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How to fly drones over water safely (5 things you need to know)

Updated in 2022 by Paul Posea
how to fly a drone above water

Flying drones over the water can be a daunting task if you’re new to the hobby. However, with the right checklist in place, you can make it a considerably safer experience.

Flying a drone safely over water entails things like planning your flight, disabling the visual positioning system, updating your home point manually, and keeping track of obstacles. Proper equipment such as floating gear and waterproof kits can provide an additional layer of safety even in the case of motor failure.

Any questions you might have as someone just starting with maneuvers over water have been categorically answered in the blog.

Can You Fly a Drone Over Water?

Flying a drone over water can be somewhat challenging, but the whole thing can be a breeze with the proper precautions.

Flying your drone over water is entirely safe and doable, as long as you take certain precautions. While any drone can fly over water just fine, having a waterproof drone might make the difference in the eventuality of a crash.These drones are designed to withstand splash damage and saltwater corrosion, while also being able to land on water in certain cases.

If you're thinking of taking your drone along on your next cruise, it's best to know your drone's capabilities. 

If your drone is waterproof, you won't have to worry too much about flying it over water. If it's not waterproof, some additions to your drone will be enough to ensure your drone remains safe.

Moreover, you can also find multiple floating drones built with the purpose to fly over water safely.

Can You Fly a Drone Over the Ocean?

Taking your drone for a flight over the open sea may sound like it's a challenging thing to do, but it can be a rewarding experience if done correctly. You can get your tasks done without compromising your drone’s safety with proper planning.

You can fly your drone over the ocean with certain safety measures such as weather checks and ensuring that your drone stays away from obstacles. Strong winds and massive objects like ships and lighthouses often cause navigation problems and make your flight difficult. However, with a few safety additions to your drone, you can have a safe flight.

Being prepared for risks and weather conditions will keep your drone safe. Birds are something you need to watch out for as well, as seagulls have been known to react aggressively to drones.

Flying your drone over the ocean can be challenging for novices due to strong winds. Before bringing your drone along on the next cruise, ensure that it's able to withstand strong winds

It is best to forego the entire plan in rough weather than risk losing your drone.

Can You Fly a Drone Over a Lake?

Flying a drone over water brings its own set of challenges. But with some planning and thought, you can pull it off without a hitch.

Most drones have no issue navigating over lakes and other smaller water bodies. Lakes are suitable to fly over since the water is still and you won't experience extreme weather conditions. Of course, it is preferable to have a waterproof drone, but that is no necessity. Your stock drone is suitable for flying over a lake with the right equipment as well.

It is worth noting that most stock drones cannot land on water. Therefore, investing in a floating landing kit is sensible if you plan to use your drone over water over extended periods.

fly a drone over a lake

Is It Safe to Fly a Drone Over Water?

Although your drone can fly over water, having concerns about whether it is actually safe to fly your drone over water is understandable. You don’t want to risk damaging a valuable gadget.

It is perfectly safe to fly most drones over water with the proper precautions. Checking the weather, your drone’s capabilities, investing in a water landing kit, and disabling certain navigation assist features can help ensure your drone remains safe when flying over water for an extended time. 

However, you shouldn’t worry much about flying over water with a waterproof drone. These drones are built to be used in extreme weather conditions over water.  

It’s also possible to waterproof your regular drone, and we have an entire article that you can view here.

And always consider the safety of the people around you. So, if you’re thinking about taking your drone out at the beach, it would be best to ensure that the place isn’t too crowded and the drone will not accidentally hit someone.

How Close to Water Can You Fly a Drone?

Depending on the type of drone you own, there are two major categories with different instructions.

You can fly as close to the water as you want but drone manufacturers recommend maintaining an altitude of 2 meters above the water's surface. This distance is safe enough to keep your drone from damages and water splashes. Moreover, the recommended distance prevents the bottom-facing sensors on your drone from mistaking water for hard surfaces and landing on the spot. 

Flying too close to water is risky. There’s a chance that your altitude is lower than the take-off height and it can get difficult to figure out what your actual height is.

However, the waterproof drone can submerge in the water, so you don't have to worry about the altitude. 

If you desire to go below the recommended 2 meters, it is wise to disable some of the default navigation-assist features as they tend to bug over water.

Can You Fly DJI Drones Over Water?

While most of their drones are not waterproof, DJI has shared a set of instructions you can follow if you decide to take yours for a flight over water.

With proper precautions, you can take your DJI for a spin over the ocean on your next cruise. However, most DJI drones are not designed to withstand splash damage, so investing in a floating landing kit beforehand is wise.

If you follow the precautions laid out by the manufacturer, the chances of your drone getting damaged in flights over water are pretty negligible.

Can You Fly the DJI Mavic 3 Over Water?

The new DJI Mavic 3 has a suite of features that make it ideal for photography over water.

You can use your DJI Mavic 3 to fly over water without issues. The drone is weather-resistant, but we strongly recommend investing in a floating kit before taking it on its maiden flight over water.

Can You Fly the DJI Mini Air 2 Over Water?

With the Mini Air 2, you have a drone that is a perfect blend of portability and performance.

You can fly your DJI Mini Air 2 drone over water. However, as with most stock drones, it will be unable to land on water in case of an issue, so it is always wise to buy a floating landing kit to ensure the drone isn't damaged.

Can You Fly the DJI Air 2 Over Water?

The DJI Air 2 is a versatile and resilient drone that can work in most environments.

