GPS or the Global Positioning System technology is a great addition to every device that it will be integrated into. Cars, mobile phones, and even watches are being more functional and helpful to its users. Such is true, especially to a GPS drone!
In drones, GPS does not only enable you to locate or track the position of your gadget. Instead, it allows the quadcopters to fly more autonomously.
Drones with GPS, in essence, have autopilot features. As such, you can let it fly on its own and focus on operating other aspects of the drone such as the camera. This is also why GPS quadcopters are a better choice for aerial photography.
Drones with GPS are also an excellent choice for beginners. If you're one, you can let your quadcopter fly on its own especially when you felt like you're losing control.
Either you’re a beginner or exploring into aerial photography, or both, read on! We have listed here some of the best GPS drone options for you!
Best Drones with GPS
1. DJI Spark
Spark is considered one of the smaller and more affordable DJI drone models. Its size is almost similar to that of a soda can yet this small drone is heavily-packed with features.
Spark is equipped with DJI’s coolest trick – the PalmControl that allows basic navigation using hand gestures. You can also command it to take a selfie by forming a picture frame with your fingers.
However, to do this, you must not be farther than 10 feet. It also has four automatic flight maneuvers called Quickshots. The four flight modes are Dronie, Rocket, Helix, and Circle.
In addition to its intelligent features, it also helps you know its location. It has a downward-facing vision system, dual-band GPS, GLONASS, and a high-precision inertial measurement unit. All these help this mini drone navigate and tell you where it is flying.
It also has TapFly and ActiveTrack. However, it would help if you were not too confident with its smart features. Its sensors that help its FlightAutonomy system are mostly front facing only.
Meaning, it won't be able to detect and steer away from obstacles at its back. Also, despite having powerful motors, Spark may tend to struggle through heavy breeze because of its compact size.
More so, with regards to connectivity, the Spark's range with a smartphone is said to reach up to 100m. However, at around 50-75m, you'll notice that the signal is already degrading.
If you're using its transmitter, however, you can go up to 2km away, and the signal is still reliably responsive. Battery life is also short. DJI boasts of 16 minutes, but in reality, it can only fly for 12 minutes in consideration of reserve juice.
- Compact design
- FlightAutonomy system
- PalmControl feature
- Can be swayed by the wind
- Intermittent connection with smartphone
Typhoon H Pro comes at a price. However, with its numerous features, it assures that you will not regret even a single cent. It can fly up to 43mph and has 20-minute battery life.
At the onset, you should know that the Typhoon H Pro has six powerful rotors, making it a hexacopter. The two rotors in addition to a standard quadcopter add power and stability.
It is also equipped with Intel RealSense technology allowing the drone to see a virtual 3D model of its surroundings. This technology helps the drone to detect the obstacles and maneuver around them accurately.
You would appreciate this RealSense technology more when using the Follow Me mode. With Follow Me, the drone tracks you through a small Wizard remote. It is great when you want to record yourself while cycling or quad biking, running, etc.
The Typhoon H Pro is also one of those drones with GPS. Its built-in GPS notifies you of the hazards that your drone might encounter, such as main roads and buildings. If there’s a flagged hazard, the Typhoon H Pro will not take off.
This flagging of hazardous areas is one of the safety features of this GPS drone. However, some pilots found it entirely too strict sometimes, especially for those living in the city.
It comes with a camera that can record 4K videos in 30fps and 1080p in 60fps. It can also capture 12mp photos in a 115-degree angle. Because of the 3-axis gimbal that allows it to rotate 360 degrees, you can have cinematic footages.
If you’re a newbie in aerial photography, the Typhoon H Pro also have various photography/videography modes to help you. Follow Me was already mentioned. Then there’s Cable Cam and Orbit Mode.
- Six-rotor design
- A 4K video camera that rotates 360-degrees
- Intel RealSense technology
- More pricey as compared to other drones
- Strict hazard flagging
Phantom 4 Pro is a top of the line, professional drone. It has the most number of features which is also why it’s also the most pricey one in this list. The Phantom 4 Pro is applicable for professional filmmaking and may also be used for photogrammetry imagery.
It uses the drone GPS, autopilot system and camera seamlessly to produce 3D photogrammetry imagery. However, to create 3D maps of landscapes and buildings, you would also need a photogrammetry software.
