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The 12 best underwater drones in 2019


In this product roundup we list the best underwater drones available on the market this year. Alongside this selection, we offer insight on underwater drone applications, pros and cons, and where to find an underwater drone for sale.

What is an underwater drone ?

Underwater drones (or ROVs) are submersible, waterproof drones that enable users to explore marine environments remotely. These drones are able to navigate through underwater currents thanks to one or more propellers. They are generally equipped with cameras, obstacle avoidance sensors, and powerful lighting to record good quality footage even in dark underwater environments.

 

What is the best underwater drone in 2019?

Underwater drones are a niche category of drones that is developing very quickly. These drones are commonly referred to as ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) and are mainly targeting professional users. But they are still fun to play with for hobbyists and diving enthusiasts!

Underwater ROVs serve a wide variety of professional purposes, including underwater exploration, filmmaking, ship inspections, scientific research, and more. Their main purpose, however, is to capture underwater footage in seas and oceans.

One important thing to keep in mind: these aquatic drones are predominantly tethered via a cable to a floating beacon or buoy at the surface. Cable tethering is necessary to get a live video feed from the drone and, more importantly, to ensure the drone doesn’t get lost in the abyss. However, some wireless underwater drones do exist (see below).

Most water drones are equipped with powerful headlamps, providing visibility in dark submarine conditions. Many of them also boast 4K cameras for high-quality image capture. Other common features and add-ons include FPV goggles, robotic arms, and ballasts.

Our selection of the best underwater drones provides a comprehensive view of the top products available on the market at different price points. We’ve broken these drones down into two sections :

  • The best tethered underwater drones
  • The best wireless underwater drones

Read more about drones and what to consider when buying a drone in our drone buying guide.

The 12 best underwater drones

Underwater drones with cameraBattery life (minutes)Diving depth (meters)4K CameraTethered/WirelessCountryRelease yearPrice*Buy
Robosea BIKI120 min60 mYesWirelessChina2017$799Buy
Fathom One120 min45 mNoTetheredUS2018$999Buy
Aquarobotman Nemo180 min100 mYesTetheredChina2018$1,399Buy
CHASING GLADIUS MINI120 min100 mYesTetheredChina2018$1,499
Sofar Trident180 min100 mNoTetheredUS2018$1,695Buy
PowerVision PowerRay240 min30 mYesTetheredChina2017$1,987Buy
Navatics MITO240 min40 mYesTetheredChina2019$1,999
Geneinno Titan240 min150 mYesTetheredChina2018$2,999Buy
QYSEA FIFISH P3270 min100 mYesTetheredChina2018$3,499Buy
Shenzhen Vxfly CCROV270 min100 mYesTetheredChina2017$3,699
Notilo Plus iBubble60 min60 mYesWirelessFrance2019$4,499
Blueye Robotics PIONEER120 min150 mNoTetheredNorway2019$9,878
This table represents our selection of some of the best water drones on the market, listed from lowest to highest price.

*MSRP: manufacturer's suggested retail price. These prices are subject to change over time and from one country to another (import taxes, shipping fees, etc.).
Methodology/disclaimer: we haven’t tested all of the drones in this list. For more information on our methodology, read here about how we work.

Overview of the best tethered underwater drones in 2019

Below is more information about the best underwater ROVs selected for our list, including specs and important features.

Fathom One underwater drone

Fathom One

  • Battery life: 120 minutes
  • Diving depth: 60 meters
  • Country: United States
  • Price: $999
  • Seller: Amazon
The Fathom One is a portable underwater drone with a modular design that allows users to easily remove the thrusters. Fathom’s proprietary Dive Buddy app enables the drone’s video stream to be viewed on multiple devices simultaneously. The Fathom One also includes an Action Rail for users to attach additional cameras or accessories to the drone.

More information: Fathom One modular underwater drone

Aquarobotman Nemo underwater camera drone

Aquarobotman Nemo

  • Battery life: 180 minutes
  • Diving depth: 100 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $1,399
  • Seller: Amazon
The Nemo offers some exceptional features for a mid-range priced drone. Its camera captures 4K UHD videos and 16 MP images. The Nemo can travel underwater with ease thanks to its QAS balance system and 4-thruster design. Users may control the Nemo via optional FPV goggles (VR headset).

