Flying Drones Over Water: Safety Tips and Recommendations

Here's everything about flying drones over the water: safety tips and what to do if your drone fell in the water anyway.
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Last updatedLast updated: May 31, 2024
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Flying drones over water is an uphill task that professional photographers and videographers dread as water environments are often filled with potential hazards. If you are not keen enough, you could lose your drone in the water. To fly a drone over water safely, you need to plan for the flight properly, keep track of all obstacles, update the home point manually, and disable the visual positioning system.

You should also invest in proper equipment like waterproof kits and floating gear for an additional layer of safety. This article covers everything about flying a drone above water safely. With proper precautions, the seemingly nerve-racking experience should be a breeze to any drone pilot.

Can You Fly a Drone over Open Water?

You can safely fly a drone over water if you take certain precautions. Although you can fly any type of drone over water, a waterproof model would be safer in the eventuality of a crash. The

Flying a drone over the open sea sounds like a dreadful, challenging experience, but it is doable and fun if you plan properly. You can safely fly your drone over the ocean with top safety measures like checking the weather prior and keeping the drone away from obstacles. Besides strong winds, massive objects in the ocean, like lighthouses and ships, can obstruct your flight.

You should also look out for birds. Seagulls are notorious for reacting aggressively to drones.

Safety additions to your drone will prepare it for risks and harsh weather conditions. Ensure the drone can withstand strong winds, and if the weather is too harsh, avoid flying altogether, as you will risk losing your drone. You can also waterproof your regular drone and invest in a safe water landing kit to enhance its safety.

You would have an easier time flying your drone over a lake and other small water bodies compared to the ocean. Lakes and other small water bodies do not experience extreme weather conditions like the ocean. Even though a waterproof drone is a better option, it is not a necessity when flying over still lake water. Your stock drone can fly over lake water with a floating landing kit.

Can You Fly DJI Drones over Water?

Flying Drones Over Water: Safety Tips and Recommendations

DJI Trusted Source How to Fly Safely Over Water - DJI Guides Check out these essential tips for keeping your drone safe while flying over water. discourages flying over water but have drones that are capable of a safe and dry flight with the right precautions. Some of the best DJI drones you can fly over water include: DJI Air 2S, DJI Mavic 2 Pro, DJI Mini 2, DJI Mavic 2 Zoom, and DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0. They are all sturdy and strong, can withstand stronger winds, have amazing video and photo quality, and can last in the air long enough for some good shots.

How to Fly a Drone over Water?

Here are some pro tips to help you minimize the risks involved when flying your DJI drone over the water:

1. Get drone insurance

If you fly commercially or own a high-end, costly drone, you should get drone insurance. In this case, you need the hull insurance that covers water damage. According to Investopedia Trusted Source The 6 Best Drone Insurance Companies of 2023 We researched and reviewed the best drone insurance companies, taking into account transparency, plan options, coverage amounts, and more. , hull coverage covers physical damage to the drone, and you can also get add-on coverage for drone equipment, remote controls, and other accessories.

Should you crash or damage the drone, the insurance will cover all the expenses related to repairing or replacing it. Although costly, insurance is the best safety measure you can take for your drone. The only downside is that most insurance policies will require you to present the damaged drone to make a claim, which may be a problem if you lose your drone in water. You may be able to retrieve the drone from a lake or other small water body, but an ocean may be stalemate.

2. Do a pre-flight check

Since over water is the last place you’d want to experience a hitch or crash, you must do a thorough pre-flight check. Perform a few flight maneuvers hovering around without VPS and check that the GPS reception and Home Point are all set.

3. Plan well for the flight

Before launching your drone to fly over water, you must consider a few things to ensure its safety and avoid any last-minute surprises that may cause problems during your flight. The first thing to check is the weather. Look at the weather forecast and ensure the conditions are safe for flying. Foggy skies and light winds may not seem like much but they can affect your drone’s performance.

