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HoverAir X1 Follow-Me Sports Drone: Tool, Toy, or Trash?

Over the last decade and a half, I’ve tested almost every autonomous follow-me drone made in the market. During that time period, we’ve seen many newcomers attempt to break into the market. Albeit, with less success these days, given DJI’s dominance. Of course, their dominance is for good reason: They generally make some of the best drones out there.

But when it comes to follow-me type features, while DJI has had the best image quality and other drone features, they haven’t always had the best follow-me technology. That award was Skydio for years, before they got out of the consumer business last year. One key feature of Skydio and other sports-focused drones (AirDog, Staaker, etc…) is that they don’t require you have a remote controller open, whereas DJI does.

Thus enter, the tiny little HoverAir X1.

This unit aims to bridge that gap by essentially creating a drone the size and weight of a small paperback book, but with an autonomous follow-me mode that requires no controller or phone app be open. Just tap a button, and go off and run.

I’ve been using it over the last four months, since buying it as part of the Christmas/Black Friday sales. These days though, the price is as low as I paid for it, usually about $350, for the combo pack with an extra battery and charging hub (Note: There’s virtually always a $80-off coupon toggle-box that can be selected on the Amazon listing, including now.)

The question is – is it any good for sports tracking purposes, especially running, hiking, and cycling? In the above video, I dig into that over the course of 130 flights and about 40 crashes.

0:00 Quick Overview
0:25 Crash Montage
1:05 Pricing & Unboxing
1:33 Hardware & Weight Comparison
2:24 Cage & Breakage
2:54 Hover X1 Flight Modes & Buttons
5:36
Timed ‘Get it Flying’ Test (How Fast)
6:23 Non-Tracking Modes (Orbit, Birdseye, Etc)
7:00 Tracking Modes Overview
7:23 Continuous Tracking Example in Woods
8:34 What Happens In a Crash
9:43 Dolly, Side Track, Follow Track Deep-Dive
11:57 Kids & Wife Usage of Hover X1
13:17 Let’s Talk About the Bad (Speed, Wind, Loss)
18:09 Manual Control
19:00
Gimbal/Camera & Photo Resolutions/Modes
20:20 Battery & Charging
21:15 Footage Quality vs DJI Mini 3 Pro & Mini 4 Pro
22:03 Final Thoughts & Recommendations

Enjoy!

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31 Comments

  1. Tizzledk

    Hey DC,

    It looks like the video is private, so I can’t sew it, not sure if others have the same issue.

  2. Ursus Rapidus

    Thanks for this review Ray. The footage shows The Girl’s excellent running biomechanics – as opposed to yours. Another point against using a drone while downhill skiing is that (at least in Australia) this is either banned or very tightly regulated in every ski resort.

    • Pavel Vishniakov

      To be fair, it’s the same for Europe – you aren’t supposed to fly drones over slopes. If you go backcountry, however, it’s a whole other story.

    • In Europe it really depends on the country. France is ironically one of the best when it comes to ski areas, as long as it’s not in a natural/protected area (which honestly, most ski resorts aren’t). Beyond that you just need to follow the standard EASA EU-wide drone rules.

      That’s actually one of the nice things about the EASA rules, is that it kinda does away with most of the per-country wonk. At least, till you get to Portugal…sigh.

    • Alex

      Ah welcome to Portugal. Flying a drone here is such a bureaucratic process… My drone is stored and I rarely used it due to that. At least if you want to fly within the rules…

    • I can’t imagine doing this on the regular. I’ve never filled out so much paperwork for my trip next week to Maidera, so many times, for simple flights in the middle of nowhere.

      I don’t really understand either, because the entire point of the EASA agreement/etc was to get rid of this exact mess. I’m honestly surprised someone hasn’t put up a legal case on it.

    • DavidG

      AFAIKS The EASA rules do allow you to fly a drone class 1 (<250g) in a ski resort over pistes as you have no control as to who is on the slopes.

  3. Maxillobob

    Great review ! How about noise ? How does it compare to other drones ?

  4. John

    How well does it work following you if you’re with a group of other cyclists? Or is it designed primarily to follow someone alone?

    • It does a surprisingly effective job at following the single person it started following. With my daughter as an example, she was with four adults, and once it locked onto her, she tried hiding behind people, running around them, etc… and it only lost her once, in many many many tries (and she had put herself in a little ball behind the adults).

    • peter

      Hi Ray,
      I asked myself the same question recently.
      Would this drone be able to follow 1 member of a cycling group all cycling in the same jersey?
      And how would a DJI perform in this situation?

      thx!

      peter

    • I think all the same cycling jerseys might get messy. Not in terms of following “someone”, but whether it keeps falling the right person. DJI is the same. It’ll follow someone for sure in that scenario, but it might play the field a bit.

  5. Jon

    This with GPS return to start on loss of track would be perfect. I would love to use this on water (swim, kayak, jet ski) but your example shows water and this thing is a bad idea.

    I love true no-controller approach.

    Thank you for the video, as informative and entertaining as ever!

    • Mike

      I believe it does not really work over water at all especially if there are waves, wakes etc. (because it relies on some downward sensor for altitude and stability).

  6. Mike S.

    12 minute battery per flight seems kind of short. Is that typical battery life?

    • It’s short in the drone world (for non-FPV), but then again, virtually nothing else is this size/capability.

      That said, as I mentioned in my video – it doesn’t much bother me. Unlike other drones where you might fly for 30-90 seconds or longer to get to the subject, then carefully set up your shots/etc… This is only going 100ft from you at most, and most shots tend to be 1-3 minutes at most. And finally, with the battery pack weighing a mere ~40g and the size of a pack of gum, it’s so easy to swap them out.

      Obviously, if they could get to 20min with the same battery size/weight, I’d love it – but I never really found it a limiter. It’d usually crash into something before that point anyway. 🙂

  7. Davide

    Great Post Ray!

  8. Dr. D

    Ray – greetings! As a runner/cyclist, I am also intrigued. I tend to run before sunrise, sometimes in the dark and sometimes on lit streets. What is this drones like around that time of the day?
    Many thanks.

  9. Graham

    Thanks for that, I found to really interesting. As primarily a runner I can see it being useful for me not just for making videos but as a training tool to monitor my form, and even to chase for speed workouts! I can see it being huge fun and its compactness and simplicity is a great advantage for that. Anyone know what the legal situation in the UK for using this is? Are extra batteries easily available?

    • I’ll have to defer to a UK person on the rules there. I can mentally track both EU & US rules, with casually keeping an eye on Canadian rules when I make trips to visit the inlaws, but beyond that my head hurts.

      As for batteries, yeah, you can buy extra batteries from them. It’s best to just buy them upfront though.

  10. Heinrick Hurtz

    This could be the first drone I might actually be interested in. Very simple and easy to use. I have little interest in futzing with drones (or producing/editing vids) and don’t do anything epic enough to warrant expending effort to capture, so something I can just turn loose here or there for a few minutes while out hiking or riding seems ideal.

  11. usr

    Needs a Zwift HUD overlay, so much wasted hilarity

  12. Andres

    There is actually not one but two remote controls for the hover made for a company called 8bitdo, and one of them allow you to map the buttons a similar as a DJI drone.