More information: Aquarobotman Nemo underwater drone with camera

CHASING GLADIUS MINI underwater 4K ROV

CHASING GLADIUS MINI

  • Battery life: 120 minutes
  • Diving depth: 100 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $1,499
  • Seller: N/A
The GLADIUS MINI is a smart submersible drone equipped with a 4K camera. The GLADIUS underwater drone includes changeable ballasts that allows the ROV to be operable in seawater and freshwater. Its five thrusters also allow for the drone to travel up to 2 m/s.

More information: CHASING GLADIUS MINI underwater drone

Sofar Trident (OPENROV Trident) open source underwater drone

Sofar Trident (previously OPENROV Trident)

  • Battery life: 180 minutes
  • Diving depth: 100 meters
  • Country: United States
  • Price: $1,699
  • Seller: Amazon
The Trident’s hydrodynamic thruster design enables the drone to operate seamlessly underwater. It can reach speeds of up to 2 m/s. This open source underwater drone can operate in both freshwater and saltwater.

More information: Sofar Trident open source water drone

PowerVision PowerRay underwater fishing drone

PowerVision PowerRay

  • Battery life: 240 minutes
  • Diving depth: 30 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $1,987
  • Seller: Amazon
The PowerRay 4K underwater drone with camera is ideal for fishing. Indeed, a range of fishing add-ons are available. These include a bait drop and the PowerSeeker Fish Finder, which can detect fish to a depth of 80 meters. A customized version of the Zeiss VR ONE Plus VR headset is also available optionally.

More information: PowerVision underwater fishing drone PowerRay

Navatics MITO underwater ROV

Navatics MITO

  • Battery life: 240 minutes
  • Diving depth: 40 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $1,999
  • Seller: –
The MITO is a tethered underwater ROV that is able to reach speeds of 2 m/s. Its two 1000-lumen LED lights provide excellent visibility for the drone’s 4K camera. The drone’s waterproof communication buoy allows users to control the ROV from up to 500 meters away.

More information: Navatics MITO 4K diving drone

Geneinno Titan professional 4K underwater camera drone

Geneinno Titan

  • Battery life: 240 minutes
  • Diving depth: 150 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $2,999
  • Seller: Amazon
The Titan is a professional 4K underwater camera drone with two 1500-lumen headlamps. This underwater ROV is also equipped with six thrusters to efficiently navigate through difficult marine conditions. A range of accessories are available, including FPV goggles, a robotic arm, a sonar system, and a waterproof microphone.

More information: Geneinno Titan

QYSEA FIFISH P3 professional underwater drone with camera

QYSEA FIFISH P3

  • Battery life: 270 minutes
  • Diving depth: 100 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $3,499
  • Seller: Amazon
The FIFISH P3 is a professional underwater drone with an exceptional UHD camera (4K). This drone offers 1080p live video streaming and can capture 20 MP images. Moreover, it boasts a large 162° field of view and powerful 4000-lumen lighting.

More information: QYSEA FIFISH P3 professional underwater drone

Shenzhen Vxfly CCROV underwater 4K camera drone

Shenzhen Vxfly CCROV

  • Battery life: 180-270 minutes
  • Diving depth: 100 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $3,699
  • Seller: Amazon
The CCROV is a compact underwater drone with camera boasting an impressive amount of 6 thrusters (4 horizontal and 2 vertical). This professional ROV has an uncommon feature : the ability for users to quickly reel in the tethered drone. The CCROV’s 4K camera can capture Ultra HD video and shoot 16 MP images. An FPV headset is also available separately.

