Have you ever looked at a lake, river, or ocean, and wished there was an easy way for you to see into its depths? Well, you’re not alone, and these days, there is some very good news! Creating imagery remotely using a drone is no longer just happening in the sky. Underwater photography drones are here, and there are already innumerable options to choose from. Just like aerial drones, however, many are not very good quality. So, if you’re looking for the best underwater drones, you’re in the right place.
In this article, we will go over our favorite handful of submersible drones. We will also briefly explain the different types so that you can be absolutely sure you’re purchasing the right one for you!
Different Types Of Underwater Drones
Before you hit the “purchase” button on a new underwater drone, it’s very important to understand the main categories; they serve very different purposes! Here is a brief overview of the different types, and what you can expect their price ranges to be.
ROV versus AUV
An ROV is a Remote Operated Vehicle, whereas an AUV is an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle. An ROV must be controlled remotely, either by a tether cable or wirelessly. An AOV can be programmed to operate on its own, for tasks such as research/discovery. There are also hybrid underwater drones that can operate either way. Most content creators are looking for an ROV.
Underwater Camera Drone
Although many submersible devices are equipped with cameras, it’s important to note that not all of them are, and some of them have a primary purpose other than photo/video content.
Therefore, an “underwater camera drone” is usually a consumer-oriented underwater drone that is primarily and specifically made for photo/video creation. Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’re looking for one of these.
Of course, you might have also been searching for something like a “waterproof drone”, in hopes that there are drones that can both fly through the air and go underwater!
Unfortunately, for now, drones that are labeled as waterproof are not underwater drones. They’re merely able to fly (in the air) in wet conditions, and/or land on water. There are even some that can land on water and then send a camera down into the water, however, they still aren’t underwater drones, technically.
There are a few prototypes and homemade drones that can both fly in the air and “swim” underwater, but none are commercially available yet. If a waterproof drone is what you’re looking for, expect to pay between $1000 and $2000 for a decent one.
As its designation makes clear, a fishing drone is specially designed for tasks such as locating schools of fish underwater, and/or helping with the placement of a lure, etc. Fishing drones do usually still have cameras, but their priority may not be placed on recording the highest quality video.
Also called “fish finders” or just fishing cameras, fishing drones can be a lot more affordable than most other ROVs/AUVs, with prices ranging from just under $200 to around $700 for most consumer-oriented options.
Underwater Scooter / Sea Scooter
If you want to get in the water and take photos or videos while swimming, consider an underwater scooter. They are not actually drones and require hand-held control. They are designed to assist divers in moving around underwater. Most models do not have cameras, but you can mount a GoPro or your own camera. Popular consumer options range from $200 to $500.
Best Underwater Drones | 2023 Update
Now that you’ve got the lay of the land, here are our top recommendations. Keep in mind that our focus is on photo/video content creation.
[Inspiration: Images From The Underwater Photographer of The Year 2021 Competition]
Chasing Innovation Dory ($499 )
If you’re on a budget, we always recommend going for something that is still good quality and reliable, even if you have to compromise a little bit on the spec sheet. With that in mind, the best option in the most affordable range is the Chasing Innovations Dory, at just under $500.
With up to 1-hr battery life, you’re doing much better than most aerial drones. This underwater drone has a maximum depth of 15 meters, which is about 50 feet. The camera, unfortunately, is only 1080p, which equals about a 2-megapixel still (JPG) frame. However, the overall results are still very decent with the built-in “True Color” image processing algorithm.
More expensive options do offer longer battery life and deeper depths, but for the sub-$500 price, you just can’t beat the Chasing Dory!
Chasing Innovation Gladius Mini S ($950-1,700)
To get a significant boost in the specs and capabilities of your underwater drone, you’ll have to spend almost $1,000, or more in some cases. The Chasing Innovations Gladius Mini S is worth the upgrade, however, with the base model offering a 4K video, 12-megapixel camera that uses an f/1.8 lens. Its depth is extended significantly to a minimum of 328 ft (100m) as well, with the option to upgrade to a 656 ft tether. The base model starts at $1,299, but if you can still find the other non-S model, the price tag can drop to $949.
