In the sea of extra features that today’s drones come with, one of the most important ones (safety-wise) is surely the return to home function AKA one key return. This function is quite common in modern drones, but there are still entry-level ones that don’t have it!
Today, we’ll find out what’s the best drone with return home function. If you are buying a drone without this function, keep in mind that its safety might be on the line because, if you happen to lose track of it and the connection breaks, you might have a whole heap of trouble finding your precious drone again. Believe me, this happens way more than we’d like to admit, so for the sake of not losing your drone, here’s a list of top 10 drones with return home function (aka “return to home drones”). As usual, we’ve sorted them into two categories so you can find something that’s right up your alley without too much time-wasting.
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What is Return to Home (RTH) and how is it activated?
Return to home is an autonomous feature powered by a combination of imaging sensors and GPS data. It works as you’d come to expect – it returns the drone back home, with home being the location from where it took off.
There are several ways RTH features can be activated.
For starters, RTH can be activated as a standalone feature, usually via a dedicated button on the controller. On top of that, drone makers usually put RTH on the GUI of their apps. Those are basically the only two manual RTH methods. The following duo is activated automatically:
- BT RTH
- SL RTH
BT (stands for battery triggered) RTH refers to scenarios in which the battery triggers the RTH feature, following either a critically low voltage spike or typical cell discharge.
SL, on the other hand, stands for signal loss and turns on after the drone loses connection with its base station.
BOTH FEATURES TURN ON AUTOMATICALLY AND AIM TO BRING YOUR DRONE BACK TO ITS TAKEOFF LOCATION TO PREVENT CRASH LANDINGS OR PROPERTY DAMAGE.
Most RTH methods can be adjusted to fit the environment you fly in. This doesn’t just involve flying altitude, but additional stuff such as flying speed, orientation, and additional failsafe parameters. This allows you to finetune your set of RTH features just the way you need them.
Return to Home Drones for Casual Use
TABLE: 5 Self Landing Drones
|Image||Name||Camera||Range||Flight Time||Best Offer|
|5. MJX Bugs 2W||1080p||1km||16min||See best offer|
|4. DJI Spark||1080p||2km||16min||See best offer|
|3. HStone HS720||1080p||1km||23min||See best offer|
|2. Hubsan Zino||4K||4km||20min||See best offer|
|1. DJI Mavic Mini||2.7K||4km||30min||See best offer|
5. MJX Bugs 2W
MJX bugs 2W is actually the cheapest drone on this list with a 100% reliable return to home feature. The price tag is absolutely brilliant and makes MJX Bugs 2W the best option for beginners who want a safe and worry-free flying experience. But other than that, what else is there to be said about this impressive little quad?
Photography & Features
Starting off with the most important thing, obviously, MJX Bugs 2W sports Return to Home feature. Not just one – its RTH works with and/or without GPS connection, making your flights as reliable and safe as they can be. Furthermore, you can also take control over your quad in order to avoid obstacles while it’s returning home. It’s pretty neat, don’t you think?!
Other features include WiFi FPV, GPS/GLONASS, headless mode, and altitude hold. Lastly, the camera. We are actually looking at quite a decent sensor that captures superb 1080p footage. The framerate is capped at 30fps but it is still decent enough for most casual users.
Specifications are the last aspect of MJX Bugs 2W that I plan on reviewing. No need for alarm though as Bugs 2W sports pretty impressive numbers. Let’s start off with range. WiFi FPV can go all the way to 500 meters if you own a smartphone featuring a good 5G WiFi capability. Moreover, the operating range goes to the extremes, standing comfortably at 800 and even 1000 meters. Battery duration is no joke thanks to the proprietary 1800mAh 2S LiPo that comes with the package. (you’ll get 2 if you click on the link above). You can expect around 18 minutes of flight time per charge.
4. DJI Spark
Just a couple of days ago, DJI announced a brand-new drone called the Spark. It’s their tiniest one yet, smoothly surpassing DJI Mavic Pro with only 5.5 x 2 x 5.5-inch proportions. One thing that should also be stated right away – DJI Spark is not a foldable drone. It’s just small! Now that we got this out of the way, let’s see what this baby is all about!
