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Photography

Tips for Flying a Drone Over Water (Safely)!

drone flight

I’ve been having so much fun with the DJI Mavic Air I got a few months ago! The video quality is outstanding and I love planning out places to take photos from above. Drone photography is a great hobby if you love to travel and be outdoors. 

Drones give us the ability to take some of the most stunning pictures known to the world of photography. However, drones can also be dangerous, and it’s easy to lose or break them. When my sister and I nearly lost my drone in a lake we realized we needed to learn more about flying, and to get some additional gear.

There are a few safety considerations you should keep in mind before flying your drone for the first time.

Since almost losing my drone I’ve learned a lot about safety and flying over water, so I put together this guide to help you avoid losing your expensive DJI drone. Read on for some drone safety tips that might save you a whole load of cash, and even your life!

drone water

FLYING YOUR DRONE SAFELY OVER WATER

A large number of drones are lost to the sea and water every year. Practice makes perfect; and many first-time drone flyers head off to the beach with no experience, losing their drone in the abyss forever. To avoid this, follow these tips for flying over water safely. I’ve divided these tips into three sections for your ease of use. Before flying, during flying, and photography tips – because everyone wants to take better photographs!

BEFORE FLYING OVER WATER

RECOMMENDED GEAR

These are some important safety tips to consider before flying your drone over water.

 

Don’t Fly Near Interference

What do we mean by interference? When flying DJI drones, certain objects might confuse the sensors. This could be things like lighthouses, seagulls, boats, or other large structures. Avoid all of these if possible and make sure your flight path is clear.  Fewer obstacles mean you are less likely to experience confusion behind the controls or to crash and lose your drone.

Don’t Land or Take Off on Sand!

If you do go to the beach, it’s best not to land or take off from a sandy surface. When you fly upwards from the sand, there is a high chance it will clog up the rotary blades and break your DJI drone. It also isn’t level, so it will force you to take off at an angle. If you really want to try taking off from the sand, attach landing gear or leg extensions to your drone first so it’s lifted off the ground.

Check Your DJI Drone’s VPS

Your drone’s Visual Positioning System (VPS) is affected by the surface that it is flying over. When flying your drone over water this surface is continuously moving; this means that the VPS is liable to become confused. If you’re going to be flying lower than 30ft it’s best to disable the VPS.

Attaching Floats

If you are sure your float is going to land in the water, then adding floats beforehand can make life much easier. You can also put stickers with your name and number on your drone in case a passer-by finds it.

Note: I tried these floats and they did not keep my DJI Mavic Air above water at all. I DO NOT recommend them! Instead, try these floats. They may make your drone unable or unsafe to fly in windy conditions, but they will do a better job of keeping it afloat.

Check the Weather

It’s not just strong winds and heavy rain that can make flying a drone over water unsafe; but also the wave height. If you don’t account for 6-foot waves on a calm day, then you may lose your drone to the sea. Pay attention, and you should be safe. You can also put waterproof lenses on your drone’s camera if you think water might splash onto the lens.

CHARGE UP

Make sure your phone, remote controller, and drone batteries are all charged up before flying. If the batteries start getting low, land your drone. Remember that the drone will auto land itself wherever it took off from if the batteries are getting low (unless you manually update the homing point,) and if you’re in a moving boat that could mean it lands itself right into the water! 

drone_over_water

WHILE FLYING YOUR DRONE OVER WATER

Safety tips for during your flight:

Stay Low

Going too high is the best way to lose track of your drone. Staying under that 30ft mark will allow you to keep an eye on your drone while avoiding high seas. Don’t go too high, or it may just blow away.

 

Manually Update Your Homing Point

If you keep your homing point away from the sea and towards the sand or beach area, you have a higher chance of saving it from a watery grave. This tip comes from DJI Technology themselves.

 

Use Intelligent Flight Mode – Course Lock

This function allows you to get the best out of your photographs while your drone is in the air. It also lets the drone fly automatically to give you more scope to get the shots you need.

DON’T DIVE IN TO SAVE YOUR DRONE

This one is very important. While it may be tragic to watch your drone land into the water to be lost forever, you can be putting yourself in danger if you jump into the water to save it. Instead, wait a moment to assess the situation and figure out the best way to try and retrieve your drone. Although you will probably blow a fuse and may need some repairs, your drone may still be fixable after a swim session. Salt water can cause addition damage and should be avoided even more than fresh water. 

drone dock

DRONE PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

Of course, the main reason for flying a drone over water in the first place is to get the all-important perfect shot. Here are a few top tips for drone photography over water:

  • When shooting from a boat, remember to set the homing signal to ‘diverse’ and be ready to catch it with a baseball glove. You should also be aware of water currents, as these will affect your ultimate positioning on landing. DJI drone Photo Academy has more tips on shooting from a boat.
  • Consider your angle – the water will reflect any light.
  • If you need a glass-like surface, a single ripple can ruin your day.
  • Play with exposure. A long exposure will blur running water and create a fabulous effect.
  • Adjust the color of the water in the edit, or with your camera. Nobody likes a murky brown sea.
  • Don’t fall in!
  • Make sure your drone is fully charged. There is nothing worse than getting on the water only to discover you didn’t get the shot!

 

Rounding Up

Drones are an amazing tool to take fantastic aerial water shots. They give us a new perspective and a new way of working with a camera. While they might be one of the best advances in aerial photography for generations – they are also expensive, and nobody wants to spend hundreds of dollars on a piece of tech that might well end up at the bottom of the ocean.

If you follow all the tips above you should be able to fly your drone over water in relative safety and get some gorgeous shots. If not? There is always insurance.

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