The DJI Air 2 is perfectly capable of flight over water, but in the event of an emergency, it cannot land on water, so having floating gear ensures your drone will not be damaged in any event.

Can You Fly a Swellpro Drone Over Water?

SwellPro relies heavily on their drones being waterproof in their marketing. With such an emphasis on their resilient construction, it makes sense that the drones are designed to work in any situation.

Your SwellPro is more than capable of flying over water. The drones have been designed with that purpose and have a whole suite of features to make operation over water hassle-free.

If you have any worries about your SwellPro landing or taking off from water, don't. Not only are these drones capable of flying over water, but you can safely land them right in the ocean, too, making them ideal for waterside use.

How to Fly a Drone Safely Over Water - 5 Things You Must Know

When flying over water, you can take certain precautions to ensure smooth operation and minimize the chances of an accident. Follow these instructions to prevent any mishap from occurring.

  1. Disable Visual Positioning System (VPS)

Most drones have a visual positioning system that allows them to maintain a safe distance from the surface. While that works smoothly on solid terrain, the sensor can be overwhelmed over a reflective surface like water that is constantly in flux. This leads to erratic behavior by the drone.

For a smooth flight, you can either fly your drone above the effective range of the sensors (usually 30 feet) or disable the system to take complete control.

It must be noted that this does not affect the GPS-stabilization system in any way.

  1. Plan your Flight 

Before your flight, it is best to chart a course your drone can follow. Most drones have flight path options to help them navigate with minimal user oversight.

Charting a course will help you retain control over your drone and ensure that you know its position at any given moment. In addition, the charting makes it easy to take over on the open sea if there is an issue.

  1. Avoid obstacles

There are a lot of objects that can interfere with a drone's navigation systems. For example, massive obstacles like lighthouses, ships, and even islands can cause a drone's guidance systems to act erratically.

When charting a course, ensure that your flight path is free from significant obstacles like islands, trees, or ships. In some cases, electromagnetic interference from lighthouses and weather towers can also inhibit your drone's performance. An even greater danger is from aggressive birds. For example, seagulls have been known to chase drones if they perceive them as intruding on their territory.

Steer clear of these obstacles, and you're looking at smooth sailing.

  1. Update your Home point manually

Most drones come with the ability to return to their takeoff point in the event of low battery or loss of signal. While this system works perfectly on solid ground, the feature can pose a problem if you're taking off from a moving boat.

If your drone moves beyond the effective range of your controller or has a low battery-it will return to the point of takeoff and land. This is a problem because the boat will have moved by then, leaving the drone stranded in the open sea.

You can either update the Home point manually so that the drone returns to your current location or use the following feature present on most drones. This ensures that the drone will return to the remote controller's current location instead of returning to a static takeoff point.

  1. Enable maximum flight distance

Although flying long distances over water can be tempting, it's always better that you continuously operate your drone within line of sight. To ensure the drone never leaves your controller's effective range, you can change the Maximum flight distance from the settings.

Changing the maximum flight settings ensures that the drone stays in your sight. This allows for better reaction and control in case there is an issue.

 The Best Drones That Can Fly Safely Over Water

With the market welcoming new and more advanced drones every day, it can be overwhelming for a buyer to make the right decision. To help you out, we found some of the most popular drones suited to flights over water.

  1. DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0

This sturdy drone is built to weather the most extreme weather conditions making it perfect when the wind is too strong. 

Combine that with DJI's iconic photography suite, and you have a drone that will give you the ideal shot over water.

  1. SwellPro Spry+ 

The SwellPro Spry+ is one of the most advanced drones on this list. Built to be fully submersible, this drone can not only fly over the water but land and take off from the surface too! 

With its waterproof construction and fantastic camera, this drone is perfect to follow you on a surfing trip.

  1. DJI Mini 2

The Mini 2 is the lightest drone DJI has made so far. The Mini 2 is suitable when portability is the primary focus. 

The drone does not compromise on quality giving crisp photos in all conditions. It can fly over water without any issues, and its intuitive controls make it perfect for beginners.

  1. Autel Evo II Pro

Among the most popular drones on the market right now, the Autel Evo II pro is designed to be sleek and portable with a rugged exterior.

Based on performance alone, this drone deserves to be a top contender in any list. And with navigation support and homing built-in, you don’t have to worry about flying this over water.

  1. SwellPro SplashDrone4

The SplashDrone 4 is the latest model by SwellPro, arguably the industry leader in waterproof drones. This new drone is an upgrade to the classic SwellPro SplashDrone 3 and features a host of new updates. 

The camera, the software, and the aesthetics have all been improved significantly. In addition, the drone is waterproof, so you don't have to worry about flying it over water.

Final Thoughts - Should You Fly a Drone Over Water?

Piloting drones over water can be a challenging task. But if you're a novice that's just starting, make sure you follow all the instructions regarding proper operation. Even an instant of oversight could cause extensive damage with such expensive equipment. 

That said, flying your drone over water can be deeply rewarding in terms of experience. Just make sure you're prepared for it.

author-paul-posea-picture
Hi, I'm Paul.
A big drone enthusiast, reviewing, comparing and writing about drones since 2015. I'm all about helping people enjoy and even monetize their hobby.
paul posea
Paul Posea
Hi, I'm a long-time drone reviewer and I hope my articles and comparisons on this site as well as Dronesgator's youtube channel are of as much help as possible.

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