Great Set of Smart Features
First off, Spark comes with an amazing array of features. In addition to the most popular ones such as ActiveTrack and TapFly, it also features PalmControl. This allows you to fully control it with your hand gestures. Trust me, it’s one of the best experiences ever.
Moving forward, the camera also deserves one or two describing sentences. We are talking about a full HD one that’s capable of shooting at fluid 60 fps. It’s mounted on a 2-axis gimbal so you shouldn’t really experience any stabilization issues.
Superb Performance in Such a Small Package
If you’re worried, there are already plenty of video tests on YouTube for you to check out. One thing is for sure though, Spark seems like a great addition to DJI’s lineup of drones. With excellent specifications (15 minutes of flight and 2 kilometers range), affordable price, compact size, and a solid camera, nothing can stop it on the way to success!
3. Holy Stone HS720
The first entry in our list of the best return to home drones out there is Holy Stone HS720. These days, RTH drones are much cheaper than they were a few years back. If we go five years back, RTH function was only available on some of the highest end drones out there. Nowadays, drones as cheap as $200 have it, which has drastically increased the reliability and in-flight safety of consumer models.
Cheapest Smart Drone That’s Actually Good
There are numerous smart drones going for roughly $200 these days. That portion of the market is oversaturated, so it’s kind of difficult to find a proper model. Even more so for beginners who don’t know what to look for in drones.
When it comes to HS720, the biggest thing about it is the presence of GPS and AH sensors. These factors are crucial for a drone’s flying accuracy as well as its pinpoint altitude hold precision. It might not have the broadest set of features out there, but it justifies that with solid all-around performance at an excellent price point. We’re talking 800ish meters of flight range and cca 25 minutes of battery duration.
The Cam is Nothing Special
If we’re being totally honest here, Holy Stone HS720’s camera is nothing special. It’s 1080p and works like a charm for still images, but when it comes to aerial footage, I’m afraid you’ll have to invest more money. That’s not that big of a downside, though, especially considering the sort of cameras that other similarly priced drones possess. If we take that into account, then HS720’s is on the higher end of the spectrum.
2. Hubsan Zino
Hubsan Zino is the direct competitor of DJI Mavic Mini, and everyone knows that. Even total beginners who’ve just entered the drone hobby know that… I’m not even exaggerating. On a more serious note – Hubsan going up against DJI is something I wouldn’t believe could be possible a few years ago. Now, with Hubsan going as far as the mid-tier market and DJI targeting their models cheaper than ever, these two drone market giants are finally having a go… And both of their models are outright brutal.
If you’re looking for a fully stabilized 4K drone that won’t take too much money out of your pocket, then you’re looking for Hubsan Zino. That’s exactly what it offers – 4K resolution with buttery smooth stabilization thanks to the onboard gimbal. What’s not buttery smooth is the framerate. I’m a bigger fan of 1080p at 60fps, so I warmly recommend you at least try it out.
Solid Set of Features
When it comes to the features, Hubsan Zino is pretty well-versed. On top of GPS, return to home, and failsafe layers, it sports several autonomous flight modes that serve as social media boosters. They’re intuitive, well-executed, and take only a few brief moments to set up.
RTH itself is smooth, precise, and most importantly, reliable. You don’t have to worry about losing your drone or, God forbid, crashing it in someone’s backyard. The folk over at Hubsan has done a really good job on the software end, so you got nothing to worry about.
1. DJI Mavic Mini
Let’s face it, DJI Mavic Mini is probably the best among all under $500 drones. It’s powerful, foldable, smart, and has a great camera. Whoops, I almost forgot – it looks cool too. There’s more to it than just that, so let’s roll up our sleeves and start dissecting this gorgeous little bugger!
Number One Foldable Drone
Is DJI Mavic Mini the best foldable drone on the market? Well, calling it the best foldable model is a bit of a far stretch. It’s one of the best, that’s for sure, but saying it’s the best would be an insult to its big brother DJI Mavic 2 Pro and its direct competitors from the all-new Autel EVO 2 lineup.
