With a few taps, you can now direct Skydio‘s $1,999 autonomous drone from your Apple Watch, allowing you to fulfill the geeky dream you never knew you had: directing an expensive autonomous drone with your little wrist computer.
The very cool R1 self-flying drone will also be going up for sale in U.S. Apple Stores, a big win for the young drone startup that has only been taking orders via its own website. Apple doesn’t have a very robust selection of drones either, with most of their selection coming from drone giant DJI, putting Skydio in some pretty elite company.
Now, let’s get back to the real question here. Why on earth would you need to control a drone from your Apple Watch? Well, it’s certainly a valid question. The Apple Watch launched with a ton of third-party apps, and one by one they kind of seemed to drop off as developers — and Apple — learned that the device is generally at its best when it’s part of a passive experience.
Skydio sort of bills the R1 as a drone built for the GoPro crowd, delivering a very unique type of footage but ultimately one that can be self-controlled. Navigating the Skydio app on your phone always takes you out of action for a bit and makes it so that you staring at your phone is always the first part of every cinematic shot. With Apple Watch support, some use cases make a lot more sense than others. People who use the drone to video themselves while biking will probably find this particularly useful, as the controls are all of a sudden in a much more accessible place on your wrist. Otherwise, the Watch support makes the very niche problem of controlling a drone in the most low-key way possible just a little bit easier.
The Watch app has a very straight-forward UI and really gives you a lot of control over the drone. You can cycle through the list of skills, tapping modes like Lead, Follow and Orbit and putting the drone to work, but you can also interestingly identify people in the R1’s feed for it to follow, as well. It all works surprisingly well on the Watch, and feels like an unusually powerful set of features for the device.
For the Skydio user, the Watch is now in your control repertoire. It’s certainly not going to be the most logical piloting mechanism at all times, but if you’ve been looking for more effortless ways to direct the R1, you have some new options.