Skydio is introducing a convenient new way to control its intelligent R1 autonomous drone — from the Apple Watch. The new Apple Watch Skydio app lets you put your drone in the sky, phone in your pocket, and manage the flight from your watch. Skydio R1, released earlier this year, is also being sold in Apple Stores across the US and Canada for the first time.
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Skydio R1 is an autonomous drone designed and programmed to take flight and capture a subject in action — no manual control required. The new Skydio app for Apple Watch borrows key features from the companion iPhone app and removes the need to keep your phone in hand after takeoff.
For example, you can launch R1 from the Skydio app on iPhone then use the Apple Watch app to swipe through people it recognizes for tracking. The watch app can’t show you a live preview of what R1 is capturing and the phone still needs to be nearby, but the watch can present snapshots of people within its field of view for following (or it will recommend moving in front of the camera if no one is in sight).
After you takeoff, you can use the new app to view Skydio R1’s remaining battery percentage, change flight modes, and end the flight from the Apple Watch. You can even use the Digital Crown on Apple Watch to easily rotate Skydio R1 during flight.
Skydio R1 includes a variety of modes for controlling how it captures video and moves around you during flight. I tested Skydio R1 control from my Apple Watch during an outdoor bike ride and found the new watch app very useful. For cycling specifically, mounting the iPhone is still useful for having a live viewfinder of what Skydio is capturing, but putting the iPhone in your pocket or a bag makes the experience more immersive if you’re running or hiking.
Skydio R1 is really good at keeping up with you even around sharp turns while avoiding obstacles like trees, and quickly changing flight modes from the watch without using the phone can be really convenient. The simplest example is just switching between modes of how Skydio R1 flies around you: in front, behind, or beside you — and how close to you it flies.
The autonomous drone has a variety of other flight options too like rocket which has a blast off effect for capturing an aerial shot, orbit for hovering around you at multiple angles, and tripod for staying in a fixed location and tracking your movements.
The video it captures looks great at 4K resolution, and the built-in USB-C port makes transferring video to new MacBooks really convenient. Skydio R1 is limited by 16 minute battery life per flight, but changing batteries between flights and taking back off isn’t difficult.
Skydio R1 retails for $1999 with availability in select Apple Stores starting today; Skydio R1 is also now available through Amazon. The new Skydio app for Apple Watch is also launching today. Stay tuned to 9to5Mac’s sister-site DroneDJ for more on Skydio R1 soon.