However, we can safely say it’s the best affordable foldable drone. In fact, we can say it’s the true power/performance champion, sporting a potent 2.7K camera with hardware stabilization and ultra crispy footage.
4 and 30! The numbers Mason, what do they mean? Allow me to elaborate – 4 minutes of flight time and 30 kilometers of range? No, that’s not right; it’s the other way around! 4 kilometers of operating range and 30 minutes of flight time. Yep; talk about impressive numbers packed in such a compact drone…
DJI Mavic Mini’s return to home feature is as precise as they come, but that’s nothing surprising since we’ve come to expect nothing but pinpoint precision from DJI models. The Mini is nicely poised with several smart flying camera modes. However, there’s no proper image tracking nor obstacle avoidance… but that would be just a tad bit too much at this price point, and at this size, to be frank.
Return to Home Drones for Professional Use
Now let’s focus on more expensive options that are good for both consumer and prosumer scenarios. Heck, these drones are good for virtually any commercial/industrial task you put them up against. And, as such, they are definitely worth the money!
TABLE: 5 Self Landing Drones
|Image||Name||Camera||Range||Flight Time||Best Offer|
|5. DJI Mavic Air||4K||3km||22min||See best offer|
|4. Parrot Anafi||4K||4km||25min||See best offer|
|3. DJI Phantom 4 Pro||4K||7km||27min||See best offer|
|2. Autel EVO||4K||8km||30min||See best offer|
|1. DJI Mavic 2 Pro||4K||8km||30min||See best offer|
5. DJI Mavic Air
Even though DJI Mavic Air is quite an old model, it’s not to be taken for granted. Or better yet, it should not be underestimated. Yes, DJI Mavic Mini is a worthy successor, but the old Mavic Air still has a couple of aces up its sleeves.
Affordable Obstacle Avoidance
DJI Mavic Air is among the cheapest drones with obstacle avoidance that are currently available on the market. It’s still quite pricey, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a package that’s well worth every penny. How come? Well, in addition to forward, backward and bottom obstacle avoidance sensing, DJI Mavic Air packs a ton of additional features, one of which is of course return to home. On top of that, it has access to object tracking, terrain follow, and a bunch of spectacular camera modes that’ll look great on your Instagram account.
Fly More Combo
There are two versions of DJI Mavic Air you can get your hands on. The first is the base version which gets you only the drone itself and a few necessities to get it up and running. The Fly More Combo, however, comes with two extra batteries, a dedicated controller providing with a ton of additional range, and a 4 in 1 charger, all packed in a gorgeous case that’ll protect your expensive investment. It’s a great catch, though, and brings forth great value, just like all other return to home drones featured on our list.
The dedicated controller packs approximately 4 kilometers of operating range and the battery duration flies around the 20-minute mark. It’s not the greatest flight time by today’s standard, but it’s still pretty good considering the rest of the package.
4. Parrot Anafi
For everyone looking for a superb, premium-grade, but at the same time unique drone, there’s no need to look further than Parrot Anafi. The French drone brand had an absolute creative blast with this one. They’ve effectively created one of the best mid to high-end drones, nicely poised with awesome features and quality specs.
We’ve come to expect brilliant specs from mid-tier drones, and the situation with Parrot Anafi is not any different. We’re looking at a great performing drone with roughly 4 kilometers of range and more than 20 minutes of battery life.
The features are all here – return to home, GPS, altitude hold, and more advanced stuff like follow me and visual subject tracking. However, a notable downside is the lack of obstacle avoidance. I guess that sort of tech is strictly reserved for slightly more expensive models.
Last but not least, we have to talk about the camera. If you’re looking for a pro-grade aerial photography drone and you’re not ready to splash out more than $1000, then Anafi is the next best thing. It costs much less than $1000 yet still offers 4K at 60fps in glorious HDR. Yep, Parrot Anafi is one of the cheapest HDR drones currently available on the market, and that’s something prosumers always search for.
