You’re likely aware of the dangers water poses to electronics, so you wonder how you could make your drone immune to it. But how can you waterproof a drone?
Waterproofing a drone is entirely possible at home and there are two main approaches: one that deals with exterior cracks and openings, and one that focuses on protecting sensitive internal components.
This guide includes precious tips and directions on both methods of waterproofing your drone, and will be useful to beginners and pros alike.
Let’s kick off.
Wouldn’t that be lovely? Sadly, they aren’t, and especially so with entry-level DJI aircrafts.
If you didn’t skip your physics classes in elementary school, you already know that water disrupts the flow of electricity, thus wreaking havoc on any electronic device.
Most consumer drones are not waterproof since they don’t have water tight housings. The small cracks and openings at the exterior make them prone to water leaking in and potentially generating short circuits.
Potential effects of water on a drone include:
And that’s not all of it. We’ve explored more deeply what happens if you fly your drone in the rain or crash it in water if it isn’t built or prepared for contact with the dreaded enemy. Here, we’ll focus on prevention.
Waterproofing a drone is entirely possible and doesn’t take much time or money. The process is difficult inasmuch as dismantling your drone is a complicated job.
You can waterproof your drone fairly easily at home, by using conformal coating or anti-corrosives. Alternatively, you may use a wetsuit if you’re not comfortable with taking it apart.
Your drone may get in contact with water on rainy, stormy, snowy or foggy days. Still, there’s hundreds of other potentially wet situations, like landing on wet grass or accidentally crashing your drone in the lake. I have also made a guide on whether or not you should avoid flying in fog.
Also, since most drones’ insurances don’t cover water damage, waterproofing your drone saves you of the hassle of a costly repair or replacement in case of an accident.
But some drone users simply want to fly in inevitably wet environments, and that’s reason enough to make your drone waterproof.
I constantly referred to this process as waterproofing, but I need to make a few amends for the sake of clarity.
Technically, what we’ll accomplish is making a drone water resistant to some degree. Truly waterproofing a drone is an almost impossible job. You can apply tons of coating and anti-corrosion grease, but you’ll always leave a small breach somewhere.
Of course, unless you’re working with a microscope, but I assume most readers don’t.
Therefore, after completing this process, your drone will become resistant to water, but not completely immune to it. That’s only achieved by drones that are waterproof by design.
If you want to make your drone as waterproof as possible, you have to completely disassemble it. But if you would rather not do that, a wetsuit is better than nothing if you’re determined to use your drone in bad weather.
The best waterproofing method combines applying a thin layer of silicone conformal coating on your drone’s PCB and using an anti-corrosion solution for the more sensitive parts. Still, some components should be left alone, like the barometer, plug sockets or switches.
With the preliminaries out of the way, let’s get your drone waterproof.
What you need: a drone and a suitable wetsuit
Cost: $50 - $500
Covering your drone with a wetsuit may add a layer of protection and make your drone more resistant to water. A good wetsuit may even save your equipment in case of a water crash or sudden rain, and it will give you some peace of mind when flying over water.
Research the market and find out if there’s any wetsuit for your drone model. Order it and install it on your drone. In my experience, no wetsuit is that difficult to put on a drone to require a guide.
You’ll surely find some for popular DJI models like the Mavic Pro or Mavic Mini, but don’t jump at them just yet.
Don’t forget to check drone pilots’ forums and see if there’s any opinion on your wetsuit of choice.
Hopefully, you’re going to get one that:
Cost: $50 - $75
Conformal coating is more advantageous in terms of protection than clothing it with a wetsuit. It’s the only drone waterproofing method that will protect the electronics inside your aircraft, to the degree that you apply it correctly.
These are my simplest and surest 5 steps to properly waterproof a drone:
Conformal coating is a thin film that conforms around circuits, protecting them from the outside.
I prefer silicone conformal coating over acrylic because it provides much better resistance against mechanical shock and chemicals. Plus, it repels water better.
Make sure you go for a “brushable” product, because spray won’t work as well.
If all that you’ve got available is acrylic conformal coating, it’s not the end of the world. It will offer some protection, although if you use too much of it, you’ll have a hard time getting it off the board in case you need to solder it or simply renew the coating.
Now, you have to disassemble your drone to the point that you’ve singled out the PCB (printed circuit board), keeping all the wires there connected. I can’t stress enough how damaging a small drop of silicone coating can be on a small wire socket, so make wires remain connected. However, you may need to remove the heatsink for better access to the PCB.