Phantom 4 Pro uses not only GPS but also GLONASS. It acquires a signal from up to 24 satellites to establish more accurate navigation and for a faster connection.
As a result, the Phantom 4 knows its starting point, current location and relation to you during its flight. With this intelligent flight system, it can return to home, show you where it is on a map and others.
The Autopilot Flight Modes of the Phantom 4 Pro makes flying and filming at the same time more comfortable. With the use of some sophisticated technology, it can record professional cinematic clips.
As a gist of this sophisticated technology, the Phantom 4 Pro combines ten component groups in a complex network.
This includes seven cameras, an infrared sensing system and dual-band satellite positioning (GPS and GLONASS, as mentioned). It has two downward facing electronic rangefinders, redundant IMUs and compass, and a group of powerful and specialized computing cores.
So, for its GPS features, the Phantom 4 Pro has Draw Waypoint, TapFly, Active Track, and Obstacle Avoidance among others. You can read the details and the rest of Phantom 4 Pro’s intelligent flight modes here.
- For professional use
- Uses GPS and GLONASS for more advanced navigation
- Packed with all GPS features you’d think of.
The HS100 is a mid-range GPS quadcopter from Holy Stone. Despite coming from a brand that was popular for its low-cost drones, the HS100 proves that it’s of premium quality.
It has a large build, measuring around 50x50x20cm, and weighs about 700g (including the battery). The drone body stretches out to where the blades are while the camera hangs below it. It is also built with a landing gear that somehow protects the camera on each side.
The HS100 transmitter comes with a one-key take off and land button and has a range up to 500m. However, its FPV stream cuts off once the drone flies beyond 150m.
The HS100 also has a built-in GPS, so when you fly it beyond 500m, it will automatically activate its return to home function. This return home may also be triggered using the button on your transmitter.
HS100 also has a Follow Me mode, Headless mode, and Altitude hold. These features will help you fly your drone more conveniently even if you’re a beginner. Using a scroll wheel, you can also adjust the speed setting of your quadcopter based on your flying skills.
It features a 720p camera with 120-degree wide angle. You can also tilt it by 90-degrees using a scroll wheel on your transmitter. However, some drone enthusiasts think that the quality of videos and images should still be improved.
Being powered by 2500mAh battery, it can fly up to 12 minutes, which is quite the average for its type. The complaints, however, pertain to the recharging time which could take around 3-6 hours depending on your adapter plug.
- Good flight range
- Allows FPV mode
- Has emergency stop and return home function.
- Camera quality is quite low for its price
- Long recharging time
H501S X4 is a GPS drone densely packed with features that you would not expect for its price. First, it has built-in GPS both in the quadcopter and its transmitter. This allows for the Follow Me mode.
This GPS also makes the one-key return landing possible. As the name indicates, using one key on your remote, the quadcopter will land to where it began its flight.
Also, H501S X4 also features Barometer Altitude Hold and Headless Mode. It also has an OSD Live data displayed on the built-in FPV monitor of the remote control.
It also has a 1080p HD camera built-in inside the quadcopter, similar to other Hubsan drones. It can transmit its FPV live video directly to the monitor built-in to the remote control. However, you may also store captured photos and recorded videos in a microSD card and access them through the controller.
You can also capture the wonderful view and fly high because it can go up to 300m far from the control.
H501S X4 is powered by a 2700mAh battery that allows 20 minutes flight time, which is longer than the average. Recharging the battery, on the other hand, takes about 150minutes.
Lastly, it is equipped with brushless motors that make this quadcopter slightly more powerful and durable. Overall, it is no wonder why the H501S X4 is one of the best GPS drones you will find.
- Good flight range and long flight time
- Has Follow Me and one-key return landing
- The 1080p camera does not live up to expectations
- The remote control is bulky and quite heavy
6. Holy Stone HS700 Ophelia
The HS700 Ophelia is Holy Stone’s flagship product for 2018 and is one of the best GPS drones you’ll find. It is equipped with a 1500KV brushless motor. This lessens the noise caused by this GPS drone and increases its power.
It also enables the drone to fly up to 25 km/h upwind and up to 60 km/h downwind. Built with an advanced GPS, it can locate its flight position real time. This allows for the Follow Me mode of the quadcopter. It also has a One-Key Return to Home function.
