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Flying a Drone Over Water? Follow these tips (and Best Drones)

8 mins
Drone Blog
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Even though most consumer drones are not water-resistant by any measure, there might be some instances where you have to fly your drone over water for one reason or another. So, how can you safely fly your drone over water while minimizing the risk to your drone?

Before flying your drone over water, disable the VPS, carefully pre-plan your shot, make sure that you enable the maximum flight distance on your drone, practice your takeoff and landing and avoiding obstacles, and make sure that your home point is set to manual.

The problem with flying over water for most recreational drones is that these drones tend to have limited operational times and are in danger of possibly landing or falling into the water. So, if you don’t want to risk damaging your drone while you are flying it over water, take a look at our safety tips to be sure that your drone is as safe as possible if you do need to fly it over water.

Expert tips for drone flying over water #

For those of you who want to minimize the risks involved when you are flying your drone over water, here are some tips that can save you a lot of grief and money:

Disable Vision Positioning System #

If you are using a DJI drone, you can reduce your risks when flying over water by first disabling the Vision Positioning System or the VPS. This is a technology that maps the surface right below the drone. While VPS is useful in general, the problem is that the light reflecting off of the surface of the water can make it much less effective when flying over water, and may even lead to automation errors. That’s why it is recommended that you always maintain at least two meters of distance above the water if you are when flying your drone over water. But if you are planning to take a shot that is below two meters, be sure to turn VPS off so that you don’t end up fighting with your drone’s computer.

Plan ahead #

You don’t want to wing things when you are flying your drone over water. That means that it is important to make sure that you already have things planned ahead before you start flying your drone over water. The main reason here is that drones have limited operational times and ranges and you want to make the most out of it. 

It is also equally important for you to know the right locations and the different angles for your shot before turning your drone on so that you will be more efficient at taking shots with respect to your drone’s battery.

Enable maximum flight distance #

It is always best (and legally required) to fly your drone within your line of sight. However, if you are planning on flying your drone far away and taking shots from a good distance from yourself, it is best to enable maximum flight distance especially when you are using a DJI drone. You can do so by going to the DJI GO 4 app. Activate the function by going to the main controller settings and selecting Enable Max Distance, where you will be able to input your max distance. But don’t input a distance that is over your controller’s capabilities. 

Practice, practice, practice #

Practicing how to properly fly your drone can never be overstated because of how important it is for you to be great at this aspect. This means that you need to practice taking off and landing in precise spots so that you won’t end up landing your drone on the water. Of course, it is also important for you to learn how to avoid obstacles while flying because there might be birds when you are flying your drone over water.

Set your home point manually #

While DJI drones will automatically have a home point set at where they took off, it’s best, in this case, to set your home point manually. This is especially true if you are flying over water if you are on a boat. That’s because your location might end up changing while you are on a boat as it is quite normal for the current to change the positioning of your boat. As such, because your positioning would have certainly changed from the time your drone took off, it is best to set your home point manually so that your drone won’t try to land itself on the water at your original takeoff point.

Take wind speed into consideration #

Flying over water can be more difficult because of the fact that wind speeds tend to be faster  over the water since there aren’t obstacles to slow down the wind. For this reason, when you are flying your drone over water, always take wind speed into consideration so that you will always stay in control of your drone. After all, stronger winds might steer your drone out of control and will make it more difficult for you to land safely on dry land.

Why you might need to fly your drone over water #

In general, it’s best not to expose drones to water, as most consumer drones are not water-resistant, and definitely not waterproof (with a few exceptions). But there may be some times when you are willing to take the risk, and here are a few of the reasons to tempt you to take your drone out over the water. 

Drones can be used for a wide variety of different purposes, but they are especially great for photographers and hobbyists. With this use in mind, there are various things that you can take photos of when you are on the beach or even out over the open sea. 

For example, the best way to capture photos and videos of surfers is with a drone. It can be very difficult to bring a camera crew out on the sea. If you’re trying to capture footage from land relying on your zoom lenses, the quality of the imagery tends to be poor, and it can be hard to get good angles. 

Another good example of a reason you might want to take your drone over water is when you are fishing. You can use a drone that can take photos of yourself fishing while you are on your boat, or to spot fish in the water. You can even use a drone to drop baits farther than you can cast them with a rod. 

It’s also very common to find photographers who fly their drones over water because they need to take a good aerial shot of the beach or the open water. For them, the whole point of having a drone is to take aerial photos of water or beach scenes. 

All those mentioned are valid reasons for wanting to fly your drone over water no matter how risky doing so might be. That said, if you do want to fly your drone over water, make sure you know the risks involved and become a master of the art of drone flying to minimize the risk of losing your drone in the drink.

What to do if your drone falls in the water #

If you do make a mistake and your drone falls in the water, here is what you need to do:

  • Retrieve the drone and take the drone out of the water immediately. Turn it off so that electricity will not run through its different components.
  • Remove the battery.
  • Open the top cover of your drone and then flush the water out using distilled water. The purpose of doing so is to flush out any kind of water that can cause corrosion. Distilled water is less likely to corrode your components compared to seawater or freshwater.
  • Place your drone over a container of dry rice to help dry it off.
  • After that, wipe any moisture off of your drone while keeping the top cover removed.
  • When your drone is dry, try turning it on while the top cover is still removed. If there is smoke, one of the components might have shorted out. In such a case, take it to a repair center immediately.
  • However, if your drone turns on like it normally does, switch it off and then place the top cover back on it. Chances are good that you’ve escaped significant damage.

5 Best Drones for Flying over water #

If you are looking for drones that are best to fly over water, here are our top five picks:

1. DJI Mavic Air 2S #

  • Light and portable.
  • Great for taking aerial shots over water.
  • Battery life is great.
  • Amazing for all-around purposes.

2. DJI Mini 2 #

  • The lightest DJI drone.
  • Good for flying in short heights over water.
  • Very easy to fly.
  • Good flight time.

3. DJI Mavic 2 Pro #

  • Has fewer openings for water to enter.
  • Great for all-around purposes.
  • Good battery life.
  • Easy and intuitive to fly.

4. DJI Mavic 2 Zoom #

  • Has fewer openings for water to enter.
  • The zoom function allows you to fly higher altitudes while taking good photos.
  • Intuitive controls.
  • Decent 30-minute flight time.

5. DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 #

  • Sturdy and strong.
  • Can withstand stronger winds.
  • Amazing photo and video quality.
  • Can last in the air long enough for some good shots.


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