Can a DJI drone survive water? [No, but…]

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Drones and water do not normally mix unless you have purchased a waterproof drone. DJI drones are some of the most popular consumer-level camera drones on the market, but they generally do not stand up well when coming into contact with water.

According to DJI, DJI drones are not designed to be waterproof or flown in wet or high humidity conditions. You can purchase an after-market wetsuit to protect your drone while flying in the rain and even allow it to land on the water.

In the manual for their drones, DJI often state: Do not fly the drone when it is raining, foggy, or there is no clear sight.

If you want to fly your drone over large bodies of water, you must fly no closer than 3 m to the water’s surface. The high refractive index of the water and its transparency can confuse the downward-facing sensors in many DJI drones and cause the drone to land in the water.

Luckily, there are a couple of options for safeguarding your drone against water, and we shall discuss all of these in this article.

Can DJI drones get wet?

Even though light sprinklings of water are unlikely to damage a DJI drone, it is best to avoid it.

The DJI drone circuit boards have a conformal coating to protect their circuitry. If you purchase a LED UV A-B light and shine it on the boards, you will see the coating on the board glow.

Even though they have thin conformal coating, DJI drones should not come into contact with any moisture. The drone’s frame is full of holes to help the heat generated by flight dissipate.

These grills allow for water to enter deep into the drone’s electronics. Even in light rain, the propellers can flick water into the grills of the drone.

I would recommend never flying your drone in wet weather. However, I understand that sometimes you are caught short.

I was flying my drone, did not pay attention to the weather, and ended up in a fast-approaching storm front.

In the gift below, you can see me trying to land as quickly as possible. However, the descent rate of the drone was limited, and I could only descend slowly.

My drone got a bit wet, but nothing that a little drying out in a warm office couldn’t fix.

A word of warning: If you fly in the rain, the moisture stickers inside the drone will change colour to indicate that water has been present internally. DJI could use this to deny a warranty claim if you damage your drone later.

However, if you want to fly your drone in the rain you can purchase a wetsuit for your drone model.

You can fly in the rain with a wetsuit

There are several ways that you can waterproof your DJI drone. The best way is to buy third-party addition to stop the water from getting into your drone.

The illumination wetsuit provided by Phantom Rain (this company) is a full-colour wetsuit engineered to allow the DJI drones to fly in the continuous pouring rain for hours.

The wetsuits have a five-level water-resistant system to allow the drone to fly in extreme rain without water getting into the battery or power button – areas typically prone to water ingress.

The wetsuit also provides a 4 mm impact layer to protect your drone from low-impact collisions. The installation will take about 15 minutes to apply the 23 parts to the drone.

The system has three battery covers, so you will always have a waterproof battery ready to fly.

Here is an example of the Mavic 3 flying in the pouring rain.

This is an important accessory to purchase if you want to fly your drone in water and heavy rain.

What happens when your drone hits the water?

Before you go out and fly your drone in the rain or you are going to fly your drone over an open body of water, it is important to understand the risks.

What happens when your drone hits the water? Can a DJI drone survive water?

Here is a full rundown of what happens.

DJI drones do not float

it is important to note that drones do not float. There are YouTube channels dedicated to underwater retrieval, and they have found many drones.

DJI drones have multiple grills and holes in their body that allow direct access to the internal parts of the drone. The holes allow heat to escape during flight. However, it also allows the water to quickly flood the interior of the drone, causing it to sink.

Saltwater causes corrosion

Any moisture that gets into the drone body could cause corrosion on circuit boards that are not protected with a conformal coating.

Rain water contains many minerals that have been dissolved into the water. The exact makeup of the minerals in the water depends on the location and the surrounding area’s geography. The water can easily deposit minerals into the deepest parts of your drone’s circuitry.

Also, corrosion can occur on any exposed metallic components. The act of oxidation on the exposed metallic components can cause the metal to become resistive to electrical flow.

Corrosion is particularly damaging to battery contacts as it will cause a huge amount of resistance, stopping the battery from providing the drone with resistance-free electricity.

Moisture indicators change

The moisture indicators of your drone will indicate that the drone has come into contact with moisture.

If your drone moisture indicators have been activated, DJI will likely refuse any future warranty claims.

The moisture indicators can also be activated by high humidity during the long-term storage of the drone.

Shorting occurs

Water with dissolved minerals can conduct electricity.

The minerals in rainwater can cause short circuits to occur. Short circuits occur in the drone when two neighbouring electrical pathways connect. The water can easily bridge this gap and cause irreversible shorting between electronic components.

Shorting your drone’s electronic components can cause fatal errors and short-circuits that will damage your drone irreversibly.

There is nothing you can do once the internal components have shorted.

Foggy lens

The damage water can cause to a drone is not just limited to the electronic components.

Water can easily get between the camera and the lens, causing the images to look foggy. 

Getting water out of the drone’s lens can be incredibly frustrating and take many days and weeks of drying out in silicon beads.

Considering that  DJI drones have a very complicated camera structure, I imagine it would be very hard to get the moisture out from the lens and camera body.

Wrapping up

DJI drones are not designed to survive coming into contact with water.

Full submersion will result in the drone becoming irreversibly damaged and even the lightest of rain showers can creep deeply into the drone’s electronics and cause serious issues like shorting and corrosion.

Given all of the risks associated with flying a DJI drone over water, I would avoid any moisture coming into contact with my drone whatsoever.

If you absolutely want to fly your DJI drone in the rain all over the water, I recommend purchasing third-party waterproofing accessories such as a DJI drone wetsuit.

Keep your drone safe and dry, and it will give you many years of flying fun.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a Drone pilot, Writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. His drone footage has been featured on TV (ABC Documentary) and he has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drones.