Waterproof Drones in a Sailing Magazine?
By Steve Morrell
Drones have been around a long time, but when I was a kid (decades ago), helicopter drones were toys—and pretty crude ones at that, but the dream of every kid was to have one.
Fast forward to today and they have gone from expensive military drones to sophisticated private ones used for aerial photography for just fun. But they’ve also included many that are capable of rescue missions, package delivery (Amazon), surveying, inspections, real estate, professional movie filming and more.
But in the world of watersports, they’ve become a great way of filming sailboat racing at relatively low cost. I first reviewed a camera-carrying drone in 2014, calling it a remote helicopter. Since then, drones have boomed in production—and they are all “helicopters,” with four or more churning blades moving them through the air. That drone drew my attention because of how well it videoed a local sailboat race, the drone owned by an amateur. After that, I began to see all sorts of boating events covered by drones, including the Everglades Challenge from St. Pete to Key Largo and the annual Sunfish race around Harkers Island in North Carolina. There are hundreds more races covered by drones today around the world that we don’t hear about, since they are filmed and shared locally with and by racers.
I mentioned that filming a race can be done at relatively low cost. That means you need to buy one first, of course, but if you already own one, the cost is almost nothing. Nothing—unless it lands in the water and you either lose it, or it gets destroyed or damaged by the water. Even flying in rain has caused drones to be damaged beyond repair. But no more.
The First Waterproof Drone – Lifesaving and Long Line Fishing
Along comes Mariner Drone, a drone whose frame was totally waterproof and carried a GoPro waterproof camera. The drone was created by a Chinese company that was already building small model motors and other model parts. Its owner heard about drones that were lost or damaged by water—even just rain—or through unintentional water landings. The drone hit the market in 2013, but the offsprings that have evolved from that drone have come a long way since then. In 2015, SwellPro (USA agent is Urbandrones) was started by the Mariner Drone creator as a company dedicated to waterproof drones.
SwellPro’s latest drone is called Splash Drone. It came out in 2015 and was crowd-funded and launched via Kickstarter. Mariner Drone didn’t have the smart flight technology and other advanced features, but the first Splash Drone did, including some unique ones. It also had a payload release system for delivering a lifesaving device like a Personal Flotation Device for someone in trouble on the water who was too far out for quick rescue or in conditions that would make rescue difficult or slow. Another such use, suggested by fishermen, was long line fishing where the drone would deliver a long line out at great distance and then release it. The Splash Drone Fisherman version was released. They even have drone racing versions.
As these new versions were released, flight control technology improved, GPS precision increased, materials improved, the weight decreased, and the viewing screen in the controller’s hands increased.
The latest version, Splash Drone 3 Auto was fully funded on Kickstarter and first versions will be delivered in July. The company has created its own waterproof camera and not only can the drone film in the air with the latest camera technology,
but it can even land in the water and film underwater and then take off again. Their is even a command you can give it so that it will follow you, or your boat, at a certain elevation, while it videos you.
Splash Drone 3 Auto is available for $1699. Fishing and racing versions are also available. The fishing version can also be used as a rescue version with its release mechanism, capable of carrying up to 2.5 pounds. www.SwellPro.com