These days, the best drones are compatible with drone apps that are opening up more and more possibilities in terms of flight mapping, camera capabilities and even VR flying. So, having the right app for your needs can be a huge boost to your work.
In this guide, we reveal everything you need to know about drone apps. First, we’ll take a look at the different types of drone apps, what they do and the kind of benefits they can bring. Then, we’ll review the best drone apps that you can download today.
Drone Apps – the Basics
In today’s world of ever rapidly improving technology, drone apps are now a fundamental tool for many fliers – both hobbyist and professional.
There are many different apps out there that all do different things. For example, there are apps for flight planning, drone photography, VR flying, weather reports, making sure you meet drone compliance – you name it, there’s an app for it. There are even software development apps designed to help you program your drone. Some of these apps cover multiple functions, while many specialize in just one.
It’s important to distinguish between apps made by drone manufacturers and those made by third-party developers. These days, most drones come with some kind of companion manufactured by the manufacturer. These types of apps are most commonly used for flying the drone, controlling the camera, editing photos, and so on.
Then there are third-party apps that focus on drone photography, but more often on things like flight preparation, environmental condition reports, and mapping. When it comes to using these apps, it’s important to make sure you find one that’s compatible with your drone.
Most third-party apps are designed for DJI drones. This is due to a couple of reasons – firstly that DJI makes software development kits available so developers can create compatible apps, and secondly that DJI drones are extremely popular and have the largest target audience.
There are drone apps out there that are compatible with other drones, though. You’ll generally be able to find this information on the app’s website or download page.
As is the case with all apps, some drone apps are free, some have some free features as well as paid ones, and some are subscription-based only. Free drone apps are typically hobbyist ones with various in-app purchase options, while there are also professional drone mapping apps aimed at businesses that have higher subscription fees.
The Best Drone Apps for iPhone and Android
Now let’s take a look at the must-have drone apps for iPhone and Android. We’ll cover apps that specialize in different areas, so you’ll easily be able to find one that matches your needs. Whether you’re looking for VR drone apps, drone mapping apps, or drone camera apps, we’ve got you covered.
Free Drone Apps
Let’s first take a look at the best drone apps you can use for free.
DJI GO 4 – Best Drone Camera App for Photography
DJI GO 4 is arguably the most advanced drone photography app out there. If you’re not familiar with DJI, they’re the leading manufacturer of consumer drones and have produced many of the top models on the market, such as those from its Mavic, Phantom, and Inspire series.
The DJI GO 4 app is all about helping you capture the best drone photography and videography. DJI is famous for its intelligent flight and camera modes, and these are all operated through the DJI GO 4 app.
For example, with just the click of a button you can activate the follow me mode so that your drone automatically follows you, or the point of interest mode in which the drone will orbit a target. You can also easily create custom routes using the waypoint feature.
There’s also DJI’s well-known QuickShots and MasterShots feature that make it easy to capture cinematic footage. There are various music and video templates in the app, as well as a range of filters and editing tools that you can use to customize your footage and then share it to social media.
DJI GO 4 also doubles up as an educational app as it includes the DJI Academy. This is packed with learning resources, video tutorials, and a flight simulator tool to help you develop your flying skills.
There are several other DJI drone apps you can check out if you own one of these drones, such as DJI Fly which is a more beginner-friendly version of DJI GO 4.
Aloft – Best Free Drone App for Flight Management
Formerly known as Kittyhawk, Aloft is one of the most popular drone flight apps among both hobbyists and professionals.
There’s a basic version of Aloft called Aloft Classic that’s completely free to use, but if you’re a business owner wanting to make use of its advanced planning and mapping tools, you can contact the sales team to get a custom package that suits you.
However, Aloft Classic is still a fantastic resource for drone hobbyists and individual professionals. It markets itself as an all-in-one solution for preflight planning, in-flight management, and post-flight analysis.
It has an array of airspace management, authorization, and checklist tools to help you prepare, as well as a great flight logging feature and reporting data for evaluation. You can also live stream video from your drone to any device, which is perfect for collaboration.
Aloft even offers thermal camera controls for DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise, DJI Matrice 200, and Parrot Anafi Work, meaning you can capture thermal imagery. This is useful for all sorts of different tasks, from roof inspections to surveillance.
Aloft also powers the B4UFLY drone safety app. B4UFLY is the Federal Aviation Association’s (FAA) official drone app that has all the information you need on when and where it’s safe and legal to fly your drone. It has some really great features, such as interactive maps that can be filtered depending on your search requirement.
Hover – Free Drone App for Checking Flying Conditions
Hover is one of the best drone apps for Android and iPhone if you’re looking for a free, simple tool to provide easy-to-access data on flying zones and conditions.
It provides real-time weather updates using Yahoo Weather’s API and localizes these via GPS, so you can instantly check whether the area you want to fly in has suitable conditions. This information includes temperature, cloudiness, precipitation, wind speed, and wind direction.
All of this information, alongside data on air traffic and obstructions, is collected in the flight indicator tool, which provides a simple yes or no answer on whether your projected route is suitable for flight at any time.
Hover also has a decent flight log tool that automatically logs all your flight data so you can easily track and review all your flights.
Another nice feature is the news feed, which provides regular updates on current issues in the drone world, including blogs, new resources, and media publications.
Paid Drone Apps
These are advanced drone apps that require a purchase fee or are mostly paid by subscription services.