So, make sure the wires connecting the different electronic parts to the board like the ESCs and flight controller. Remove the motor to make locating these circuits easier. Keep in mind that you will not apply the coating on the motor itself, but most importantly on its controllers.
Next, you need to take a toothbrush and clean the electronics with isopropyl alcohol. Conformal coating will stick better and ultimately offer better protection if you clean the parts. Make sure you let the board dry or assist the drying process with a few passes of a low-setting heat gun.
Once your drone’s circuit boards and parts are dry enough, start applying the silicone conformal coating in even layers all over. Start with the PCB, then move on to the ESCs and FCs.
Silicone coating is translucent. That’s why, once you’re done brushing, you need to inspect your work with the help of a UV torch. You’ll be surprised to
Again, make sure you avoid any ports and sockets as the coating will ruin them. The same applies to the internal parts of your drone’s camera.
This step is optional, but could make a difference. Since we’re here for the ultimate waterproofing method, we need to include anti-corrosives for ports, sockets and other parts that couldn’t be covered in silicone coating. Anti-corrosives do not disrupt the flow of electricity, so there's no risk of ruining your drone if you drop a bit too much on a certain port.
Recommended products at this stage include CorrosionX HD and Shake’n Bake CorrosionX. You may be able to get through using other products, but I know from experience that these work.
Before applying anti-corrosives, make sure the silicone has dried.
Keep in mind that anti-corrosion lubricants often come in spray form and the substance itself is pretty messy. Unlike silicone coating, you can’t really miss a spot, but you may spray a lot more than you want. Take the time to get used to the spray before you start applying it.
Pros: cost-effective; you get genuine protection against water damage; your drone may survive flying in the rain for a short time and it might recover more quickly from a water crash.
Cons: difficult if you don’t know how to take a drone apart or identify the parts; may
You won’t need any additional materials or tools to waterproof your DJI drone.
Waterproofing a DJI drone has no peculiarities compared to other drones, so you’ll be able to use the same methods: cover it with a wetsuit or apply conformal coating on the board.
Although it’s one of the flagship DJI consumer drones, resistance against water is not among Mavic 3’s eye-catching features that you may further explore here.
DJI Mavic 3 is not waterproof, but as many users confirm, it won’t be damaged by minor contact with water. Its casing is sturdy enough and water will have a hard time passing on to the battery.
DJI Mini 2 is for certain one of the top consumer drones, but as good as it is, it doesn’t come with a waterproof housing.
Despite some uninformed claims, DJI Mini 2 is not waterproof, nor water-resistant. Although it might not be ruined by its first contact with water, prolonged usage in improper weather conditions will lead to condensation, and ultimately, circuits will fail.
This model comes with good security features, prompting some users, myself included, to ask themselves whether it can handle water.
DJI Mavic Air 2 is not waterproof, as its multiple vent holes clearly show. While it may take a drop or two, if you’re going to use it near water, consider making it more resistant with a wetsuit or applying conformal coating on the parts.
Researching the capacities of the DJI Mavic 3, you’ll come across many cool features, and it’s crystal clear just by looking at it that it comes with a more sturdy design than previous models.
However, the DJI Mavic 3 does not have an IP rating for protection against liquid, meaning that its water-resistancy is limited.
If you fly a Mavic Mini, it’s likely that you won’t get a significant improvement in terms of protection, since its design already prevents most water from leaking through to the battery. That doesn’t make it waterproof, but neither a wetsuit will.
An FPV drone has some additional parts compared to a classic quadcopter, but the waterproofing process goes along the same lines.
You can waterproof an FPV drone with conformal coating, but you still need to be careful with ports. Also, you need to apply the coating on the VTX and receiver as well.
Generally, electric motors aren’t sensitive to water, so you don’t need to make them waterproof. Motors will survive an unexpected water crash as long as you clean them properly afterwards.
The only risk you’re facing with motors getting in contact with water is rust, which can indeed hamper the functioning of your equipment.
The fundamental aim of this guide was to revisit a few basics regarding drones and water, and to help drone users like you make their equipment more resistant to water damage.
The benefits of waterproofing your drone are probably clear by now: for a manageable cost, you can extend your drone’s life by protecting its vital electronic components.
Hopefully, you’ve got the basics in conformal coating too, and have realised why using a wetsuit is not always the best option, even if it’s the easiest to accomplish.
Combine silicone coating your PCB with anti-corrosion on your ports and other sensitive parts and achieve the supreme waterproofing. Or, choose a waterproof drone and never think about water as an enemy again!