Moreover, this GPS quadcopter will automatically land once the drone is already low on battery. So you won’t have to worry about it suddenly crashing when it’s low on power. If you accidentally fly it out of range, its GPS connection assures you that it will not get lost.
Another exciting feature is that with the GPS, you can also customize the HS700’s flight path. Using the App, you can draw the flight route on the screen, and your GPS drone will follow it.
The HS700 Ophelia also comes with a removable wide-angle 1080p FHD camera to capture quality images and videos. It also has an FPV function up to 400m based on 5G wifi transmission technology.
You can store your captured photos and videos in the pre-installed 8GB memory card. However, if you wish for more storage, then you can install one with more significant capacity.
It is also powered by a 2800mAh battery that allows up to 20 minutes flight time. Recharging time, however, may pose a problem since it takes 5-7 hours to full charge.
- Brushless motors for increased speed and less noise
- Good flight range and long flight time
- Removable camera
- Long battery recharging time
- Drone is quite heavy and not foldable
7. Contixo F20
The F20 may be less popular among the drones with GPS, but it also contains the latest drone technology. It is an RTF quadcopter that comes with a custom hard shell carrying case with handle. Although the drone will instantly fly, the connecting process among the drone, controller, and phone is still quite a chore.
For a start, the F20 also has a GPS one-key take off and landing feature. It also has Follow Me, Tapfly (otherwise called Waypoint or custom flight path), Auto Return, Auto Hover, Auto Circling, etc.
It has the average flight time of 15-20 minutes, which is also competitive with other GPS quadcopters. Its flight range is also long enough, covering up to 300m.
F20 also comes with an integrated 1080p HD camera that will take high-quality photos and videos in 30fps. It also has FPV function up to roughly 984ft. Upon connection with Android or iOS mobile device, you can see what your drone sees.
- Packed with drone technology at a mid-range
- High-quality camera
- Good flight time and range
- Establishing connection among gadgets too time-consuming
- Battery charging set is quite complicated
The H301S Ranger is the cheapest GPS drone in this list. It is powered by a modularized 1000mAh LiPo battery.
Having built-in GPS, you are provided with the accurate position details of your drone. H301S Ranger has a Return to Home function. It enables this GPS quadcopter to go back to its initial position when the battery is low or when the signal is weak.
It is also equipped with other GPS features such as Follow me and Headless mode. It also has the one-key take off and landing, and altitude hold. Although, it can fly only up to 180m away.
It has a 720p HD camera with a 120-degree field of view. It can capture high-quality live videos and aerial photos. You can also connect it to your iOS or Android devices so you can see the view real time.
It also comes with a 4GB microSD card so you can store all your captured photos and recorded clips.
- Very affordable
- Packed with drone technology
- Short flight range
How Do Drones with GPS Navigate?
Lower budget drones are using only a visual tracking system to determine its orientation and position. More advanced ones that come at higher price use GPS for smarter navigation.
GPS (global positioning system) is a satellite navigation system that collects signals from orbiting satellites using a radio receiver. The received signals are then used to determine position, speed and time. Advanced GPS are even able to provide more accurate locations up to specific centimeters.
Since integrated circuits can already be miniaturized, GPS receivers are now more economical and available to almost everyone. GPS is a broadcast radio system, so it has wider ranges over the planet, therefore, making it highly accessible.
The GPS was initially developed by the US military in 1973 to provide an accurate navigation system for ICBMs (inter-continental ballistic missiles).
They can quickly locate their target. However, launch coordinates of the missiles are more tricky for them. GPS was developed to solve this problem.
GPS Features to Consider
You might have noticed that we just ran through the GPS features and gave some brief about them. We thought that it would be redundant to explain them every time.
So instead, we have dedicated this particular section to elaborate on the critical features of GPS Drones.
It is also sometimes called as Altitude Hold or Auto Hover. Regardless of how they’re called, this function pertains to the drone’s ability to hold itself in a particular location.
After takeoff, you may let go of your controller while the GPS quadcopter will stay on the altitude and location. Even with external factors, the GPS drone will adjust itself accordingly.
This is particularly useful for beginners. It allows them to let go of the controls while thinking for the next move.
Return to Home
From the term itself, this feature makes the drone automatically return to the point where it took off. It may be due to low battery, loss of signal or other emergencies. Some drone models even come with controllers that have a button for this function.
