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The Ultimate Guide of flying a drone from a boat [21 Useful Tips]

landing a drone on boat with hand catching

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No matter it’s a Kayak, a Sailboat or a Yacht, flying a drone from a boat is a challenge and sometimes even a dangerous thing to do for both beginners and experienced pilots. There were actually quite a lot of accidents that led to crashes, lost in the ocean or even got people injured due to insufficient preparation and underestimation of the difficulty.

Before we hit the tips, let’s take a look at some common issues people often have when flying from a boat.

  • Fly sideways after takeoff.
  • Drifting.
  • Unable to return.

drone crashed on boat after taking off

To help you keep away from all those accidents, you will need to learn the following tips and practice before you really jump into flying a drone from a boat.

#1 Things you may need

#2 Tips for pre-flight

#3 Tips for Takeoff

#4 Tips for Flying

#5 Tips for Landing


Things you may need

  • A pair of thick leather glove or garden gloves. You may need to prepare for a hand launching or landing in case of an emergency, especially when you fly a DJI Mavic drone.
  • A Peak Cap. A peak cap may protect you when the drone takes off or you land the drone by hand catching.
  • A Monitor Hood. If you are a pilot who often flies your drone, you probably have experienced awkward moments that even if you have adjusted the display’s brightness to its full, you still can’t see clearly on the screen. Flying a drone on a sunny day on a boat will definitely get you into that. A monitor hood sometimes can simply do the trick.
  • At least 2 fully charged batteries. It’s quite a challenge to land a drone on a moving boat, so always remember to start getting the drone back when the battery level is 50% or more, you will need more time for the landing, and the drone will not likely to drop before the battery dies. If you plan to take some photos or videos, the actual flight time you have will be less than flying on the ground, 2 or more batteries are recommended.

Tips for Pre-flight

1. Make sure you have had plenty of practice and learned everything you need to you about your aircraft.

2. Apart from basic flying and shooting training and practice, it’s better to learn how to fly a drone in ATTI mode if you are using a DJI drone. ATTI mode is a flying mode that disables the GPS, GLONASS and obstacle avoidance systems in the aircraft, but the aircraft will typically maintain altitude and attitude.

3. Make sure the weather is clear and your drone can handle the wind. Otherwise, it may just be blown away.

4. Calibrate your drone on land. Many experienced pilots who often fly from a boat commented that a good calibration on land will save you from trouble. Some said that they experienced drone flipping and flyaway when calibrated on a boat but never had issues after doing this on land.

5. Make sure you won’t fly in a no-fly zone. Pre-check the airspace you would go so that you won’t experience unexpected circumstances.

6. Check the compass status to make sure it’s safe to launch.

Tips for Takeoff

1. Takeoff is one of the most difficult parts when flying from a boat, many people crashed their drones at this stage, some even got injured for not doing any safety precautions.

2. Avoid metal surfaces. If you are on a big boat that constructed with massive metals, try to get a non-metallic table or use your plastic storage case. It often caused compass errors and will be difficult to recalibrate when sailing in the ocean.

3. Be sure to sit down or keep a safe distance from the drone. No one knows what would happen after launching, keep a distance from the drone will protect you from getting hurt by the fast-spinning propellers. You will also have enough time to take action if it drifts.

4. If you want to go with a hand launching, make sure the drone is above your head.

5. Get the drone up in the air asap. Start the motors and then push the throttle in the full up position so that it will get to a high position very quickly.


Tips for Flying

1. Set your home point to Dynamic so that your remote controller is always the return-to-home point. The boat will have moved from the take-off point after you have flown a few minutes.

2. Keep your drone within the line of sight. As you will be on a moving boat, knowing where your drone is extremely crucial, you can’t afford too much time on finding it before landing.

3. If you launch your drone in ATTI mode, do remember to switch it back to GPS mode.

4. Use a Monitor Hood to better monitor the status of the flying drone on your phone or tablet screen.

Tips for Landing

1. Start to retrieving your drone at a 50% battery. It sounds a little bit crazy, but it’s always better to give yourself more time for the sometimes tricky landing. If you have a large landing zone, maybe you can try at 40% or even lower.

2. If you are going to land on the boat. Make sure you have a large enough and safe landing zone.

3. You may need to turn off the obstacle avoidance system, especially on a small boat where it may inhibit your landing techniques.

4. If you are landing on a small boat with limited deck space, sometimes hand grabbing may be the only choice. Please bear in mind that catching a drone by hand is very dangerous, and it should be the last option. The person who is going to catch the drone should wear a peak cap and gloves, they may not protect the person from hurting but will be helpful.

5. Use ATTI mode if you are good at flying your drone that way.

6. Try to land or catch the drone as it comes in from the side, lowering the risk of hitting the boat or other people.

7. It’s recommended to use a new SD card or backup all the files every time you swap out batteries. You might lose the most valuable images or videos after taking off.


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