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The 17 best underwater drones in 2020


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 2020?

 
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 17 best underwater drones in 2020

Underwater drones with cameraBattery lifeDiving depth4K CameraTethered/WirelessCountryRelease yearPrice*Buy
Chasing Dory60 min15 mNoTetheredChina2019$499Buy
Robosea BIKI120 min60 mYesWirelessChina2017$799Buy
YouCan BW Space Pro300 min100 mYesTetheredChina2019$999Buy
Geneinno Poseidon300 min100 mNoTetheredChina2019$1,099Buy
ThorRobotics TrenchRover120 min30 mYesTetheredChina2019$1,380Buy
Aquarobotman Nemo180 min100 mYesTetheredChina2018$1,399Buy
Chasing Gladius Mini120 min100 mYesTetheredChina2018$1,499Buy
QYSEA FIFISH V6270 min100 mYesTetheredChina2019$1,599Buy
Sofar Trident180 min100 mNoTetheredUnited States2018$1,695Buy
PowerVision PowerRay240 min30 mYesTetheredChina2017$1,987Buy
Navatics MITO240 min40 mYesTetheredChina2019$1,999
Geneinno Titan240 min150 mYesTetheredChina2018$2,999Buy
Blue Robotics BlueROV2180 min100 mNoTetheredUnited States2019$3,483
Shenzhen Vxfly CCROV270 min100 mYesTetheredChina2017$3,699
Notilo Plus iBubble60 min60 mYesWirelessFrance2019$4,499
Blueye Robotics PIONEER120 min150 mNoTetheredNorway2019$9,878
Deep Trekker REVOLUTION480 min305 mYesTetheredCanada2019$10K - $50K
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 2020

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

Chasing Dory

  • Battery life: 60 minutes
  • Diving depth: 15 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $499

BUY

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.

Youcan BW-Space Pro

  • Battery life: 300 minutes
  • Diving depth: 100 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $999

BUY

The Youcan BW-Space Pro 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.

More information: Youcan BW-Space Pro


Geneinno Poseidon

  • Battery life: 300 minutes
  • Diving depth: 100 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $1,099

BUY

Also available on: Banggood

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.

More information: Geneinno Poseidon


ThorRobotics TrenchRover underwater camera drone

ThorRobotics TrenchRover

  • Battery life: 120 minutes
  • Diving depth: 30 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $1,380

BUY

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.


Aquarobotman Nemo

  • Battery life: 180 minutes
  • Diving depth: 100 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $1,399

BUY

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

  • Battery life: 120 minutes
  • Diving depth: 100 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $1,499

BUY

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


QYSEA FIFISH V6

  • Battery life: 270 minutes
  • Diving depth: 100 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $1,599

BUY

The FIFISH V6 is a professional underwater drone with an exceptional UHD camera (4K). This drone offers 1080p live video streaming and boasts an 8X slow motion mode. Moreover, it boasts a large 166° field of view and powerful 4000-lumen lighting.

What is very interesting with this drone is its six thrusters that provide it with 6 degrees of freedom in movement, meaning that it can go in more directions than just forwards and backwards. It’s also possible to use a VR headset with this water drone.

More information: QYSEA FIFISH V6 professional underwater drone


Sofar Trident (previously OPENROV Trident)

  • Battery life: 180 minutes
  • Diving depth: 100 meters
  • Country: United States
  • Price: $1,699

BUY

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

  • Battery life: 240 minutes
  • Diving depth: 30 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $1,987

BUY

Also available on: Banggood

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

  • Battery life: 240 minutes
  • Diving depth: 40 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $1,999
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

  • Battery life: 240 minutes
  • Diving depth: 150 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $2,999

BUY

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

Blue Robotics BlueROV2

  • Battery life: 180 minutes
  • Diving depth: 100 meters
  • Country: United States
  • Price: $3,483
This ROV (remotely operated vehicle) is popular for schools, businesses, hobbyists, and amateur sea explorers. The BlueROV2 features six powerful thrusters enabling it to travel at up to 1.5 meters per second. Its headlamps provide 6,000 lumens of light for good filming conditions.

Various accessories are available, such as a gripper, sonar, and additional thrusters (up to 8 thrusters can be mounted at a time).

More information: Blue Robotics BlueROV2

Shenzhen Vxfly CCROV

  • Battery life: 180-270 minutes
  • Diving depth: 100 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $3,699
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

  • Battery life: 120 minutes
  • Diving depth: 150 meters
  • Country: Norway
  • Price: $9,878
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

DEEP TREKKER Revolution ROV

  • Battery life: 480 minutes
  • Diving depth: 305 meters
  • Country: Canada
  • 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.

More information: Deep Trekker REVOLUTION

 

Overview of the best wireless underwater drones in 2020

Robosea BIKI

  • Battery life: 120 minutes
  • Diving depth: 60 meters
  • Country: China
  • Price: $799

BUY

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

  • Battery life: 60 minutes
  • Diving depth: 60 meters
  • Country: France
  • Price: $4,499
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

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

Best underwater fishing drone: PowerVision PowerDolphin

  • Battery life: 120 minutes
  • Diving depth: –
  • Country: China
  • Price: $749

BUY

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


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.

More information: SwellPro SplashDrone 3+

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.

 

About this author

Ludivine Cherdo

Ludivine is in charge of Aniwaa's content strategy and works towards providing useful, informative content, including detailed guides based on her deep knowledge of the additive manufacturing scene. She also reviews 3D printers and stays on top of the latest industry news and trends. After growing up in the US and living in Spain, Chile, and Cambodia, Ludivine is now based in France.