Best Underwater Drone (ROV for Photographers)
Underwater drones allow you to explore the depths of the sea without actually getting wet.
Also known as Remote Operated Vehicles (ROV), these remote-controlled mini-submarines can cruise the seabed taking photos and videos.
While submarine drones might not be as common as aerial drones, photographers can gain a unique perspective of underwater activity from the comfort of a boat or the shore.
Whether you want to explore shipwrecks, get closer to marine life or scope out the best fishing spot, the best underwater drones will help get you closer to the aquatic action!
Despite the superior image quality of a good underwater camera (or a camera housing), using an underwater ROV allows you to be more discreet.
(It’s obviously much safer too, especially if you’re exploring piranha-infested waters!)
In this guide, we’ll introduce the top underwater drones of the year. We’ll also give you some tips on what you should look for when selecting the right model.
So let’s dive right into the recommendations.
Table of Contents
Best Underwater Drone with Camera in 2021
|Powerray Wizard PRW10||View Price →|
|Gladius Mini||View Price →|
|Chasing Dory||View Price →|
|Qysea FiFish V6||View Price →|
|Youcan Robot BW||View Price →|
|Windek Sublue||View Price →|
Powerray Wizard PRW10
- Standalone fish finder
- Supports multiple VR goggles at a time
- Releases bait
- 4k UHD camera
- You have to create an account
- Not the best image stabilization
If you want to make your fishing trips a fun and interactive experience that you can share with others, this is the underwater drone for you.
With its 4k UHD camera and wide-angle lens, you can take decent photos and videos underwater.
You can record 4k videos or share a live stream in 1080p to Facebook, WeChat and Instagram right from the app. You can also take 12MP photographs at 5 fps.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a skilled user or if this is your first underwater drone – the Powerray Wizard comes with three settings that will fit your abilities: beginner, experienced and professional.
The Powerray Wizard PRW10 has multiple control options that make it fun and easier to use for beginners. You can use your smartphone and guide it with the app or by gesture control by moving and tilting the phone.
Otherwise, you can hook the phone to the included controller and use the joysticks or connect it to the VR goggles (also included) and use them on gesture control.
You can even take turns with friends at controlling it because it supports multiple VR goggles at a time, so you can switch from pilot to observer as many times as you like.
The Powerray has a magnetic bait drop to place the bait at any desired location – excellent when used in conjunction with a dedicated underwater fishing camera.
It also comes with a Powerseeker – a standalone fish finder that you can drop in the water and get detailed information on where there are fish, how deep, etc.
It dives up to 30m (98ft) with a 70m (230ft) tether cord to avoid any risks and allow freedom of movement. The battery lasts up to four hours of continuous use – pretty good for an affordable underwater drone.
Whether you want it for recreational use or professional, exploring and recording the underwater world or to help you with ice fishing – the Powerray Wizard PRW10 will make a great companion.
Gladius Mini Underwater Drone
- 4k HD camera
- 2 m/s top speed
- 100m maximum depth
- Freshwater / Seawater exchangeable buoyancy weight
- Drone and the base station can’t be charged simultaneously
- Some connectivity issues
The Gladius Mini underwater ROV allows you to reach up to 100m (330ft) underwater depth – impressive for an underwater drone at this price point.
You can experience everything your drone explores in high quality with its 4k HD and its 1200 lumen led lights – you can also connect it to the included VR goggles for a more immersive experience.
You can record video in 4k, stream video in 1080p or take 12MP photographs. To ensure sharpness, the Gladius Mini has 5 stabilizing propellers and a depth hold feature. Also, you can control the camera settings for better image quality.
Furthermore, you can share the experience with your friends by connecting up to three wi-fi devices. If this isn’t enough, you can connect a big screen TV or monitor via HDMI to allow everyone to see.
You can swap the freshwater buoyancy weight that comes installed as default with a seawater buoyancy. The latter is heavier, which helps the drone sink in salty water – this way, it consumes less power. The battery life is up to 2 hours.
The Gladius Mini is easy to use as you can control it with the app or the included controller. It also has a compass for you to get oriented.
- Edit video and photos on the app
- 2 speeds
- Depth and angle lock
- Lens can get foggy
- Debris gets stuck in the blades
- Short battery life
The Chasing Dory underwater drone is a great entry-level device – all you need to do is turn it on, drop it in the water, and you’re ready to go!
It has a battery life of 1 hour and can dive up to 15m (14ft), which makes it perfect for pool parties or snorkelling on a family trip.
The tethering cord connects to a small floating buoy – this way, you don’t have to worry about keeping it safe and dry.
To locate the buoy, Chasing Dory connects via GPS wi-fi to your phone so that you can stream in 720p live video, save 1080p video or take photos.
The internal storage is 8GB. You can also edit your media right on the app and share it with popular social media channels.