3. DJI Phantom 4 Pro
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I am afraid that you’ve all come to the last drone on this list… But don’t be sad because it is the best (and most expensive of course) drone that is currently available on the market… and that has the one key return to home function.
DJI, the most known drone manufacturer in the world has been making a lot of new drones recently, but not one of them stands out of the crowd as much as the new Pro version of their Phantom 4 flagship.
Great Value for Money
This everything you need kit comes with… well, pretty much everything you might need, including a carrying backpack, card reader, neck strap, 3 extra batteries, 2 micro SD cards (16 and 64GB) and that’s just a small part of what comes within the package.
When it comes to the actual specifications and features of this drone, I believe you already know everything there is to know. It’s a professional aerial platform that can reach up to 7 kilometers of lag-free control range and can be in midair for almost half an hour (on a single battery). In other words, if you buy this kit you’ll get a total of 3 batteries, meaning you’ll get more than an hour’s worth of flying time if you fully charge all of them.
Saving the Best for Last
With all of this in mind, it’s also important to add that it comes with a dedicated transmitter and a brilliant 4K camera with a professional-grade lens capable of providing you with professional image/video quality at silk smooth 60fps. If we take all its features and specifications into consideration, there is no doubt that DJI Phantom 4 Pro will remain on its throne for quite some time.
2. Autel Robotics EVO
Autel Robotics EVO is the second-best drone with RTH we’re going to feature in this piece. It’s a gorgeous little bugger that can go head to head with some of the best consumer-grade drones out there, even the almighty DJI Mavic 2 Pro. The performances, precision, and features this bad boy possesses are not to be taken for granted. That said, if you are interest in awesome drones with return to home features, Autel Robotics EVO seems like a solid choice!
There’s nothing about this drone that will outright disappoint you. There’s not a single underlying factor that would make you assume it’s not worth the money. Take the operating range as the perfect example – there’s roughly 7 km of range which makes Autel EVO one of the best long-range drones out there. The battery isn’t half bad either, clocking in at almost 30 minutes with lenient flying.
Absurd Color Choice
If we haven’t mentioned by now, Autel Robotics EVO is a bright orange drone, bringing forth a unique appearance unlike anything else that’s currently available on the market. The all-new EVO 2 lineup of drones will feature the same color, but they have their own advantages and design differences that’ll make them stand out.
There’s one more thing I need to mention about the Autel Robotics EVO and that would be its superb camera. For a $1000 drone, you’re obviously getting a powerful photography solution that’s capable of both 4K and HDR. But, Autel Robotics goes one step further, pushing the envelope with buttery smooth 60fps footage. That’s not something your average return to home drone can do, is it?
1. DJI Mavic 2 Pro
The top spot on this list of the best drones with return to home functions is one and only DJI Mavic 2 Pro. It’s safe to say this drone excels at virtually every possible aspect. Not only is it small on its own, but it even folds down to an even smaller size. This makes it perfect for carrying around wherever you go.
Specifications-wise, it’s nothing short of brilliant. I’d dare to say it’s pretty much on par with the standard version of Phantom 4. It can fly for up to 30 minutes and reach up to 8 kilometers with ease. Combine that with a phenomenal 4K camera with 3-axis stabilization and you’ll understand what we are talking about here.
Best of all, DJI Mavic 2 Pro’s Hasselblad camera is capable of capturing UHD footage at 60 frames per second and according to HDR standards. Yep, that means more smoothness and superb color fidelity… and you can’t really put a price on those factors.
On top of all that, DJI Mavic 2 Pro probably has the best set of features of all currently available premium models. Not only does it sport several layers of failsafe, including auto RTH, but additional safety features like omnidirectional obstacle avoidance, and plenty of autonomous flight modes to further improve your aerial photography/videography.
Flying speed is not to be taken for granted either. It goes around 40mph (cca 65km/h) which is incredibly fast if I may notice. Still, if you want maximally stabilized aerial footage with no jello effect, you’re not getting it at top speed. All in all, there’s no question in Mavic Pro’s supremacy in the foldable drones market. I really doubt any other drone will be a direct competitor any time soon.