If you’re willing to upgrade to a $1,600-1,700 option, you can get a robotic claw option, too!
Chasing Innovations M2 ($2,300-2,500)
The best underwater drone for professional, high-end content creators is not going to be very cheap at all, of course. With that being said, the Chasing Innovations M2 is a highly advanced option. Most content creators will not need to invest this much, as the specs are similar to the affordable model. Beyond underwater photography and video content production, the Chasing M2 can be used for industrial work such as boat hull & dock inspection, search & rescue, salvage, discovery, exploration, etc.
With a durable aluminum alloy body and 8 vectoring thrusters, its movement capabilities are impressive. A full array of attachments is also available, including a robot claw, external (extra) LED lights, and a laser distance measurement tool. Another accessory (which works with other Chasing Innovations drones) is the pair of cable reels, one manual and one electronic, for spooling in/out your tether cable perfectly neatly.
PowerVision PowerDolphin | PowerVision PowerRay Explorer ($800-1,000)
With a top speed of 4.5M/sec or 10 MPH, the PowerDolphin is one of the fastest drones in the water! However, it is a surface-riding drone, which means it is basically a remote-control boat with an underwater camera. The camera can be rotated both up and down, offering a unique above-and-below perspective.
The PowerVision PowerDolphin boasts an impressive 2.5-hour battery life, 4K video, (12-megapixel stills), and interval (time-lapse) photo features.
PowerVision’s other marine drone, the PowerRay, is their model that can go fully underwater, down to 30m. It is one of the underwater drones that doesn’t just offer great photo/video capabilities, but can also be used for fishing or fish finding. You’ll want the “Wizard” model for the complete set of accessories for fish-finding, which takes the price from $675 up to $750.
Geneinno Titan | Geneinno T1 Pro ($2,400-4,000)
These two underwater drones from Geneinno are some of the most high-end options available, with impressive features and accessories. For the investment, you are actually looking at some of the best underwater drones around, indeed.
The Geneinno Titan starts at around $2,400 and boasts a nearly 500-foot depth rating plus a 4-hour battery life. It can speed along at up to 6.6 feet per second. The camera offers 4K video, but only 8-megapixel still frames.
The Geneinno T1 Pro ($4,100) outdoes even the Titan, offering a truly impressive 574-ft (175m) depth rating, and a tether cable up to 656 ft (200m) for serious underwater research and filming. Its 4K video camera offers 12-megapixel still frames.
Impressive accessories include a robotic arm, a laser distance-measuring tool, and 360° sonar! As mentioned, you can probably overlook these most expensive options even if you’re a professional Youtuber, or doing full-time work creating stock footage.
Qysea Fifish V6 or V6S ROV ($1,300-2900+)
With a price tag starting around $1,300 and ranging up above $3,000 with some accessories, the Qysea V6 is our final top-end choice with the widest range of offerings.
At the very entry level of $1,299, (B&H) you get a 4K/12MP camera that can record raw stills, and a VR headset for controlling this 6-thruster underwater drone. Its depth range starts at 328 ft (100m) its battery life starts at 4 hrs.
As you upgrade, some of the features improve, such as a 6-hour battery, a 656 ft tether cable, and other impressive features. Having said that, even the most expensive options still only offer 4K video and 12-megapixel stills.
Best Underwater Drone | Conclusion
In summary, as we have said in the past, the best underwater drone will be different for everyone. Depending on your budget and your needs, this list should get you pointed in the right direction. Hopefully, you are out capturing photos and videos underwater soon.
Of course, as with aerial drone usage, we have to finish by strongly urging everyone to be safe, and respect nature/wildlife. Ask permission before sending your underwater drone “swimming” in private or regulated areas, and encourage your fellow drone users to as well! We’ll look forward to seeing your content online soon.