If you’re diving in low light, don’t worry because Dory has two 250 lumen led lights, and the lens has a 1.6 aperture to let in as much light as possible. The wide-angle lens has a 100-degree field of view, ensuring you don’t miss anything.
Dory also has a depth lock and an angle lock so that you can position it in the perfect spot to take your photos.
It’s also extremely lightweight and portable for you to take it along on all your trips and adventures. To add to its portability, you can control it from your phone without needing a remote control or extra devices.
One thing to note – if you’re close to the bottom of the lake or the water is not super clean, the propellers can suck in the debris and seaweed. In the box, you’ll find a small tool to clean everything out of the blades, but it means that you have to take it out of the water quite often, so be aware of this when you’re choosing your location and depth.
Chasing Dory is the best affordable underwater drone on the market. Its easy-to-use app and sharing capabilities make it the perfect tool for influencers and content creators who want to focus on water sports, sea life and underwater adventures.
Qysea FiFish V6
- Gesture control
- 166-degree FOV
- Sonar system
- More freedom needs more expertise
- Some app crashing issues
If freedom of movement is what you’re looking for, you need to get the Qysea FiFish V6. While most drones support only a 45-degree tilt (at best), this allows for full 360-degree movement.
Thanks to its patented Smart Thruster Array™, you can flip, roll or pivot the drone. Then, lock it to achieve a perfect combination of movements at every angle or depth.
Of course, this means that the FiFish is more difficult to handle. If this is your first underwater drone, you might have a steeper learning curve than you would with other devices – it does have an auto-mode, though.
While you can certainly use the FiFish as a beginner, it’s targeting professional users of underwater drones.
Photographers and videographers will appreciate the specs and features. It has a 4k camera with a 30fps video recording as well as a video stabilizer – you can also do slow-motion videos with it.
The sensor is a 1/2,3″ Sony CMOS for 12MP photos captured in RAW or JPEG. You can also control the camera settings, exposure compensation and a true color enhancing algorithm for more vivid images. The internal memory holds 64GB.
The lens offers a 166-degree FOV, and it’s packed with 4000 lumen led lights so that you can go as deep as 100m (328ft) and still have a clear view of your surroundings.
You can use the remote or control everything from the app – which also allows sharing on multiple displays or send to social media as well as live streaming.
If you’re looking for a more immersive experience, you can use the included VR goggles that allow for gesture control. The battery life is up to 4.5 hours, thanks to its intelligent battery.
The connection box has HDMI output and an Ethernet port so you can connect it to your computer, a big screen, etc.
It also has a sonar system to map the seafloor. All in all, this is a well-rounded underwater drone that has everything you need as a beginner or a pro.
Youcan Robot BW Space Pro
- 1.5m/s max speed
- Active tracking
- 4k prime lens
- 6x zoom
- Long battery life
- VR headset not included
One of the coolest features of this underwater drone is active tracking – it can lock and track a subject if you want to follow a fish or a scuba diver to keep it in the frame. It also features a 6x zoom.
The Youcan Robot transmits 4k video at 30fps and takes images at 12MP, and it’s very easy to share and live stream.
The battery on the Robot BW Space Pro is one of the most durable found on an underwater drone, holding up to 7 hours dive time, or 5 hours if you’re shooting photos and 3 hours when shooting video.
The connection is very stable since it uses multi-channel transmission technology. You can go down to a maximum depth of 100m (330ft), rivalling the best underwater drones available in 2021.
Don’t worry about lighting down there because the Space Pro has two 1380 lumens led lights that automatically measure the light condition to adjust the brightness – you can use them in manual mode too.
Plus, to ensure clear and sharp images, it has image stabilization and digital defogging – ideal if you’re moving the underwater drone between varying water and air temperatures.
It’s also one of the fastest drones, reaching an impressive 1.5m/s. You can remote control it from your phone or use the included controller. With the multi-person sharing mode, you can toggle between driver and observer to share the drone’s control.
The Space Pro is compatible with VR headsets, but unfortunately, there isn’t one included in the package – you have to buy it separately if you want to use this function.
Windek Sublue Navbow Smart Underwater Scooter
- Single hand control
- Easy camera mounting point
- 40m dive depth
- Useful low battery alert
- You need to get wet!
If you want the best image quality with your underwater photography, the number one way is to use a high-resolution camera and underwater housing.
(Even the best underwater drone is no match for a dedicated mirrorless or DSLR camera, despite being much more convenient.)
With this in mind, the Windek Sublue Navbow is the perfect solution – it’s an underwater scooter, allowing you to be towed along so you can concentrate on getting the best photos.
The Windek Underwater Scooter has a single-hand control mode and lets you tether yourself via a D-ring and tow cord – obviously very useful to keep your hands free to operate your camera underwater.
