If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
Drones hit the market fast and furious a few years ago, and for the most part, these remote controlled cameras were marketed for those that built model airplanes or wanted to capture footage outdoors. But what about those that lean more towards the marine way of life? Enter underwater drones. The best underwater drones merge the fun of a remote controlled speed boat, mixed with the spy stylings of James Bond, and the video capturing capabilities of a great National Geographic photographer. Whether you’re filming your next big (underwater) doc, or just want to capture footage from your tropical vacation, an underwater drone delivers crisp, clear footage and takes you where most cameras can’t go.
Underwater drones, like their airborne counterparts, are sub-classified into two groups: UUV or Unmanned Underwater Vehicles, and ROV or Remotely Operated Vehicles. As the name suggests, it is the direct control of the user that determines a UUV from an ROV. At the moment, ROVs are more popular due to the direct communication controls available. UUVs rely on preprogramming; this being an intricate operation mixed with underwater communication technology being a bit slower, means ROVs are the favorite amongst hobbyists and professionals alike – for most circumstances.
Remotely operated underwater drones respond to directional communication via a tether cord. This is one “limitation” that I see more as a measure of practicality and benefit over airborne drones. I have watched too many friends fly drones out of range, too often to be lost or broken beyond repair. At least with underwater drones, gravity isn’t really an issue, and the tether means that you can pull the vehicle to the surface.
Use of the underwater drones runs the gamut, from surveying – for fish, wreckage, or property assessment – to theatrical or documentary video capture, as a dive companion, or just for fun. Some ROVs are even VR-compatible, bringing the reality of underwater exploration to the safety of the surface.
Our list of underwater ROV drones is sure to inspire your next dive adventure. They’re all easy to use, easy to pilot, and deliver sharp, true to life images that take the viewer into a whole new experience under the sea.
1. GeneInno Underwater Titan ROV Drone
The GeneInno Titan offers unparalleled control and ability in the underwater remotely operated drone category. Equipped with six thrusters, the Titan steadily navigates mild to moderate currents with stability and ease.
With stunning 4K video capabilities, color correcting lens technology and a depth capacity of 492 feet, the Titan will deliver exquisite picture and video quality from the deep blue sea.
What we like: Titans’ adaptable interface allows for the addition of a bevy of tools such as a robot arm, a hydrophone, and sonar.
PROS: One of the deepest diving ROVs, with four hours of battery life that allows for lengthy explorations.
CONS: Bluetooth connectivity can be an issue, but firmware updates seem to be handling this.
2. AquaRobotman Nemo ROV Underwater Drone
The AquaRobotman Nemo is one of the faster underwater ROVs in the category. Though equipped with only four thrusters, the unique design allows this vehicle to maneuver with a speed of two meters per second.
The Nemo’s on-board QAS-Balancing system – think of the infrastructure keeping a Segway upright – creates incredible balance for clear image capturing in undulating conditions.
PROS: Nemo’s VR capability creates a remarkable viewing experience for the operator.
CONS: Battery life is rated at three hours; it is suggested to have extra batteries available for longer shoots.
3. PowerVision PowerRay Underwater ROV Drone
PowerVision’s PowerRay’s sleek styling allows for effortless sub-surface navigation. The PowerRay has a shallow depth capacity – by other drone super standards – at nearly 100 feet. However, at this depth, the PowerRay is a powerful fish finding tool. Keeping the PowerRay onboard and deploying it for an added advantage when fishing is this marine machine’s highest use, though it’s also great for capturing amateur footage for an underwater shoot.
PROS: 12MP camera takes beautiful stills.
CONS: Less depth than competitors, but still plenty of range with a 210 foot tether.