Some of the most fascinating drone footage is captured flying over water. The very nature of it makes for incredible visual opportunities unique and unobtainable to most until recent years. Flying over water also poses greater risk to the drone, beyond the obvious crash into the waters below. This article will provide some insight into flying your drone over water and provide tips on how to do it safely.
First and foremost, if your drone has vision positioning system, disable it before taking off. This feature locks onto stationary features on the ground, giving your drone the ability to position itself where GPS may not be present. If flown closely over moving water, the drone is likely to become disorientated and lose its perception of where it should be.
Sea breezes caused by the land-sea pressure differences result in you drone having to work harder against the breeze.
Once you have done this, make sure to take in the general surroundings. Look for where waves are crashing, get a feel for their timings and consider the positioning of other water users. Depending on the type of camera, objects may appear further than they are.
If you are on the coast, within a harbour area, or nearby a shipping lane, it is very possible that there will be high intensity radio transmissions from ships or the coastguard. Many coastal areas are protected sites, whether it is for nature, heritage or geomorphological significance. If protections are in place, ensure that you are allowed to fly within these areas and fly safely.
As you pass over the sea, make sure to keep a closer than usual eye on your battery usage. Sea breezes caused by the land-sea pressure differences result in you drone having to work harder against the breeze. Therefore be more conservative, set your battery warnings to higher percentages and bring the drone in sooner.
It’s hard to go wrong when aiming to create amazing footage over water; even a grey day can look impressive with the landscape. As a pilot who often flies over water, I learned three things after my first attempt:
1) avoid filming your propellers by not flying full speed even though it may be possible to do so with obstacles,
2) fly in nice straight and smooth lines, do not adjust your drone mid-shot as it ruins the consistency of the footage
3) stay calm and fly with a clear mind; there should be far fewer ground hazards over water to avoid causing danger to.
Finally, remember that if your drone does end up in the water, it may dry out. Or parts of it may dry out. Or you might just be able to retrieve the MicroSD card, but keep in mind, it probably contains footage which could be considered priceless.