Imagine a drone that can not only literally fly circles around most other drones — autonomously — but that can also avoid obstacles like trees and rocks while doing so. That’s the Skydio 2 drone, a $999 flying machine that’s revolutionizing aerial photography. Since it can be controlled from an iPhone or iPad, I consider it an Apple accessory and that’s why I’ve written this review.
By now, probably a thousand or more Skydio 2 drones have made it into the hands of professional reviewers, outdoor sports enthusiasts, and drone fans, meaning that there have also been countless videos and reviews touting the features of the drone. I’ve now had a chance to fly my Skydio 2 (AKA “Yeti”) a number of times, and several hours of flight time gave me an opportunity to forge opinions about the device.
My first flight was done with my iPhone 11 Pro Max running the Skydio 2 app so that I could complete the training that demonstrates many of the built-in flight patterns.
Frankly, I don’t like flying drones using apps, but that’s a personal preference. The experience using the app was actually quite good, and I could see using the phone to control a flight if my controller was out of power or in the shop.
I was pleasantly surprised by how quiet the Skydio 2 seems to be. My other drone — a DJI Mavic Pro Platinum — is allegedly a quiet drone, but the Skydio 2 doesn’t seem as loud as it does. I will need to remember to do a decibel measurement with my Apple Watch Series 5 for both drones at various altitudes to see if my perception was correct. I’ve only seen one complaint about the sound of the Skydio 2 in online comments, and even that commenter wondered if he had an issue with the drone that was causing a louder than usual noise.
Before flight, I adjusted settings to get the drone to shoot 4K 60fps video starting at takeoff. I like that feature; there have been times where I’ve neglected to start video on my Mavic Pro Platinum until well into a flight, which meant that I lost valuable footage. Sigh. At least I won’t do that with the Skydio 2.
I love how easy it is to get this drone flying. With the Mavic, I always feel like there are too many steps required to get the damned thing in the air. Take it out of the case, unfold the “arms”, make sure that the battery is plugged in and locked, remove the gimbal cover, remove the gimbal lock, press the battery button, then press it again, wait for the app and controller to give me the OK to fly, etc…
The Skydio 2? Slap on a battery pack, remove the gimbal lock (which is much easier to remove and replace than the Mavic lock), press the button on the battery for 3 seconds, make sure the controller (in this case, the phone) and drone are communicating, and launch. Seriously, this drone is very easy to set up and fly.
After the auto-launch, I went through a bunch of the steps in the app tutorial just to get the hang of the auto modes. I slogged around in the snow on the ground during one set of flights to have the drone follow me, circle me, etc…, and was surprised at just how smooth the video is considering that the Skydio 2 does a lot of abrupt maneuvering.
I was a bit concerned about the Skydio 2 landing in deep snow on the first flight, so its first landing was a hand landing! I had read the precautions about hand launches and landings, so I was prepared and found it to be quite easy. The landing on the second flight was onto the snow, where the drone sat on the surface and didn’t sink in.
Skydio 2 Flight Videos
As you can see, the video is crisp and clear, although a bit “blown out” thanks to the brightness of the Sun on the snow. That’s not the fault of the drone; I’ll know to change the exposure or use an ND filter the next time. If you have the ability to watch this in 4K, please do – you’ll see just how sharp the video is.
I really like the feel and responsiveness of the controller, which I used on the second flight. Every control is easy to reach, especially the left and right paddles and the shutter and boost buttons. My hands are rather small, so pilots with larger hands may find the compact controller to be a bit cramped. For me, though, I found it to be less tiring than the Mavic controller during a long flight.
This second video just shows a bit more of the stability of this flying camera platform. Nothing too exciting; no zipping down a hill on a mountain bike at high speed while having the Skydio 2 follow me!
Skydio 2 As A Professional Tool
It goes without saying that this drone is awesome when it comes to following people and avoiding obstacles; there are hundreds of YouTube videos that will demonstrate that. That same autonomy is making the Skydio 2 popular with first responders, who like the fact that they can hand the controls over to almost anyone and get good results with videos and photos without the fear of crashing the device.
Skydio has also partnered with DroneDeploy, so those who wish to take advantage of the platform for mapping can do so. That’s a big plus for professional use. The company has even demonstrated a way to automatically launch the drone from a “lock box” equipped with a charger, fly a specific route each day, then land and recharge.
However, there are some steps that Skydio really needs to take before it is truly a pro tool. I’ve asked the company to make flight logging a priority, since many pro drone pilots track each flight with tools like Airdata to not only get performance and detailed telemetry info, but automate the process of creating maintenance schedules.
The Skydio 2 is an amazing drone, and I honestly believe that anyone can fly one — it’s that easy to control and the obstacle avoidance technology can reduce the number of “oops, I flew it into the tree” errors that are common with beginners. The camera is excellent and the stability of the drone makes this a wonderful cinematographic tool.