Next, plan your flight route before taking off. Ensure there is enough open space for you to turn around or land fast if needed. You should know the difference between you and the obstacles around like boats.

Plan to spend the littlest amount of time on your drone when flying over water by having everything ready before launching and taking off soon after landing. This reduces the chances of something going wrong.

4. Disable your VPS

Virtually all drones have sensors on their bottom side, known as Vision Positioning Systems (VPS).  Geospatial World Trusted Source What is Visual Positioning System (VPS)? Visual Positioning System, or VPS, has been the buzz of the town for the past few months. VPS is a feature in Google Maps that helps to overcome the challenges of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and gives more precise locations. defines VPS as a technology that enables a device like a drone to determine its location and orientation in the physical world with visual cues.

VPS uses the drone’s proximity from the ground to get an altitude and help it maintain a steady hover. Although it has a limited range, the VPS feature is extremely useful when hovering at low altitudes.

The downside is that VPS can face challenges when a drone is flying over reflective surfaces like water. Water is an unstable surface, so a drone hovering over it with VPS readings will drift in different directions while trying to adjust to the changing topography below it.

The best thing to do is disable the VPS and rely on GPS stabilization. Alternatively, you can fly outside of the range of VPS. The standard range is 30 feet from the ground.

5. Watch out for obstacles

The best way to avoid obstacles when flying over water is to fly at high altitudes. You may be tempted to go lower to take better shots, but you risk being swept away with a large wave. Even if there are no waves, your drone may get soaked by sea sprays that you cannot see.

Avoid flying near boats, cruise ships, container ships, or any large obstacle. You cannot be too sure of the altitude the boat or ship needs to clear. Moreover, it is bad practice to fly over people on a boat without their knowledge. Should your drone encounter any obstacle on water, retrieve it and fly elsewhere.

Pay extra attention to altitude when flying over open water, as the readings often get distorted by frequent pressure shifts caused by strong tidal winds. Bright sunlight reflecting water also distorts water depth perception.

Bird are another huge obstacle to watch out for. They may fly in your path and damage the drone’s camera and other parts. They can also congregate around the drone just for fun. It’s best not to take any risks with birds as they can easily cause damage or death if they hit something moving at high speed, like a drone. To get rid of bird flying around the drone, make sudden movements with the controller to prevent a bird from flying through to attack from above or below.

You could also raise the drone’s elevation so that the birds have no chance of attacking it. Scare them away by making loud noises or throwing something in their direction. If

6. Invest in a landing kit

Flying Drones Over Water: Safety Tips and Recommendations

Capturing cinematic shots over water and at the beach is one of the best experiences for any drone pilot with an excellent drone camera. The only challenge is landing and taking off from sand.

For the sake of your camera and gimbal, you don’t want to take off on bare sand. Tiny sand particles can enter the small spaces of the Gimbal and scratch the camera’s lenses. Always pack a foldable landing pad before you leave for the beach.

A landing pad is also great for emergency landing on water. High-quality landing pads are made with soft materials like cloth or foam to cushion the impact when your drone falls. Choose a model that has waterproofing material like rubber on its bottom to protect your drone from water damage.

When flying, keep the landing pad near your so you can easily reach it in case of an emergency. You can even tie it to your belt loop with a string or rope.

7. Pay attention to the winds

Besides causing flight instability, strong winds can make your battery levels drop rapidly. That said, you have to be keen on the concepts of headwind and tailwind when flying over water. Essentially, you should fly out against a headwind and have a tailwind when flying back. This way, you can easily retrieve your drone when you need to.

The only issue is that a tailwind is not guaranteed when your drone is on its way back, hence the need to give your drone enough time to turn back before its battery runs out. Keep in mind that running out of battery mid-flight over water has serious consequences.

What are the Best Drones for Flying over Water?