It would be helpful if you feel like you've lost control of your drone. You can quickly press its button, and it will return safely to you.
You can also be assured that your drone will not suddenly crash just because of drained battery or loss of signal.
This feature also prevents you from losing your drone in case you accidentally fly it beyond its range.
It is also called as Waypoint Function or custom flight mode or another similar name. Autonomous flights are enabled by establishing the GPS waypoints on your tablet or another compatible device. In essence, you will determine a flight path, launch your GPS drone and then it will move automatically.
This function is particularly helpful when you want to control other things with your drone, particularly the camera. Once your GPS quadcopter is on an autonomous flight, you're free to operate your camera – tilt, pan or shoot photos and videos.
GPS also makes the quadcopter capable of avoiding obstacles along the flight. The Typhoon H4 Pro, for example, will not allow you to launch your drone in hazardous areas.
This feature helps you keep your GPS drone in safe areas especially if you’re not yet familiar with your surroundings.
Best Drone Apps
Many times throughout the post, you have seen that there are GPS features that are accessible only with an app. The good thing is, you don't have to search anywhere else. We have already listed here, some of the best drone apps that will be useful for your flight.
B4UFLY sure deserves to be mentioned first in this post because it was released by none other than the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). This app indicates fly/no-fly conditions in various places. It also has a planning mode that allows you to create flights in the right areas.
Aside from these, it also offers other valuable resources that you will significantly appreciate especially in urban or populated areas.
Hover is an excellent app for new pilots, especially as you launch onto your first flight. Its interface and design are pretty basic and beginner-friendly, but it shows the information you need at a glance.
It features real-time weather report, fly zones, and flight logs wherein you can record your data. The app is pretty simple, but you can upgrade it once you are more experienced.
As you might expect, DJI Go is one of the most popular drone apps that you’ll find. If you opted for a DJI drone, you wouldn’t want to miss this one.
DJI Go continually tracks your flight data. It also offers various intelligent automated flight modes such as Follow Me and Home Lock.
Using this app, you’ll also be able to have a live HD view of whatever your drone camera sees.
If you’re into aerial videography, you would want to check out Litchi. It is an app mainly developed record videos of difficult subjects such as fast-moving animals or high-action sports.
More so, Litchi has a Focus Mode. This helps you obtain high-resolution and heavily-detailed videos. It also has another mode that records VR footages.
If you’re thinking about creating a flight path, Litchi also allows you to plot your way points. Overall, Litchi offers almost everything that you’d need to capture great photos and videos. However, unlike other apps, Litchi comes at a price.
Airnest is a FREE app that mainly focuses on flight details. It is perfect for both beginners and experienced flyers alike. It allows you to plan your flight and organically draw your path. After the flight, you can also record your data and review them anytime.
Airnest also provides other pertinent data you need during your flight. This includes battery level, GPS performance, altitude, speed, orientation, etc. These data help you understand how well or bad is the performance of your drone.
On the downside, Airnest is compatible only to a limited number of GPS drone models especially DJI.
PrecisionMapper is an app wherein you may create and share geographic information system (GIS) data. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be able to access a wide range of analytical tools that you can use.
You may also share and upload the GIS information you have based on your drone records. It is a beneficial app for conducting various kinds of scientific surveys.
What’s best is that it is compatible with any drone. So you are free to contribute to and gather data from all other users flying different drone models.
DroneDeploy is considered one of the best apps for automated drone mapping only for DJI drones. With this, you can quickly establish an automated flight path for your GPS drone. It is best for conducting land surveys or taking a photograph of a particular area.
DroneDeploy lets you manage your takeoff, flight patterns, and even landings. Although, you can easily switch to manual control if you prefer so. It also has automated video capture and video streaming capabilities.
Its interface and tools are also well-designed. However, if you need to use the more complex tools, we'd recommend that you use a larger device such as tablets or iPad.
It is an app automatically creates a flight path for your drone for photogrammetry. It is a process that turns a video into a 3D model. Pix4D Capture uploads the recorded video and flight data to its servers which you can then use to create a 3D model.
It offers a 15-day trial for you to try its services. Beyond that, the app charges quite a pricey amount for a year’s subscription.
