Specialty Drones: Guide to Fishing Drones and Our Best Picks

What are Fishing Drones?

Fishing drones are the helping hands of fishing enthusiasts and help them scout fishing areas and cast out the line where the fish are. These drones are especially useful when casting the line out to deeper waters while standing on the shoreline. Instead of sitting back on the beach and kayaking out into the water, a fishing drone helps you spot fish and drop bait without having to venture deep into the ocean.

Specialty fishing drones or drones that are suitable for the task have taken recreational and commercial fishing to a new level. These drones make it much easier to scout the water and help enthusiasts clearly see the best fishing spots. While flying fishing drones is exciting and many want to jump right in, we highly recommend taking a course and getting the 107 licenses/Certified Drone Pilot from the FAA.

How to Use a Fishing Drone?

There are two common ways enthusiasts use drones to catch fish.

Using a Drone to Carry the Payload

You can send a drone aka quadcopter out over waters where you think you’ll be able to catch fish (with hook, bait and the fishing line attached to the fishing drone). However, this method is not effective for catching big fish as they can easily drag a drone down. Only attempt this method if you are absolutely sure about your drone’s ability to handle the anticipated payload.

Using a Downrigger Release Clip

The second method is more technical, but also more efficient and involves using a downrigger release clip. You use a fishing drone to cast the line and once a fish bites the bait, the clip automatically releases the line (due to the pressure caused by the movement of the fish). Once the line is released, you can drag the catch yourself and let the drone/quadcopter film your catch. You can use a release clip on almost any drone that can handle a payload of around 1 lb.

In addition to these two methods, fishing drones also serve other purposes. This includes on-boat reconnaissance to scout waters and spot bait activity. You can even use a drone as ‘kite’ ( in kite-fishing) when the wind is dead.

Important Things to Consider When Buying a Fishing Drone

You can use almost any type of drone you already have for fishing by attaching add-ons such as bait cache, release mechanism, and line. But it should be able to handle the payload and provide decent flight time and operating range needed in drone fishing. Here are the most important factors to consider when buying a quadcopter for fishing:

Battery Life

Good battery life is very important when fishing as you never know when a fish will bite. Sometimes fish won’t bite at all so it’s a good idea to keep some spare batteries. The payload attached to a drone also needs to be considered as more payload will quickly drain the battery, resulting in shorter flight times.

Range

The second important factor to consider is the operating range of a drone. You’d want a drone able to cover a long distance (ideally up to 2 KM) without losing the connection. Although you can also buy cheaper drones with shorter range and use a signal booster to increase range, 3rd-party supplies don’t always work the way they should. That’s why it’s recommended to buy a drone with a better range in the first place instead of experimenting with different hardware.

Legal Aspects

In addition to the drone flying license, some states/regions also require you to have a fishing license. Make sure to stay on the safe side and understand the local laws before going out fishing using a drone.

Price and Related Costs

Premium drones in general and fishing drones, in particular, are not cheap. Considering the kind of battery life and operating range you need in fishing; a drone can cost you something between $800 to $1500+. You also have to consider the cost of accessories such as bait-release rigs, pods, release mechanism, and line if you are not buying an all-inclusive fishing drone.

Basic Tips for Beginners

Respect No-Fly Zones

FAA prohibits flying drones around various no-fly zones such as airports, security zones, stadiums, national parks/seashores, etc., while the state of Oregon does not allow flying drones for any purpose. You need to consider the federal and local laws before launching your drone and make sure you are not breaking any law. You may also be required to register your drone e.g. when using it for purposes other than as a hobbyist.

Attachment Point

You need an attachment point to hold the line and bait, which should be somewhere in the center. This helps balance a drone otherwise it may go off balance during flight. You can create a center attachment point in X-shape by tying the fishing line to all four corners after which you can use tape to improve the strength of the crossover section.

Attaching Release Mechanism

A release mechanism enables you to drop the bait and is a must if you want to catch ‘big fish’ otherwise they can take a drone down into the water. You can attach a bait to the fishing line, which can be attached with the release clip. Bait release systems designed specifically for drones can be easily mounted, but make sure to check for compatibility before buying one.

Unlocking and Locking the Reel

Make sure to unlock the reel before flying the drone so there is no resistance from the line. Lock the reel when you find the perfect spot, which will activate the release mechanism and drop the bait into the water. After releasing the bait, you can either keep filming the entire scene (if there is plenty of battery juice left) or fly your drone back.

Dropping the Bait

Dropping the bait when it is still attached to the drone might sound exciting. But a fishing drone cannot replace your rod and bigger fish can easily drag it under the water. That’s why it’s highly recommended not to drop the bait in water while its still attached to the drone.

Flying Conditions and Return-to-Home

It’s best to avoid drone fishing in windy conditions. You would certainly not want to lose your expensive drone, while strong winds also make it difficult to control and take its toll on battery life. Although the return-to-home is a handy feature (automatically go back to where the flight started, when battery levels fall below a specified threshold), it should be used carefully when fishing.

You can use the return-to-home feature if you are at the beach/shore, but things are different when you are on the move/on the boat. Deactivating the function ensures that your drone does not start flying back where you don’t exist anymore.