More information: Shenzhen Vxfly CCROV underwater 4K camera drone

Blueye Robotics PIONEER submersible drone with camera

Blueye Robotics PIONEER

  • Battery life: 120 minutes
  • Diving depth: 150 meters
  • Country: Norway
  • Price: $9,878
  • Seller: –
This Norwegian ROV’s high price point is explained by a sleuth of features. The PIONEER comes with FPV goggles and is operable via Wi-Fi. Its auto-depth and auto-heading modes offer an easy user experience. The PIONEER is also equipped with 3000-lumen lighting to provide underwater visibility.

More information: Blueye Robotics PIONEER

 

Overview of the best wireless underwater drones in 2019

Robosea BIKI wireless underwater drone

Robosea BIKI

  • Battery life: 120 minutes
  • Diving depth: 60 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $799
  • Seller: Amazon
This affordable and autonomous underwater drone with camera (4K) and waterproof underwater controller. Hence, users can control and dive alongside their drone. The BIKI also features built-in flashlights, obstacle avoidance sensors, and an integrated GPS. Robosea also refers to the BIKI as “bionic underwater drone”.

More information: Robosea BIKI underwater autonomous drone

Notilo Plus iBubble professional wireless underwater ROV

Notilo Plus iBubble

  • Battery life: 60 minutes
  • Diving depth: 60 meters
  • Country: France
  • Price: $4,499
  • Seller: –
This innovative underwater camera drone automatically follows the diver while capturing exceptional submarine footage. This level of autonomy is quite uncommon in the underwater drone niche. Notilo Plus even refers to their drone as a “personal underwater cameraman” for both professionals and consumers.

More information: Notilo Plus iBubble

 

Underwater ROVs: special mentions

SilverLit SPYCAM AQUA cheapest underwater drone

Cheapest underwater drone: SilverLit SPYCAM AQUA

  • Battery life: 30 minutes
  • Diving depth: –
  • Country: China
  • Price: $74
  • Seller: Amazon
This cheap underwater drone costs only $74 and is considered a toy drone. The SPYCAM AQUA is mainly intended to be used in controlled water environments such as small aquariums. However, the drone can be fitted with 4 weight balancers to be used in sea water and fresh water. A small detachable fish feeding arm can also be attached to lure fish to get close up footage of them.

More information: SilverLit SPYCAM AQUA

PowerVision PowerDolphin affordable fishing drone

Best underwater fishing drone: PowerVision PowerDolphin

  • Battery life: 120 minutes
  • Diving depth: –
  • Country: China
  • Price: $749
The PowerDolphin is an affordable underwater drone which is optimal for fishing. Despite its lower price tag, the drone boasts advanced features such as a 4K camera, a “Return To Home” function, and a 4.5 m/s maximum speed. In addition, a range of add-ons are available, including a bait container, a tow line, and the PowerSeeker sonar.

More information: PowerVision PowerDolphin

DEEP TREKKER DTX2 professional underwater drone

Professional underwater drone: DEEP TREKKER DTX2

  • Battery life: 360 minutes
  • Diving depth: 305 meters
  • Country: Canada
  • Price: $33,749
The DEEP TREKKER DTX2 has the deepest diving depth and the longest battery life of all the underwater drones. In addition, its 4K SONY Action Cam can capture high quality images and offers a 330-degree field of view.

More information: DEEP TREKKER DTX2

SwellPro SplashDrone 3+ waterproof quadcopter drone for aerial and underwater filming

Waterproof quadcopter drone: SwellPro SplashDrone 3+

  • Battery life: 20 minutes
  • Diving depth: N/A
  • Country: China
  • Price: $1,199
This waterproof quadcopter is predominantly aerial, but is surface buoyant and is able to film underwater from the surface. As SwellPro puts it, this drone is metaphorically more like a “flying boat” than a submarine. The SplashDrone 3+ waterproof drone features a 3-axis gimbal 4K camera and a range of optional accessories are available.

Underwater drone buying guide

Here are the key things to consider when buying a underwater ROV to make the right decision.

Wireless vs. tethered

Most underwater ROV are tethered via a cable to a buoy. It’s important to keep this in mind, as non-experts often imagine that underwater drones work in a way similar to aerial drones, diving freely in deep waters without any restraints.

