 waypoints at once. This way, you can fine-tune your drone’s automated flight. The best thing about this feature is that it allows you to control the camera and the gimbal so you can focus on taking pictures and not on flying.
Unfortunately, this app’s auto-takeoff feature is out of whack. It made my DJI Mavic Mini 2 take off far too high, far too quickly. When I used this feature, my drone jumped 3 meters and hit the tree. Thankfully the damage was minor, and I was able to fix it.
I tried using the feature again after I repaired my drone, but the same thing happened. The Mavic Mini 2 simply launched into the air like a rocket.
Until the devs at Rainbow fix this issue, I simply can’t recommend it.