Waterproof drones
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Waterproof Drones are Coming!

With several recent announcements about waterproof drones, it’s only a matter of time before there is a waterproof drone that “takes off” and is a real commercial success. Who will be the winners and losers? What company really needs a waterproof drone? Let’s find out.

Who will Win the Waterproof Race?

Before we dive into the waterproof drone offerings that are already available, we’ll discuss which company is most likely to have a runaway success with a consumer waterproof drone. We think the good money is on DJI. With a history of innovation, and the Matrice 200 that can already fly in the rain, it hopefully won’t be too long before DJI has a consumer or “prosumer” waterproof offering.

DJI matrice 200 and DJI Spark

The Matrice 200 is IP43 rated but there are no signs of waterproofing or gaskets on the DJI Spark’s battery compartment.

With other waterproof consumer drones already available, why would DJI win? Because they are DJI, and DJI hasn’t had a losing drone yet. DJI has had nothing but success in the consumer space, their quality and brand recognition is second-to-none. When DJI finally releases a waterproof consumer drone it will likely squash much of the waterproof competition. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the new DJI Spark will be waterproof, but hopefully their next consumer drone will be.

GoPro Needs a Waterproof Drone

If any company desperately needs a waterproof drone, it is GoPro. With a focus on adventure sports and a long history of waterproof products, a waterproof drone is a natural fit for GoPro. The new Hero 5 action camera is waterproof, so they already have a headstart.

GoPro Karma

We think the Karma would have been a commercial success if it were waterproof.

Will GoPro be able to pull it off? With a smaller engineering staff post-layoffs, they will be hard-pressed to make major innovations on a product as complex as a folding drone. With GoPro’s luck, they will release a waterproof drone only to be superseded a week later by an announcement from DJI.

Will Customers Pay for Waterproofing?

If you have ever flown near a body of water then you know how nerve-racking it can be. Fears of clipping a nearly invisible branch or running out of battery over water leave many pilots flying very cautiously around lakes, rivers, and the ocean. No one wants to watch their expensive drone disappear into the depths below.

Bugs 3, LG 360 cam, and Darth Vader

Our Bugs 3 Drone with an LG 360 Cam and Darth Vader flying over a pool in Mexico.

Waterproofing and flotation would make flights over and near water a lot less stressful. Waterproofing would also make flying in rain and snow possible. These weather conditions are not always the best for capturing video, but pilots will at least be more comfortable flying when those weather conditions are imminent. 

Today’s Waterproof Market

Neither DJI or GoPro has a waterproof consumer drone on the market today, so let’s take a look at who does.

SwellPro

The SwellPro Splash is the probably the most well-known and practical waterproof drone for most consumers. It is a full-featured drone and is similar in appearance and features to a DJI Phantom. The orange color is reminiscent of the Autel X-Star, and it can help you spot the drone when it is in the sky or floating on the water. The Splash boasts GPS and a full array of flight modes like Follow Me, Orbit, Return to Home and more. Their newest version the Splash Drone 3 Auto boasts a 4K camera, built-in LCD monitor display, as well as upgraded hardware and software.

Swellpro Splash 3 auto

Check out the new Swellpro Splash 3 Auto

The SwellPro Splash 2 is competitively priced at $1600. It is one heck of a drone with many of the same features as the Splash 3 Auto. For more details check out our full review.

Swellpro Splash Drone

The Swellpro Splash Drone may be the most complete and affordable waterproof drone on the market.

Check the current price on the Swellpro Splash

Swellpro is working on a smaller Spark-sized waterproof drone. The FreeFly Pro is designed to be more of an agile racer-type waterproof drone. It will come with a 4K camera and even a Follow Me mode. The FreeFly Pro may fit the bill for capturing footage of higher speed water sports.

Swellpro FreeFly

The smaller Swellpro FreeFly

QUADH2O, High-end Waterproof Drones

The folks at QUADH2O made recent headlines with a new floating hexacopter built largely with DJI parts and systems. Their HEXH20 PRO V2 boasts the reliability of a DJI with the added bonus of complete waterproofing. It captures footage with the impressive DJI X3 camera and has a flight time of 30 minutes. This hexacopter’s design ensures that won’t sink and keeps the camera dry during flight. This setup will cost you north of $6,000 but the same company also offers a quadcopter at a more affordable $2,895 price point.

Hexh20 pro v2

HexH20 Pro v1

The more affordable QUADH20 drone (from the company by the same name) has an interesting design. Like its more expensive cousin, it can film both above and underwater. It relies on a GoPro Hero 3 or 4 for video, and is stabilized by SwellPro’s 2-axis gimbal.

quadh20

The QUADH20 is an intriguing waterproof option.

Waterproof Toys, Let the Fun Begin

You don’t need thousands of dollars to get your drone wet. There are a couple of toy drones available that are waterproof. Let’s see which floats to the top.

JJRC H31

The JJRC H31 is a fun and affordable waterproof quadcopter. This drone is waterproof, nearly indestructible, and is a blast to fly. Watch the video below to see just what this drone can do.

The H31 flips with the push of a button and has headless mode. This is an excellent starter drone. The H31’s biggest limitation is its lack of a camera. They also didn’t put flotation in the drone so you will need to take a dive if your drone sinks to the bottom of the pool. For under $40 it is hard to go wrong with something this fun.

JJRC H31

The JJRC H31 waterproof drone is a fast and fun drone to fly.

Check the price of the JJRC H31

GPTOYS F51

The JJRC H31 is a fun and affordable waterproof drone, but if you are looking for something with a camera then you may want to consider the GPTOYS F51. It may not be as agile as the JJRC H31, but it does come with a 2MP camera. It is roughly the size of the popular Syma X5C and has a similar design. Like the JJRC offering, the F51 lacks the buoyancy to float. Why these drones are not given proper flotation is a mystery to us.

GPTOYS H51 drone

The GPTOYS F51 adds a 2.0 MP camera to the waterproof drone.

Check the current price of the GPTOYS F51

Waterproof Future

There are a couple more waterproof drones making news that you can’t really get your hands on yet. One of them is actually inflatable!

The Inflatable Drone

Airvada created the first inflatable drone called the Diodon. You’ll use the included air pump to blow up the arms and then get the drone into the air. Diodon is a hexacopter and stores the main components of the drone in the waterproof center. The inflatable design keeps the drone lightweight and makes it buoyant. It also deflates, folds up and is easy to transport. There are three different versions of the Diodon with varying levels of payload capability. No release date for the Diodon has been announced.

Diodon drone

The inflatable Diodon is an interesting concept

The Floating Phone Drone

The PhoneDrone Ethos from XCraft is a unique quadcopter that puts your smartphone in the air. Why does this drone make it in an article about waterproof drones? The PhoneDrone can float and smartphones are increasingly becoming water resistant. So, while you may not want to intentionally fly this drone into a pond, you will have some peace of mind that your drone, and your phone, won’t end up at the bottom. The PhoneDrone is currently available for preorder.

PhoneDrone Ethos

The PhoneDrone Ethos puts your phone in the air and can float on water.

Which Waterproof Drone is Right for You?

Waterproof drones are still flying under most people’s radar. That being said, there are still some proven options available today. If you need a waterproof drone platform today, then we recommend the SwellPro Splash drone for most people. If you have an oversized budget and inspecting bridges is your thing then the Matrice 200 is what you will want. But don’t land that bird on the water, it won’t float. If you are interested in a toy, we recommend the incredibly affordable and durable JJRC H31.

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Half Chrome • April 15, 2017


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