The risks that come with flying in wet conditions have long held back drone pilots and aerial photographers. Most drone owners find that frustrating: A bit of rain doesn’t always mean a scene isn’t worth shooting. Watersports, for example, are another possible subject often seen as not worth the risks involved.
So there’s certainly a market out there for more rugged, weatherproof and even waterproof drones.
That niche has been targeted in recent times by SwellPro, a Chinese manufacturer that, like competitor Autel Robotics, has set up a company stateside specifically for marketing and customer support in the US.
SwellPro’s products include the Splashdrone 3 Auto, a modular, weather-resistant, 4K shooting drone with an interchangeable payload capable of landing and taking off from. That drone costs upwards of $1,500, so the target market is limited when compared to DJI’s mass-appeal price points.
“SwellPro has more experience designing waterproof drones than any other manufacturer in the world,” according to Eric Hu, CEO of SwellPro China.
SwellPro’s latest drone: Spry
This week SwellPro has unveiled a new drone alongside US partner Urban Drones: Spry. It’s the first ever waterproof drone that can be fully submerged (albeit briefly) like a submarine, float like a boat, and fly in the air at over 43mph.
It can also capture stabilized 4K video at 30 frames per second, a max bit rate of 64mbps, and captures 12MP photos. The camera has a Sony 1/2.3” CMOS sensor and is paired with a lens that minimizes fisheye distortion for natural-looking images.
Obviously, Spry is completely waterproof. But the controller is as well, meaning that even in wet environments, you don’t have to worry about anything getting soaked.
The waterproof remote control has an integrated 4.3-inch monitor that shows the live video feed from the drone. The feed can be viewed by several video monitors and video googles simultaneously, for real time sharing that means friends and family don’t have to crowd around the remote control.
“The Spry’s ability to submerge under water and fly in the air makes it the most versatile drone ever created. We’ve only seen this in science fiction movies,” said Alex Rodriguez, CEO of Urban Drones, a drone technology company located in Florida and SwellPro’s partner in the Spry project.
The Spry also comes with flight modes including Hold Position, Auto Follow, Object Orbit and Return to home.
As we’ve seen with several established companies, Urban Drones and SwellPro are taking to Kickstarter to launch the Spry with a bang. The waterproof drone will be available for pre-order on Kickstarter for $749 for early customers, at a 25% discount of its expected retail price.
Gimmick or game changer?
There’s no doubt that a market exists for weatherproof, waterproof drones. Apart from watersports enthusiasts, first responders would be a great example of teams that need more rugged equipment than today’s mainstream consumer drone market provides. Drone-assisted fishing is another cool concept.
However, the submerge element of the Spry is perhaps a little overstated. Instead of having your very own submarine, it looks as though you can simply throw the drone into the water and take off from there without any issues. You can also hiver along on the surface with the camera underwater.
That’s a great feature, but this isn’t an underwater drone, and questions remain unanswered by the promotional material the company has provided: Can you steer the drone while it’s underwater or adjust its depth? Does the image quality stack up with all that waterproofing?
We will have to wait and see.
Full specs of the Spry drone are below…
Full Spry Drone Specs
Waterproof Level: IP67 ( Protected from dust and capable of withstanding water immersion between 15 cm and 1 meter for 30 minutes )
Diameter (motor to motor): 270mm
Dimensions (LxWxH): 233.5 x 249 x 90mm
Weight: 538g (without battery)
Propulsion Motors: Brushless 2206 1420KV
Motor Control ESC: 30A
Aircraft Battery: 3S 3800mAh LiPo
Battery Weight: 196g
Charging Time: 70 Minutes (20%-100%)
Video Transmitter: 5.8G 8CH
Video Transmission Range: 500m
Video Transmission Power: 200mW
Flight Time: 15~17 mins
Max Flying Range: 800m
Max Flying Altitude: 200m
Max Flying Speed: 18m/s 69 km/h
Max Climbing Speed: 4m/s 240m/min
Max Following Speed: 10m/s 36 km/h
Spatial Positioning System: Dual Satellites – GPS/GLONASS
Hovering Precision: ±0.5m
Wind Resistance: < 10m/s
Working Temperature: -10C°~ 40C°
Proprietary Flight Controller
OSD integrated (On Screen Display)
Mobile APP control capable
Flight modes: auto-take off, auto-hover, follow me, return home, return to remote controller location, orbit fly, tap fly, autonomous navigation
Waterproof Level: IP66 (Dust tight and protected against heavy seas or powerful jets of water)
Weight: 480g (including battery)
Frequency Band: 2405 ~ 2475HMZ
Controlling Range: 1.0 KM
Receiver Sensitivity (1%PER): -105dbm
Working Current: 120 mA
No. of Channels: 8
Battery Capacity: 2S 2300mAh LiPo
Charging Time: 70 Minutes
Frequency Band: 5645 ~ 5965HMZ
Screen Size: 4.3 inch
Resolution: 800 x 480 Pixels
Brightness: 600 cd/m²
Image Sensor: SONY 1/2.3” CMOS, 1200M
Lens: F4.53mm f/2.65
ISO Range: 100-1600
Photo Resolution: 12MP (16:9)
4K 30FPS (3840*2160)
2.5K 60FPS (2560*1440)
1080P 30/60/120FPS (1920*1080)
720P 240FPS (1280*720)
Max Video Bitrate: 64mbps
Photo Format: JPEG
Video Format: MOV MP4
Storage: Class 10 high speed or UHS-1 Micro SD card and above specifications Micro SD card, maximum support 64GB