Airmap – Professional Drone App for Flight Planning
Airmap is one of the best drone apps for flight planning and mapping. It’s marketed as a professional drone app and is used by a wide range of commercial companies, including Sony, but it can also be a useful tool for serious drone hobbyists.
This app has all you need when it comes to intelligent flight planning. Not only can you use it to map routes, but it’s also a great tool for staying compliant, as it provides all the regulation details for your flight path and allows you to request flight approval from authorities and receive proof of compliance PDFs.
Airmap also makes flying your drone safer, as you receive live traffic alerts through push notifications to help make sure you avoid any in-air collisions. You can also use the flight zones feature to identify restrictions and obstructions in your flight paths.
One of the best things about the Airmap app is that it has a really intuitive user interface which makes it easy to use. You can draw custom flight paths or upload JSON files to set predetermined routes, and you can easily adjust flight time, duration, maximum speed, and maximum altitude.
If you’re in any doubt of Airmap’s quality, it has a 4.7 rating on the Apple App store from over 10,000 users, which shows it’s one of the very best drone mapping apps out there.
DroneVR – Best VR Drone App
VR drone flying is now more popular than ever, with a wide range of models compatible with VR goggles. If you’re looking for an app that helps you get the best VR drone flying experience possible, DroneVR is the one for you.
This is a third-party app that’s compatible with most recent DJI drones, such as the Mavic Mini, Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic 2 Zoom, Mavic Air, Inspire 1, Phantom 3, and the Phantom 4. The only major exception is the Mini 2, which DJI is yet to release a developer kit for. The app can also be used with the much cheaper and beginner-friendly Ryze Tello.
One of the highlights of this app is the head tracking feature. This allows you to control the orientation of your drone’s camera simply by moving your head, and if your drone has a 3 axis gimbal, this works on all three axes.
There’s also a head up display, which shows a range of telemetry data like heading, speed, and altitude, all directly in your VR view. The head up menu means you can easily control the in-flight camera and flight settings without needing to take off your VR goggles.
With DroneVR, you can view VR drone footage in 1080P HD at 60fps with the Mavic 2 Pro, and with high-quality rendering, lens distortion correction, and chromatic aberration, the viewing experience truly is fantastic. There’s even a spectator mode that lets you link multiple phones and fly with your friends!
Litchi – Powerful Drone Camera App
Litchi is a flight planning and drone photography app that’s specifically built for DJI drones, namely the Spark, Mavic, Phantom and Inspire series. It’s a really popular app that essentially functions as a kind of extension of the DJI GO app, offering some unique and advanced features that the DJI app doesn’t.
For example, you can activate your DJI drone’s follow me feature through the DJI GO app, but Litchi takes that a step forward. By activating the focus feature on Litchi, you can control both the gimbal and your drone’s yaw axis, allowing you unparalleled control over horizontal movements and opening up a new world of shooting opportunities.
Litchi even doubles up as a VR drone app. The virtual reality mode allows you to experience truly immersive FPV, VR viewing through your mobile phone, and you can watch autonomous missions or fly manually in VR.
Arguably the most impressive and innovative part of the Litchi drone app, though, is the community aspect. There’s a large community of Litchi users – with the app claiming to oversee more than 4,000 flights each day – and you can view other users’ missions in the interactive Mission Hub. You can view both completed flights and live ones in real time, allowing you to explore the entire globe from a drone’s POV.
Whereas most drone apps are free to download but require in-app payments to access all features, the Litchi app has a $24.99 purchase cost.
DroneDeploy – Best Drone App for Professional Data Capture
This is certainly one of the most specialized and impressive drone apps you can download. DroneDeploy is built to make capturing interior and external visual data with a drone easier than ever before.
It’s an all in one solution for mapping, in-flight management and data analysis. These tools make it valuable for work in all sorts of different industries, including agriculture, roofing, construction and more.
For example, agricultural professionals can use DroneDeploy to map fields in minutes, live stream footage to anywhere around the world and collect field edge insights. In construction, you can use it to create interactive maps of pre-construction sites, capture job site data in real time, and document entire sites using 2D maps, 3D models and even 360 degree virtual tours.
These are just a few of the ways in which DroneDeploy is used – the drone app is also used by companies in the utility, oil and gas, renewable energy, mining and quarrying industries.
In truth, it’s difficult to do the app justice in a short review, but this is by far one of the best drone apps we’ve come across and is a must for any large scale business that operates in these fields and uses drones.
Dronedesk – Best Drone App for Streamlining Planning
Dronedesk is pretty similar to Airmap in that it’s one of the more advanced drone flight planning apps out there. The main selling point of this app, though, is how much time and money it’s innovative planning tools can save you.
It aims to make it faster and easier than ever before to plan safe, efficient routes. In fact, the Drondesk website states that 78% of users said it takes them 30 minutes or less to plan compliant routes since they started using the app.
If you’re a business owner that uses drones, Dronedesk also claims to be able to save you significant amounts of money. It has an interactive tool on the website that estimates savings based on the number of pilots and flights per week. For example, if you have three pilots performing 10 flights each week, Dronedesk claims to save you as much as $12,600 per year by cutting admin and planning times by up to 840 hours.
You can create flight plans in seconds and get an instant view of operationally relevant radii from 30m to 150m, enter flight logs in just a few clicks and easily export data, and manage all job aspects in a single screen while having everything you need to ensure compliant flying.
Dronedesk is actually a web app, but it runs well on mobile too, and you can easily access it through your iPhone or Android browser.
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