Other Applications of GPS Quadcopters
Drones with GPS are most widely known for private and commercial purposes, specifically in aerial photography and filmmaking. However, with the advanced technology, other sectors have also appreciated these drones.
Although unknown to many, GPS drones are highly advantageous even in the area of agriculture, construction and even military.
For the agricultural sector, GPS drones are most appreciated for GPS map creation. The GPS map creation gives the farmers a more accurate view of their property.
With this, they are being made more effective and strategic as to where their crops should be planted. Also, with the drones' autonomous flight, bigger quadcopters also help in transporting agricultural needs.
These drones take the job in carrying the fertilizers, pesticides and other bulky items. This lessens the cost for landowners or farmers. It is because they no longer need to hire additional personnel or rent heavy equipment to do the transport.
GPS drones also allow the owner to monitor his livestock even from afar. With thermal imaging, while the drone is on Auto Hover, the owner can see the condition of this herd.
He can quickly identify if there's any injured, missing or birthing animal. This can significantly save time and effort while still making sure that the livestock is all healthy.
Drones with GPS have provided aerial intelligence for construction projects. They are being used by various construction companies to conduct more accurate survey work throughout their entire site.
As such, they can reduce the costs of their projects since drone data are already pretty accurate. GPS quadcopters also help to eliminate earth moving costs because they help provide more accurate volumetric analysis.
Surveys can also be conducted more frequently since drones reduce equipment and service costs. Overall, the use of drones with GPS in the construction sector increases profitability and ensures the project success.
In the military, more technologically advanced drones are being used. Among others, they use what they call, "suicide drones." These are mini drones with GPS modified to carry small warheads to take down the enemy's aerial assets.
Another benefit to the military is through the Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS). The SBS combines the technology for navigation, calibration and communications pairing.
When incorporated to drones, the SBS assists soldiers without satellite connection to gain insights about their surroundings. There are also small GPS drones, particularly in China, that resemble birds and are being used for surveillance. They are called "Doves."
The Doves are equipped with HD cameras, flight control systems, GPS antennas and data links with satellite communication capability. Their build and flight are similar to those of birds to conduct covert surveillance operations.
Alternate GPS Systems
There are other navigation systems around the globe. As such, GPS is the most commonly used in the US, but it's just one of many.
Russia has GLONASS or the Global Navigation Satellite System that was launched in 1982 by the Soviet Union. Europe has the Galileo GPS while China is developing Compass. India, on the other hand, has IRNSS.
Typically, a GPS receiver can only receive signals from one of these satellite systems. Although, manufacturers can also design it such that it can use signals from multiple sources.
The GPS satellites, in particular, require signals from only four satellites. Combining signals from GPS, GLONASS and Galileo can boost the system significantly. It can increase the accuracy and eliminate the problem on blocked signals due to tall buildings.
The more satellites that the receiver can detect, the more accurate the GPS is. As a result, there are already recently-released drones that are not just supported by GPS.
They combine its signals with the GLONASS to increase its navigation robustness. Drones with this navigation system are more accurate and faster, but they come at a price.
The integration of GPS technology brings the drones to another level of functionality and ease of flying. GPS drones allow you to focus on other matters while your drone can continue flying in the air.
Among other uses, drones with GPS are most famous for commercial and private use. Holy Stone’s 2018 flagship product, Holy Stone HS700 Ophelia, is our top choice on GPS drones.
It has the GPS features you'd expect and can even fly fast for up to 20 minutes. Even with brushless motors that power its flight, HS 700 Ophelia is still pretty affordable. Its camera is already a wide-angle HD camera, but it's removable in case you want to use a better one.
If you are entirely on a budget, the Hobbytiger H301S Ranger Drone is the budget pick. At a meager price, you can have a drone with GPS features and equip with a 720p HD camera.
To further help you out, we've included some of the best drone apps that would help you out as you fly your GPS drone. They provide you with relevant data about your flight and surroundings. They even let you access and maximize some GPS features that your drone has.
1. Is Connectivity Important for Your Drone (dronelife.com)
2. How GPS Drone Navigation Works (droneomega.com)
3. Drones in Agriculture: How UAVs Make Farming More Efficient (thedrive.com)
4. The Drone-Based Aerial Intelligence Platform for Construction (kespry.com)
5. Small Drones Take Flight for Military Applications (roboticsbusinessreview.com)