More often than not, a drone in water doesn't end well at all. Manufacturers tend to prioritize weight and aerodynamics over waterproofing and general weather resistance. So when intricate electrical parts are exposed to the elements, the damage can be permanent and expensive and to fix.
You might get lucky and find that your drone is back to normal after drying out, but here are a few steps you can take to limit the damage.
Avoid Flying in Poor Conditions
Flying in the rain is a bad idea. Not only are your shots going to be inhibited by poor light and water splodges across your lens, but the water could cause lasting damage to the drone and keep you grounded until its fixed.
Sure, rainwater is not as dangerous to a drone's internal systems as taking a dunk in salt water. But the majority of manufacturers are keen to stress that their drones have not been designed to withstand wet weather.
Check Your Warranty / Ongoing Coverage
If the worst happens and you end up with a drone in water, check your manufacturer's warranty and your coverage policy, if you have one. For example, DJI's warranty does not cover damage to your drone caused by pilot error or weather, which appears to rule out getting rained on or crashing into the ocean.
However, if you purchased DJI Care Refresh with your drone, then "Damage occurring after the product has come into contact with water is covered", and a "Product that suffers water damage can be replaced." However, you won't be able to get a replacement or repair sorted through DJI's Care Refresh coverage unless you have recovered your drone.
Read our post on lost drones for more information on how to find your drone, what to do if you can't and how to avoid losing it in the first place.
There are various suggestions of what to do if the worst happens and you end up with your drone in water. But the consensus might sound counter intuitive. If your drone has taken a plunge in salt water, your best option might actually be to get it even wetter. Salt water is corrosive to electrical elements inside your drone, so before you get started on the task of drying it out, rinse your drone in water with distilled, fresh water.
Remove the battery before doing this and set your drone aside to air dry for a few days.
How to Avoid Getting Your Drone In Water
There are a few ways you can take the risk of getting your drone in water out of the equation. For starters, avoid a flyaway or any type of control loss when flying near water by setting up your drone properly and going through a thorough pre-flight checklist. At the very least, doing this will ensure that your flight logs show you did your best to remove the possibility of user error.
Second, check the weather before you fly to avoid any surprises. Consider an app like Hover, which offers regular forecasts and updates tailored to your location.
Water is just one of those ever-present obstacles that a drone pilot has to navigate. Fortunately, drones are becoming increasingly smart and capable of avoiding accidents by themselves. For more insight into what it's like flying for DroneBase, have a look at our pilots page.