Earlier this year, drone company Skydio introduced its first product, the self-flying R1 drone camera with advanced automation and tracking capabilities.

The R1 was designed to be the first fully autonomous drone, able to work without the need for a person controlling its every movement. Prior to today, using the R1 was as easy as tapping a few buttons in the Skydio iPhone app, and now it's getting even easier.

As of today, the R1 can be directed through a newly introduced Apple Watch app that provides one-tap controls and directives right on your wrist.


The Skydio Apple Watch interface provides quick access buttons to set the R1 to follow you or a friend as well as options for doing tricks and stopping flight. While there are no manual controls available via the wrist, the R1 operates largely on its own. If you do want to control it manually, you'll need to do so through the iPhone app.

MacRumors was able to give the R1 and the new Apple Watch app a try ahead of its launch, and it's as simple as Skydio describes. The R1 detects people in front of it, and with just a tap, it can be set to follow you, where it records everything you're doing as a sort of flying personal camera or photographer.

skydior1drone
The R1 is a hands-off action cam replacement that's fantastic for hiking, biking, skiing, and similar activities where you might want to capture action-oriented video without the hassle of controlling a drone.

What's great about the R1 is that it has complex built-in obstacle avoidance capabilities. We wove it through trees and watched as it artfully dodged trunk after trunk with skill that even some advanced drone pilots would be unable to match.

The R1 is able to avoid obstacles because it's outfitted with 13 cameras that can see in every direction and identify objects like trees, people, cars, and more, using that information to decide what to do and what to avoid.

skydior1applewatchinuse
Once you set the R1 to auto follow mode, it basically flies itself, and there are some neat tricks that Skydio has programmed into it, such as the Boomerang that sends it flying forwards and backwards to capture a unique video shot.

The Apple Watch app offers up little thumbnails of the people around so you can set it to follow someone (or yourself), and it uses the Digital Crown in a unique way -- a twist of the knob rotates the direction of the drone.

Because it flies on its own, the R1 can do a series of neat little tricks, most of which are executable from the wrist. There are options for Dronie, Rocket, and Orbit, for example.

A Dronie starts close and then zooms out and up for a birds-eye view of a scene, while a Rocket shot starts close and then zooms straight up. An Orbit shot, as the name suggests, spins around you slowly. The Apple Watch app also includes a feature to return the drone to back to its starting place at the iPhone and shut it down, so you can get a full flight from the wrist.

skydior1applewatchapp
Skydio's R1 basically flies itself and it needs so little interaction that it's simple to use right out of the box, even for those who have no drone piloting experience. All it takes is an iPhone for setup and it can be controlled with nothing other than the Apple Watch.

The R1 is excellent at obstacle avoidance, but it's still a drone and an expensive one at $1,999, so there are rules to follow. It can't be flown in windy conditions, and its cameras aren't able to detect thin branches as we learned during a crash, so caution needs to be exercised.

Skydio is continually improving the R1 drone with new features and further autonomous research. It's out of the price range of most people who would use it casually at this point in time, and it's not the most portable at the size of a pizza box, but the technology is worth paying attention to because this kind of autonomy could be the future of mass-market drone usage in a few years time.

Along with introducing a new Apple Watch app for controlling the R1, Skydio has additional news. Starting today, the R1 is available on the Apple online store and at select Apple retail locations. It can also be purchased from the Skydio website.

Top Rated Comments

Scottsoapbox Avatar
52 months ago
This will really help when I feel alone when I'm away from all the cameras I have placed everywhere in my home.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

USB C Over Lightning Feature

EU Passes Law to Switch iPhone to USB-C by End of 2024

Tuesday October 4, 2022 3:30 am PDT by
The European Parliament today voted overwhelmingly in favor of enforcing USB-C as a common charging port across a wide range of consumer electronic devices, including the iPhone and AirPods, by the end of 2024. The proposal, known as a directive, forces all consumer electronics manufacturers who sell their products in Europe to ensure that a wide range of devices feature a USB-C port. This...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

10 New iOS 16 Features Coming Later This Year

Monday October 3, 2022 2:41 pm PDT by
iOS 16 was released to the public three weeks ago with a customizable Lock Screen, the ability to edit iMessages, improvements to Focus modes, and much more. And in the coming months, iPhone and iPad users have even more new features to look forward to. We've rounded up 10 new features coming to the iPhone and iPad later this year, according to Apple. Many of the features are part of iOS...
ipad pro m1 feature

Gurman: Apple Event This October Remains Unlikely, No Touch ID for iPhone 15

Sunday October 2, 2022 6:41 am PDT by
Apple is developing new iPad Pro, Mac, and Apple TV models, and at least some of these products will be released in October, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. However, Gurman continues to believe that Apple is unlikely to hold an event this month. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman said "the big iPhone 14 unveiling last month was probably it for Apple in 2022 in...
iOS 16

Apple Preparing iOS 16.0.3 With More Bug Fixes Following iPhone 14 Launch

Monday October 3, 2022 7:53 am PDT by
iOS 16.0.2 was released last month with several bug fixes for iPhone 14 issues, excessive copy and paste permission prompts, and more. Now, evidence suggests that Apple is planning to release iOS 16.0.3 with additional bug fixes. Evidence of an upcoming iOS 16.0.3 software update has shown up in MacRumors analytics logs, which have been a reliable indicator in the past. There are several...
Apple SIM Card

Apple SIM No Longer Available for Activating New Cellular Data Plans on iPads

Sunday October 2, 2022 8:04 am PDT by
As of October 1, Apple SIM is no longer available for activating new cellular data plans on supported iPad models, according to an Apple support document. Introduced in 2014, the Apple SIM was designed to allow iPad users to activate cellular data plans from multiple carriers around the world. Initially, the Apple SIM was a physical nano-SIM card, but it was embedded inside later iPad Pro...
maxresdefault

Video: AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort II

Monday October 3, 2022 12:50 pm PDT by
Apple on September 23 officially launched the second-generation version of the AirPods Pro, introducing updated Active Noise Cancellation, Adaptive Transparency, improved sound, and more. Right around the same time, Bose introduced new QuietComfort II earbuds with many similar features, so we thought we'd compare the two to see which has the edge. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for ...
General YouTube Feature 1

You May Soon Need to Be a YouTube Premium Subscriber to Watch 4K Videos

Monday October 3, 2022 4:29 am PDT by
YouTube may make watching videos in 4K quality on the platform exclusive to only YouTube Premium subscribers, according to screenshots posted by users on Twitter and Reddit. On Reddit (1,2) and Twitter, some users have started to recently notice that on iOS, and presumably across other platforms also, YouTube is now saying that in order to watch videos in 4K, the user must be a paying...
dynamic island alan dye

Apple Executives Talk About iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island in New Interview

Sunday October 2, 2022 10:48 am PDT by
In a new interview, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, and Apple's vice president of human interface design, Alan Dye, sat down to discuss the thinking behind the iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island and how it was developed. During the interview with the Japanese magazine Axis, Federighi, who oversees the development of iOS, said Dynamic Island represents the...