What is the best underwater drone?
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
We also added a section about professional and industrial underwater ROVs for those who require more power and features. Last but not least, we also listed a few out-of-the-box options that can be suitable for kids and/or for fishing.
Read more about drones and what to consider when buying a drone in our drone buying guide.
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.
The 11 best underwater drones in 2021
|Underwater drones with camera||Battery life||Diving depth||4K Camera||Tethered/Wireless||Release year||Price||Buy|
|Chasing Dory||60 min||15 m||No||Tethered||2019||$499||Buy|
|Chasing F1||360 min||28 m||No||Wireless||2020||$699||Buy|
|Geneinno Poseidon||300 min||100 m||No||Tethered||2019||$910||Buy|
|PowerVision PowerRay||240 min||30 m||Yes||Tethered||2017||$999||Buy|
|Chasing Gladius Mini||120 min||100 m||Yes||Tethered||2018||$1,099||Buy|
|YouCan BW Space Pro||300 min||100 m||Yes||Tethered||2019||$1,399||Buy|
|QYSEA FIFISH V6||270 min||100 m||Yes||Tethered||2019||$1,699||Buy|
|Aquarobotman Nemo||180 min||100 m||Yes||Tethered||2018||$1,799||Buy|
|ThorRobotics TrenchRover||120 min||30 m||Yes||Tethered||2019||$1,878||Buy|
|Geneinno T1||240 min||150 m||Yes||Tethered||2018||$2,499||Buy|
|Chasing M2 PRO||300 min||150 m||Yes||Tethered||2021||$4,999||Buy|
Overview of the best tethered underwater drones in 2021
Below is more information about the best underwater ROVs selected for our list, including specs and important features.
The Dory is an affordable model from Chasing that can dive down to 15m while streaming 720p video or recording 1080p video at 30 FPS and taking 2 MP photos. It is compact (9.7 x 7.4 x 3.6″) and is delivered in a bundle with an adapted travel backpack.
The Poseidon is equipped with a 120° wide full HD camera able to take 1080p pictures and 1080p 30 fps videos while live streaming to smart devices. Its triple-thruster design allows it to move in six directions and its cable comes in two length options: 100 m and 150 m.
The PowerRay 4K underwater drone with a camera is ideal for fishing. Indeed, a range of fishing add-ons is 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.
Two versions of the PowerRay are available, the PowerRay Explorer (includes the drone, a transmitter, and a base station) and the PowerRay Wizard (includes the drone, a transmitter, a base station, a bait drop, Zeiss FPV goggles, Fishfinder, and a carrying case).
The Gladius Mini is a smart submersible drone equipped with a 4K camera. The Gladius underwater drone includes changeable ballasts that allow the ROV to be operable in seawater and freshwater. Its five thrusters also allow for the drone to travel up to 2 m/s.
Another version of the Gladius Mini is also available: the Gladius Mini S (includes a 4 Hours Runtime and the ability to use sophisticated attachments such as a grabber claw, sports cameras, and more).
The YouCan BW-Space is equipped with a camera with a 130° wide-angle lens able to capture 4K videos and 12 MP photos. Its 4-thruster system allows it to move vertically while increasing its stability underwater.
It is able to dive to 100 m and its battery can last up to 5 hours. YouCan BW-Space comes in an upgraded version called the Youcan BW-Space Pro, featuring better camera options such as an image stabilizer, depth maintenance shooting, or digital defogging.
The QYSEA FIFISH V6 is designed specifically for underwater photography and filmmaking. It allows users to capture outstanding 12 megapixel underwater images thanks to its 4K UHD camera and provides a specific 4000-lumen sunlight technology, a true color algorithm (FIFISH app), and a specifically designed lens for low visibility underwater environment. It is made to withstand a 100 m dive, and its battery can last up to 270 minutes.
The FIFISH V6 is part of the QYSEA FIFISH series with the FIFISH V6s and FIFISH P3.
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).
The TrenchRover from ThorRobotics is equipped with 2-4k cameras and can record 4K UHD video while offering 1080p real-time viewing diving down to 30m. It can be equipped with a mechanical claw to manipulate and grip objects underwater making it an interesting option for marine life studying and treasure hunting.
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 is available, including FPV goggles, a robotic arm, a sonar system, and a waterproof microphone.