Flying Drones Over Water: Safety Tips and Recommendations

Although you can successfully fly a regular drone over water, a waterproof model is a better option. The waterproof features on the drone will give you the freedom to explore the ocean, lakes, and rivers for marvelous underwater shots. Only a few drone models can handle water and the best that money can buy include;

DJI Mavic 2Air

  • Excellent battery life.
  • Light and portable build.
  • Best for over-water aerial shots.
  • Great for both land an over-water use.

DJI Mini 2

  • Easy to fly.
  • Lightweight build.
  • Best for flying lower to capture great over-water shots.

Splash Drone 3 Auto 4K

  • Waterproof build that can fly in rain, float, land, and surf on water.
  • Waterproof Gimbal for stable camera and video shots.
  • Convenient fishing and lifesaver module for fishing and water rescue.
  • Easy to fly.

DJI Mavic 2 Pro

  • Easy to fly.
  • Great battery life.
  • It has a watertight build.


  • Land on water.
  • Great camera.
  • Optional waterproof gimbal for excellent shots.

DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

  • Zoom feature allows you to take the best shots at high altitudes.
  • Decent battery life (30 minutes).
  • Intuitive controls for easy flying.
  • Water-tight construction.

DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0

  • Sturdy construction that can withstand strong winds.
  • Exceptional photo and video quality.
  • It can last long in the air for great over-water shots.

DJI Mavic 3 and DJI Mini 3 Pro are also excellent options for flying over water. The Mavic 3 has a professional-grade camera that takes incredible shots and video footage with sharp details. It also boasts a decent flight time of 46 minutes. Its omnidirectional obstacle sensing feature makes it a fantastic choice for flying over water as it can smoothly avoid obstacles.

The Mini 3 Pro is more affordable and portable. It comes in a compact, foldable design. Its camera will give you seriously pro shots with remarkable details and you will enjoy sweet air time of 36 minutes. It also has tri-directional obstacle sensing for safe flying over open water.

Read our articles on the best drones under $2000, and best drones under $600 for more affordable and high-quality drones that you can fly over water. If you have an extremely tight budget, consider the low-budget options on our product list in the article best drones under $200.

What to Do if Your Drone Falls in the Water

Flying Drones Over Water: Safety Tips and Recommendations

If your drone falls in water for whatever reason, do not panic. Here is what you can do to rescue it:

  • Retrieve the drone from the water and dry its parts. Remove its battery and turn it off so electricity won’t run through its parts.
  • Remove all the water that could cause corrosion on your drone by opening its top cover and rinsing it with distilled water.
  • Wipe any moisture off the drone then place it in a container of dry rice to dry its internal parts completely.
  • When the drone is dry, turn it on with the top cover off. If you see smoke, then one of the components shorted out and needs technical attention from a professional at a repair center.
  • If the drone turns on normally, switch it off and replace the cover.

Final thoughts

Flying a drone over water is one of the most exhilarating and fun experiences that every drone pilot should experience. With certain precautions, you can fly any type of drone over water. However, the waterproof models are better if you want more freedom when exploring a water body. We have provided the best tips for flying drones over water and answered the most popular drone queries; can I fly a drone over open water? and can drones fly open water? The most critical safety measures are insuring the drone, and performing a thorough pre-flight check to limit obstructive last minute surprises.

If your drone is not waterproof, you can make it water-resistant and invest in a good landing pad to reduce damage risks. Also, ensure you understand the drone laws in the area you are about to fly in to avoid trouble.


How to Fly Safely Over Water - DJI Guides
Check out these essential tips for keeping your drone safe while flying over water.
The 6 Best Drone Insurance Companies of 2023
We researched and reviewed the best drone insurance companies, taking into account transparency, plan options, coverage amounts, and more.
What is Visual Positioning System (VPS)?
Visual Positioning System, or VPS, has been the buzz of the town for the past few months. VPS is a feature in Google Maps that helps to overcome the challenges of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and gives more precise locations.
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