Our Picks for the Drones for Fishing

 

Swellpro Splashdrone 3+ (with 3-axis Gimble and 4K Camera)

The Splashdrone 3+ is an all-inclusive waterproof fishing drone that’s built specifically for fishing. You can land it on water and scout for fish below the water surface. This gives you much more flexibility than non-waterproof drones and helps you scout for fish below the water surface using the live video monitor. The payload release mechanism makes it easier to cast the bait and saves you from having to buy accessories separately.

It’s recommended not to attempt catching big fish and carrying them to the beach/shore with this drone as it is rated to carry a payload of up to 2.6 lbs./1.2 KG. The Splashdrone features a flight time of up to 20 minutes and a maximum range of 1.6 KM, which is not bad considering the waterproofing and an all-inclusive package.

This fishing drone is suitable for enthusiasts who need waterproofing and prefer an all-inclusive package over hunting for accessories themselves. You can also opt for the less expensive variants if you don’t need features like the 3-axis gimbal and 4K camera (the default variant comes with a 720p FPV camera, fixed angle).

Key features and specifications

  • Water-proof
  • Saltwater friendly, corrosion-resistant parts
  • A built-in fishing line release mechanism
  • Precise bait dropping
  • 3mm reinforced ABS fuselage
  • Up to 1.6 KM range, 1.2 KG payload
  • Up to 20 minutes flight time (less with more payload or in windy conditions)
  • Live video monitor
  • All-in-one remote control
  • S3 flight controller
  • Dual-mode GPS (GPS and GLONASS)
  • Carbon-fiber propellers
  • Auto take-off/landing/return-to-home

DJI Phantom 4 Pro

With a flight time of up to 30 minutes and a range of around 4.3 miles/7KM, the Phantom 4 Pro is considered a beast in the drone world. Add a 20MP CMOS sensor and obstacle-sensing (5-directions) to the equation and you get a powerful package for drone fishing. Although it’s beginner-friendly and easy-to-fly, the drone itself is large and takes some effort and space to transport.

The only mentionable drawback of this drone is the payload rating i.e. around 1 pound, which means you cannot risk dropping the bait when it’s attached to the drone (you have to use a release mechanism, the payload rating is still good enough for carrying lines and bait).

Superior flight time, extended range, 4K recording, and stability along with the availability of compatible fishing equipment make DJI P4P one of the best and feature-packed drones for fishing. However, in addition to the cost of the drone, you also have to consider the cost of a bait release mechanism.

Key features and specifications

  • Up to 30 minutes of flight time, intelligent battery management
  • Up to 4.35miles/7KM range
  • 4K video recording @ 60fps, 20MP 1-inch camera
  • Titanium/magnesium alloy construction
  • FlightAutonomy system (infrared and dual rear vision sensors)
  • 5-direction obstacle sensing, 4-direction obstacle avoidance
  • Lightbridge video transmission
  • Advanced image recognition, tap-to-fly, return-to-home, draw and gesture modes
  • Dual compass and IMU units
  • Max speed 45mph/72kmph
  • GPS and GLONASS
  • 1 lb. payload rating

VOOCO X-Star Premium

The X-Star Premium is an affordable alternative to DJI’s beast and for the right reasons. Up to 25 minutes of flight time along with a 1.25 miles/2KM operating makes it one of the best drones in its price range. 4K video recording, 3-axis gimbal and autonomous flight modes (orbit, waypoints and follow me) are among other features of this reasonably priced drone.

It’s fairly large so you might have to transport it in a custom case or backpack. It also lacks an automatic avoidance system like the Phantom 4 Pro so you got to be careful when flying the drone. Other than that, this drone can do most of the things other expensive drones can, at a fraction of the price.

Key features and specifications

  • HD Live View, up to 1.25 miles
  • Up to 25 minutes of flight time
  • Autonomous flight modes
  • Removable 3-axis gimbal
  • 4K video recording
  • GPS and GLONASS
  • A remote controller LCD display
  • US-based customer support

PowerVision PowerEye Professional

A flight time of up to 29.5 minutes and a range of up to 3.1 miles/5 KM video streaming range makes this powerful drone a great option for fishing enthusiasts. Sure, it’s a little expensive than other options, but you get more value for the money in the shape of a feature-packed professional-grade drone.

Although the drone is primarily designed for aerial photography and videography, its flight time and long range, advanced object detection system and high portability make it a great fishing drone. It’s compatible with multiple micro 4/3 lenses, while you can also buy the ‘PowerEye Thermal’ variant that can capture things that are normally not visible to the untrained eye.

Key features and specifications

  • Up to 29.5 minutes of flight time
  • Up to 3.1 miles/5KM range
  • Weight: 8.7 lbs/3950 grams (including the battery and propellers)
  • Max flight speed 40 mph/65Kph
  • Panasonic Lumix G4/3″ CMOS sensor f/2.5 14mm (default option), or Olympus M.Zuiko f/1.8 17mm
  • 3-axis gimbal

FLiFLi AirDrop Release-and-Drop

Key features and specifications

  • Compatible with DJI Phantom 4 series drones
  • One-touch operation
  • Remote-activate mechanism
  • Designed for fishing, delivery of first aid, dropping gifts, etc.
  • Up to 0.62 miles working range
  • Simple operation

Compact Payload Release

Key features and specifications

  • Can be used with a variety of drones
  • Up to 1.2 lbs. payload
  • Suitable for short-range fishing, up to 0.28 miles/500 yards
  • Easy installation and operation