Designed for professional users and industrial applications, the Chasing M2 PRO is perfect for long dives up to 150m deep. It can be fully equipped with a robotic clamp, dive light, and laser optical measurement (available on the classical M2 version) but it is also compatible with a control console (high brightness display), docking station, USBL underwater positioning system, multi-beam sonar, auxiliary camera, and other enhanced accessories exclusive to the PRO version.
Overview of the best wireless underwater drones in 2021
It can be really useful to have eyes under the surface of the water when you go fishing. Knowing the exact location of fish masses and the size, number or characteristics of a specific type of fish can drastically improve your fishing results.
The CHASING F1 was created to answer this specific issue. This digital full HD wireless fish finder drone with remote control is equipped with a four-thrusters vector layout propulsion system, a 1080P Full HD Camera (with IR capabilities at night), a built-in 28 Meters long automatic reel, and many other fishing accessories.
Our selection of professional and industrial underwater ROVs
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.
When Deep Trekker designed this ROV, they had an underwater inspection solution in mind.
Its 270 degree rotating 4K camera allows the user to take photos up to 8 megapixels. This ROV was constructed with cast aluminum, anodized, and epoxy coated to prevent corrosion.
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.
The Blueye PIONEER is part of the same product series as the Blueye X3 and the Blueye PRO.
|Battery life:||240 minutes|
|Diving depth:||100-300 meters|
This underwater drone features a 6-axis brushless propulsion, automatic depth, and orientation functions, a leak detection circuit, and can also be equipped with a mechanical manipulator arm to grab objects.
A very interesting feature is the built-in nine-axis compass that allows real-time monitoring of bow and underwater attitude.
|Diving depth:||150 meters|
Designed to withstand the harshest environments, the SeaOtter-2 can be equipped with an RMD-1 remote metal detector, front and rear pan and tilt color cameras, a high-intensity LED light ring, and a 10.5-inch flat-panel display built into the lid.
With its 150 meters depth-rated housing, the SeaOtter-2 is perfect for a variety of applications like pipeline inspections, river and ocean searches, oil and gas platform work, etc.
The SeaOtter-2 is part of the same product series as the SeaLion-2 ROV.
FIFISH PRO W6
|Battery life:||480 minutes|
|Diving depth:||350 meters|
With a maximum speed of 4 knots and a maximum dive depth of 350m, this industrial-grade underwater ROV platform is made to resist difficult underwater environments.
It is equipped with a ton of features like a U-QPS underwater quick positioning system (providing its real-time location), a Sonar Array system (QYSEA patent algorithm that allows position lock, Collision Avoidance, and Contour Scanning functions), a Dual 4K Camera System, a fully modular design to add specific systems and many others.
The FIFISH PRO W6 is part of the QYSEA FIFISH PRO series, with the FIFISH PRO V6 PLUS and FIFISH PRO Zen1.
|Battery life:||480 minutes|
|Diving depth:||305 meters|
|Price:||$10K – $50K|
This underwater ROV (remotely operated vehicle) is designed to be robust and durable, even in harsh conditions. It is suitable for a wide range of professional uses, including marine biology research, aquaculture, military defense, exploration, and more. The REVOLUTION ROV features a 4K camera, quick-swap batteries, a high depth rating, and a convenient travel case.
Underwater ROVs: special mentions
Best toy underwater drone for kids: Mariana
|Diving depth:||3 meters|
With its Diving depth of only 3 meters, the Mariana is not designed to sink too far into the oceans. This underwater drone should rather be considered as a toy than a tool covering real applications other than pleasure.
Nevertheless, its double propulsion system that allows it to reach 1.5 knots (2.8km/h), its maximum control range of 100m, and its 7.2V / 3AH battery make it a toy that will certainly delight most users looking for underwater fun!
Cheapest underwater drone: SPYCAM AQUA
|Battery life:||30 minutes|
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 seawater and freshwater. A small detachable fish feeding arm can also be attached to lure fish to get close-up footage of them.
Best underwater fishing drone: PowerDolphin
|Battery life:||120 minutes|
The PowerDolphin is an affordable underwater drone that 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 is available, including a bait container, a tow line, and the PowerSeeker sonar.
Waterproof quadcopter drone: SplashDrone 3+
|Battery life:||20 minutes|
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 require 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.
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 to 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
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.
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.
Underwater drones are for sale from online resellers such as Amazon, GearBeast, AliExpress, and Banggood. These drones can also be purchased from the manufacturers directly or from some brick and mortar stores.
Underwater drones are used for film-making, underwater exploration, port and ship inspections, environmental research, mapping, and more.
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.