That’s not the case, as the vast majority of submarine drones requires to be tethered to the surface while operating. There are two key reasons for this:

  • To avoid losing the drone in tough and unpredictable marine conditions: the cable is essentially a leash that secures the drone in case of an engine failure, out-of-range diving, etc.
  • To stream live video: the cable is used to transmit live video feed captured from the drone’s camera, thus allowing the operator to visualize in real time the footage captured by the drone on the remote control display (or mobile screen or FPV goggles, depending on the model).

Cable lengths vary depending on the manufacturer, but they generally allow the drone to reach depths of 50 to 200 meters.

Wireless underwater drones are much less common.

PowerVision PowerRay tethered water drone

The PowerVision PowerRay tethered water drone.
Source: PowerVision

Submersible drone headlights Notilo iBubble

The Notilo Plus iBubble submersible drone.
Source: Notilo Plus

Camera quality and lighting

The primary role of underwater drones is to capture images and videos in hard-to-access areas underwater. Tough marine conditions– in rivers and at sea– mean that these drones’ cameras must be of very good quality. Hence, most ROVs feature 4K cameras (UHD) with stabilization systems.

Also, these cameras need to be paired with powerful lighting (headlamps or light projectors) to help illuminate sun-restricted, murky underwater environments. A drone’s lighting power (quantity of visible light emitted) is specified in Lumen (lm).

Thrusters and propellers

Underwater ROVs are equipped with at least two motors, thrusters, or propellers. These can be partially covered or encased by the drone’s frame for protection, unlike many aerial drones.

The thrusters tend to be powerful to allow the drone to change direction in challenging underwater currents. Some advanced underwater drones also include a self-balance control system to make the drone easier to pilot.

The speed of the drones in the water varies substantially. It depends on water currents, weather conditions, and the number of thrusters the drone has. On average, underwater ROVs reach speeds of 2 to 3 meters per second.

Benefits and limits of underwater drones

There are both benefits and limitations with underwater drones. They allow users to capture exceptional underwater footage, but they are quite expensive and must generally be tethered to a buoy.

Benefits of underwater drones

  • They allow users to explore fragile seascapes without damaging the environment
  • Some underwater drones come with VR goggles for FPV experiences
  • Many underwater drones are able to capture high-quality images
  • They generally offer a better run time than aerial drones

Limits of underwater drones

  • Underwater drones often have limited ranges
  • Their price tags are quite high
  • Most underwater ROVs must be tethered by cable to the surface
  • Users must operate the drone from the surface, as waterproof controllers are uncommon

 

Underwater drones FAQs

What are underwater drones?

Underwater drones are remotely controlled drones that are able to navigate underwater. Their main purpose is to capture underwater footage, but they are also used to collect scientific data for research and for military applications

How much do underwater drones/ROVs cost?

Underwater drones generally cost between $1,000 and $4,000. There are cheaper drones available for less than $100, but they are toy drones. Much more expensive submarine drones exist as well (over $30,000); they are designed for industrial or military use cases.

Where are underwater drones for sale?

Underwater drones are for sale from online resellers such as Amazon, GearBest, AliExpress, and Banggood. These drones can also be purchased from the manufacturers directly or from some brick and mortar stores.

What are underwater drones used for?

Underwater drones are used for film-making, underwater exploration, port and ship inspections, environmental research, mapping, and more.

What are underwater military drones?

Underwater military drones are highly-advanced underwater drones that can be used in swarms for surveillance or to protect coastlines. Some can be armed with explosives. The Aquabotix SwarmDiver is a military drone, for example.

More resources

 

About this author

Ludivine Cherdo

Ludivine is Aniwaa’s Head of Content. Based in Troyes, France, she oversees the content strategy and ensures the content published meets the company’s strict editorial standards. Ludivine obtained her Bachelor’s from the ESC Troyes business school where she studied business administration with a special focus on Digital Marketing. She made the most of her gift for languages by completing part of her studies abroad, gaining valuable work experience in content production and branding along the way. She first joined Aniwaa in 2017 as an intern.