(There’s also a mounting point at the front of the Navbow, which lets you attach any of the best action cameras with ease.)
With 60 minutes of battery life, a 3-speed switch powering you to 2m/s (4.47mph) to a max depth of 40m (131 ft), the Navbow can take you further and deeper with less effort.
When the battery starts running low, the grips start vibrating, so you know to start returning home. Charging time is only 2 hours, so after a quick break, you can be back underwater again.
So if you’re looking for something to power your underwater explorations while keeping your hands free for photography, this is a great (and affordable) solution.
How to Choose an Underwater Drone
- Battery Life
Long battery life is key on an underwater drone – especially if you’re going on long excursions. Since underwater drones are waterproof, there’s no way to change the battery – so you can’t count on bringing extra ones to extend the operating time.
- Cord or wireless
Wireless underwater drones are very rare. Most drones still use a tether cable to connect with a land hub which then sends a wireless signal to your phone or computer. The cord is also helpful as a safety device to recover the drone if it loses signal and gets stuck.
The deeper you go – the darker it gets. So, lights are not such a big issue if you’re using your underwater drone in a pool or close to the surface during the day.
However, if you plan to go deep or explore waters that aren’t very clean, you definitely want a potent light to see a wider area.
Underwater drones have internal memory to record photos and video – that’s because a memory card slot wouldn’t be waterproof.
If you want to make long videos in high definition or multiple images in the highest resolution, you better ensure the drone you choose has enough internal storage space.
- Maximum dive depth
Most people want their underwater drone to go as deep as possible. However, the deeper a drone can go, the more expensive it is. So, if you’re planning on using it in the pool or shallow lakes, you shouldn’t be very concerned about it.
Make sure you check the maximum depth when buying an underwater drone and not just the length of the tether cable. For example, on the Powerray Wizard PRW10, there’s a 70m (230ft) long cord, but the drone can only dive up to 30m (98ft).
Things can also work the other way around, though. Maybe the drone can dive deeper than the maximum length of the included cable. If so, all you need to do is buy a longer cord which is usually sold separately.
The speed of an underwater drone is often linked with your level of expertise to control it. Most drones provide three speeds to be suitable for beginners and professional users.
- Camera Specs
Whatever use you want to give your underwater ROV, you want a good quality camera because it will be your eyes underwater. However, if you want to use it for commercial or artistic photography and videography, you need to pay special attention to this.
Of course, the clarity of the water plays a big role in the image quality – but you still need good camera resolution. Many drones record in 4k, which is the best quality available here in 2021 – make sure you check the streaming quality if you want to go live because it’s always lower.
As for photography, the best resolution is still no match for the ones that a regular camera offers In general, the best you can get on an underwater drone is 12MP. If you need more than that, you might be better off with a waterproof case for your camera – but then you have to go underwater with it.
- Special features
Once you’ve checked all the technical aspects, check the special features and optional accessories.
In a competitive market such as this one, each product will have something that makes it special or different from the competition.
For example, the Powerray Wizard has a fishfinder – so, if you want to use your drone for fishing, this would tip the scale in its favor.
The cost of an underwater drone can be pretty steep, so you really need to analyze the value for money. This greatly depends on the budget you have and what are you going to use it for.
If you can afford it and the specs and features are worth it, invest in an expensive model as it’ll be more durable, have better battery life, and offer better image quality.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do underwater drones cost?
Normally an underwater drone starts at $1,000 and can go up to around $4,000. There are a few exceptions, though. The Chasing Dory featured in this article costs about $500.
How deep can underwater drones go?
Commercially sold drones range from 14 meters (49ft) to 150 meters (492ft). However, specialized underwater ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) go much further, such as the SuBastian that goes down to a maximum depth of 4,500 meters (1371ft). These models usually feature a robotic arm too.
Do you need a license for an underwater drone?
In most cases, it’s not yet necessary to have a license to operate an underwater drone. However, it’s a growing market, and different regulations are coming up – just like what happened with aerial drones.
Be sure to check with the local authorities before you operate one to avoid getting in trouble.
Are underwater drones wireless?
Wi-fi and Bluetooth don’t travel far underwater, so most drones still use a tether cable to connect.
There are companies working on wireless drones – for example, the startup Hydromea. However, the connection between the buoy box and your phone is usually wireless.
What can underwater drones be used for?
- Underwater photography and videography.
- Explore unreachable areas.
- Monitor pipes and underwater infrastructure.
- Environmental protection.
- Scuba diving.
- Military and rescue missions.
- Archaeological projects.
- Just for fun!
Underwater drones can be a big investment, so it’s important that you get one that really fit your needs.
Hopefully, this article helped you clear out some doubts about choosing the one that’s right for you.
If you have any other questions or recommendations or want to share some cool locations to explore with underwater drones, we would love to hear from you!
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.