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How to fly safely over water

14 June 2019 by Adrienn Kerekes 0 Comments

For most drone pilots, flying over open water can be intimidating. The aquatic environment can contain potential dangers, such as ships, waves, strong wind or even birds.

Even though DJI does not support flying over water, professional aerial photographers and aerial videographers occasionally need to fly over such locations. That is why we have put together in this article useful advice on what to do before and during flying over water, which will help ensure that flying over water is always safe.

*Beginner pilots should never fly over water!

Turn off the Visual Positioning System (VPS).

All DJI drones come standard with VPS, the technology that maps the surface over which the drone is flying and helps position the drone. However, when flying over water, the light reflected from the water surface can cause disturbances in this system. For this reason, it is recommended to fly at least 2 meters above the water surface. If you need to fly lower than this, we advise you to turn off the VPS in order to preserve the stability of the drone. The GIF below shows how to turn off the system:

Plan your recording

Flying over water is always risky, but careful planning helps minimize the dangers. Before the live recording, we advise you to determine the exact location of the recording, visualize in your imagination what kind of recording you want to achieve, what camera angles you will use. To do this, you can make some test shots and practice the movements over land. Planned preparation ensures that the live recording is problem-free.

Activating the Maximum Flight Distance function

Even though it can be tempting to fly long distances over water, we recommend that you always fly your drone within line of sight. If you are planning a shot that requires flying over long distances, be sure to set the maximum flight distance in the DJI GO 4 application. You can activate this function by going to the “main controller” setting and selecting the “Enable Max Distance” function. Set the new maximum distance, but remember that this distance must be within the range of your remote control!


There is a clear explanation for why we recommend practicing taking off, flying and landing over land before attempting to fly over water. By successfully mastering these maneuvers, you can control your drone more confidently and fly more safely over any area.

When flying over water, take-off usually takes place from land or a ship.
Take-off takes place in the same way as in the case of a normal flight over land. However, we recommend that you take off from the boat only from a stationary boat, because it is more stable and safer. You can also get on from a moving ship if the ship is moving slowly, but this version is not recommended at all.

Manually update the "Home Point" setting

When flying over land, the Home Point is usually the place where the drone takes off. In ideal conditions, the drone automatically records the “Home Point” using its compass and GPS system, which can also be viewed in the DJI GO 4 application.

It is not recommended to use the original "Home Point" function from a ship, because the ship may drift and move during the flight. For this reason, it is advisable to adjust the "Home Point" to the current position of the controller. There are two ways to do this with the DJI GO 4 app. One method: on the main page, scroll to the left and click on "Home Point: Me". The other method: open the general settings by pressing the three dots in the upper right corner, go to the “Main Controller Settings” setting and press the “Home Point: Me” button and make sure that at the same time the dynamic "Home Point" function has also been activated.

Avoid the obstacles

Many obstacles can threaten your flight over water. Let's take a look at some of the things you should be most careful of:

Objects that can interfere with the drone's compass or GPS signal.

A strong compass and GPS signal are essential to operate the drone. Be sure to avoid all objects and structures that might interfere with your drone. Such large objects can be, for example, lighthouses, container ships, or any other device that uses antennas, magnets, or high-power antennas.


When flying in areas near water, be sure to avoid trees, rocks and any other natural formations nearby. Believe it or not, birds also need to be taken care of, because we know especially seagulls that they behave aggressively towards drones.


The waves can be dangerous if you fly too close to the water surface, because in the middle of fast maneuvers you can even lose the drone. In any case, stay at a sufficient distance from the surface of the water and do not expose your drone to this danger.


Ships of any size can be potentially dangerous to the drone - don't fly too close to any ship! You can further increase flight safety by setting the drone's return height at least 30 meters higher than the ship when flying close to a ship (especially in the case of an ocean liner or container ship).

Always fly very carefully over water. If you see any danger, keep your drone above land and postpone the flight until you can fly safely.

Apply the Smart Flight - Track Record setting

Intelligent Flight Mode allows you to take professional-level aerial photography with a single touch. One of the most useful settings for flying over water is Course Lock, which allows you to pre-set the route of your flight. The drone automatically flies in the designated direction, so the pilot can concentrate more freely on taking impressive shots.

Strong winds drain batteries faster

Drone pilots are well aware that strong winds can affect the stability of the drone. Moreover, strong winds can also drain batteries faster. Unfortunately, the wind is not easy to avoid, the higher we rise, the stronger it becomes. If you already notice strong wind on the ground, you can be sure that it is even stronger up high, so you should consider postponing your flight in this case.

The tutorial below teaches you how to measure wind speed with the DJI GO 4 app:

To summarize the above: flying over water is dangerous, and even a second of inattention can result in the damage or loss of the drone.

As a drone pilot, always pay attention to your surroundings and focus on safely controlling your drone. By following the above advice, you have a much better chance of having an enjoyable flight that is also safe and water-free.

Source: DJI Tips and Tricks

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