FAQ: Self Landing Drones
Is RTH automatically activated when my drone is out of range?
RTH feature on high-end devices goes even a step further. You see, if there’s a shortage of battery, it will automatically start returning your drone to the takeoff location.
Likewise, if there’s interference between the drone and its controller, the RTH feature will turn on automatically, getting your drone back safely.
The latter mostly happens when the drone gets out of its designated range. In that scenario, the only safe way of getting your drone back is the automatic return to home feature. So, for all of you who thought this was a gimmick, I’m sorry to inform you were wrong.
Why is the return to home feature so popular?
If you haven’t noticed by now, this feature is quickly spreading all over the market. At first, return to home was a special trait of high-end drones. Nowadays, even the cheapest, entry-level models have it. Even models without GPS have it. How does that work? Is that just a marketing trick?
Well, it’s not a marketing trick (well, actually, it sort of is). RTH feature does indeed work without GPS data (10 Drones with a GPS system). To be more precise, there are 2 versions available – GPS-powered and standard. The latter is, of course, used by those insanely cheap models. I’ll explain how they essentially work down below.
GPS VS NON-GPS RTH
As I have mentioned above, there are 2 versions of this feature available on the market today. Let’s take a closer look at both of them and explain how exactly they operate.
GPS – Return to home
GPS RTH feature, as its name implies, heavily relies on GPS data. In most drones, once you take off, the current location is registered and will be used once you press RTH button on your controller. That’s why, if you want to use it, you first have to enable GPS data on your drone. Otherwise, if you happen to lose track of your drone and press the button, you won’t get any results. While we all know that GPS spends a lot of battery when enabled, it’s still a small price to pay for safety.
NON GPS – Return to home
Instead of getting the takeoff location, this version of RTH feature relies on going backward. Yup, it’s as simple as that. In combination with headless mode, non-GPS RTH works pretty good. Despite that, the overall precision is nowhere near a GPS powered one. But, considering the price difference, it’s still better than nothing!
Is this feature a must-have for a first-time flyer?
While I wouldn’t call it a must-have, it’s definitely a good thing to have for first-time flyers. A real-must have would be something like headless mode or altitude hold – those two functions mean a lot more to beginners than RTH.
Still, if you’re already keen on spending $200 and upwards on a new drone, do yourself a favor and get a drone with return to home feature. Even though it won’t matter that much during your first few flying sessions, once you get a hold of things and experiment with long-range flying, you’ll come to appreciate the brilliance behind RTH tech.
Are Cheap Drones with Return to Home Features Good for Beginners?
As mentioned numerous times already, the key virtue of return to home drones is the added level of security, which is of crucial importance for beginners. Imagine yourself as a first-time flyer. You end up losing track of your drone and the FPV feed doesn’t help you out a ton. With an RTH drone, all you have to do is click that RTH button and your drone will start flying back to the location it took off from.
Going out of range or being low on battery is the biggest fear of beginner flyers. Luckily, drones offering automatic failsafe (auto return to home) are nowhere near as expensive as they were a few years ago. Needless to say, their handy functions coupled with affordable price tags makes them the obvious choice for beginner drone pilots in 2020.
Wrapping Things Up
As the drone technology continues to develop, I’m sure we’ll see even more top-tier return to home drone. After all, the extra level of reliability and in-air safety they bring forth is gaining more importance as the years go by. RTH technology could be the driving figure for autonomous drone delivery fleets, which could further push the developmental leaps.
In terms of the casual drone market, we’re still seeing a large influx of drones with return to home functions. Models as cheap as $150 possess GPS modules and supporting features such as return to home. The drone market really has come a long way, and the move to cheap RTH models was purely logical. After all, not only do they up the overall levels of reliability and safety but they’re also darn cool tricks you can awe your friends with.
“Hey Nathan, check out my drone, it’s gonna fly right back from where it took off, all on its own. Isn’t that cool, huh?”