Aerial tracking, which has exhibited its omnipresent dedication and splendid performance, is one of the most active applications in the remote sensing field. Especially, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-based remote sensing system, equipped with a visual tracking approach, has been widely used in aviation, navigation, agriculture, transportation, and public security, etc. As is mentioned above, the UAV-based aerial tracking platform has been gradually developed from research to practical application stage, reaching one of the main aerial remote sensing technologies in the future. However, due to the real-world onerous situations, e.g., harsh external challenges, the vibration of the UAV’s mechanical structure (especially under strong wind conditions), the maneuvering flight in complex environment, and the limited computation resources onboard, accuracy, robustness, and high efficiency are all crucial for the onboard tracking methods. Recently, the discriminative correlation filter (DCF)-based trackers have stood out for their high computational efficiency and appealing robustness on a single CPU, and have flourished in the UAV visual tracking community. In this work, the basic framework of the DCF-based trackers is firstly generalized, based on which, 23 state-of-the-art DCF-based trackers are orderly summarized according to their innovations for solving various issues. Besides, exhaustive and quantitative experiments have been extended on various prevailing UAV tracking benchmarks, i.e., UAV123, UAV123@10fps, UAV20L, UAVDT, DTB70, and VisDrone2019-SOT, which contain 371,903 frames in total. The experiments show the performance, verify the feasibility, and demonstrate the current challenges of DCF-based trackers onboard UAV tracking. Besides, this work also implements the brilliant DCF-based trackers on a typical CPU-based onboard PC to achieve real flight UAV tracking tests to further validate their real-time capabilities and robustness under challenging scenes. A concise summary of future research trends in the area of DCF-based methods for UAV tracking is further provided. Finally, comprehensive conclusions on the directions for future research are presented.