What to Do If Your Drone Gets Wet (Read This First)


A drone getting wet is every drone pilot’s greatest fear. The thought of it being completely damaged or unrepairable is scary. Drones are expensive, and buying a new one when you hadn’t planned on it is a challenge. Even though there are some waterproof drones, most of them are not made to be used in wet environments. 

If your drone gets wet, the first thing to do is disconnect the power supply. Then, dry with a hairdryer, or wrap the drone in a piece of cloth and immerse it in a bucket full of raw rice. Once you have dried it thoroughly, turn the power on and see if it is functioning properly. 

If it doesn’t, reach out to your manufacturer for technical support.

This article will discuss what to do if your drone happens to have a water landing, or if it starts raining on your drone. Keep reading for more details.

What to do if your drone lands in water

Your drone might land in the water because of a mistake or by sheer bad luck. For instance, you might have flown your drone when it wasn’t fully charged, or some parts were not functioning well. However, regardless of the cause, the most important thing to do is try to rescue your drone from permanent damage.

When your drone lands in the water, your first impulse is probably to jump into the water and collect it. This is understandable, but it’s not the right thing to do. Your safety comes first before that of the drone. Therefore, it’s wise to take stock for a moment and think of other ways of recovering your drone from water. Your life is more valuable than the drone investment.

For example, you can try to fish the drone out with a net if you have one on hand, or use some other handy tools or implements to snag the drone, rather than diving in after it. 

Once you have recovered your drone, next you need to establish what kind of water it was. This is because different bodies of water have different components, which will dictate your next action. 

For instance, your drone might sustain severe damage if it lands in saltwater. Saltwater is highly corrosive and will eat into the metallic body of your drone. Its combination of oxygen, water, and salt highly contributes to its corrosive characteristic. 

If your drone fell in salty water, the first thing to do is buy some distilled water, turn the drone off and use the distilled water to rinse off your device. You may be wondering why distilled water.  The water is usually free of any minerals that conduct electricity and, therefore, will help to mitigate the damage caused by the saltwater. 

Let us look at what follows whether your drone fell into fresh or salty water.

Power disconnection

This is the first thing to do once you retrieve the drone from the water. Quickly remove the battery to save it from any further damage. This will also give the battery room to disburse all its charge. Some drones are made to automatically go off when they come into contact with water, especially if they sense a short circuit.

Rinse with distilled water

This is a critical thing to do if your drone lands in seawater. We have mentioned what saltwater does and why you should use distilled water to lessen the damage caused by saltwater. Once you have rinsed it, dry the drone using a blow dryer or rotate it in all directions to allow any remaining water to drain out.  

Another effective method of getting all the moisture out of the drone is to put it in a container of raw rice. Wrap it carefully in a clean cloth first to keep dust out of the drone, then cover it in a sealed container full of rice. The rice will absorb all the extra moisture over a period of a day or two.

You can also disassemble the drone for better results and give it enough time to dry. Also, ensure you leave it in a dry place.

Carefully turn the power on

This bit sends cold chills down the spine of every drone operator because of the possible outcome. If you rinsed the drone with distilled water and let it dry well, this is where the extent of the damage will be made evident. 

Reconnect the drone’s battery and start it up. Be vigilant to notice any funny noises and smells at this point that your drone could be making. If all seems smooth without anything weird happening, you can try to launch your device, hoping that all will remain well. 

Even if the drone does successfully launch and fly, if some water deposits are left in the drone, they might cause corrosion over time, and you may not enjoy the drone for as long as you would have without a water event.

If the drone fails to turn on, you have the option of opening it up and trying to see where the exact issue is. However, this is a challenging task, as some of the problems can only be seen using a microscope. Especially so if the problem is in the circuit board. 

Note: Some drone damage does not show up immediately, and therefore, you shouldn’t be excited if all goes well after drying.  Your luck may be temporary. 

Contact a technician or your drone’s manufacturer

If the methods don’t bear any results, consider contacting your drone manufacturer or a drone technician for further help.  You should be open with them and tell them all the details of the event. Also, mention any efforts you made in repairing the damage yourself, as this will help them in the repair.

Be prepared

Sometimes, when the drone lands in the water, it might end up being damaged beyond repair, and you should therefore be prepared. This mostly depends on the type of your drone. As you make plans to buy another drone, you should consider your environment. If you live in an area with many water bodies, or you tend to fly near water or in wet conditions, consider buying a waterproof drone to be on the safe side.

What to do if it starts to rain on your drone

As much as you could technically fly your drone in the rain, it is advisable not to, no matter how adventurous you want to be. The only way to guarantee that your drone will be unaffected by rain is if it is waterproof. Exposing your drone to the rain brings the risk of short-circuiting on the electrical wires. Most of the drone’s components are highly sensitive to water, and that’s why you should be careful not to fly if it looks like rain.

Sometimes, though, the rain doesn’t give much warning that it’s about to start. It could be hot and sunny one minute and raining heavily the next. If you find yourself in such a scenario, you might not have enough time to prevent your aircraft from being damaged by the rain. So what do you do if it starts to rain on your drone?

Return your drone home

This is the first thing you should do when the rain begins to fall on your drone. Abort the flight and get your drone back to you as quickly as possible. Once the drone lands, turn the power supply off immediately. By turning off the power supply, the supply of the electrical current will be stopped, thus preventing any short-circuiting damage.

Properly dry and store your drone 

Since there will always be a time to fly your drone, it’s good to keep it grounded until the rain stops. If the drone got wet at all during the flight, make sure to properly dry it off. See the methods listed in the section above on how to effectively dry off your drone. Hint: use a hairdryer or a bucket of raw rice.

Here are some other drone storage tips:

Clean and inspect your drone

Before you store your drone after returning it home, you should check if it’s in its proper condition. Although the inspection is simple, it will help you identify minor issues before escalating to bigger ones. Check all the parts, including propellers, gimbals, camera lens, and battery bay.

If you notice any issues, fix them immediately and replace the damaged parts. This will prevent the frustrations of getting ready to launch your drone only to find out it has issues. This is more so if the winter season is long and you won’t be flying your drone soon.

After inspection, clean your aircraft from any dirt. Ensure there are no dust or water droplets left on the inside, especially the places that are difficult to reach, such as the gimbal and units around the propeller. Wipe the body using a soft cloth.

Firmware Update

Before storing your drone for the rainy season, this is a very important thing to do. The update should be done both on the controller and drone. This will ensure that you won’t have any hiccups when it’s time to fly your drone again.  Be sure to consult your drone manufacturer for the latest updates since they keep coming out with new ones. If you’re storing your drone for awhile, you may very well need to update again before flying after you get your drone out of storage.

Discharge drone batteries

If you take good care of your batteries, they will serve you for a long time. It will help maintain the lifespan of your batteries if you discharge them before storage using its charger. Some batteries have storage settings that allow you to drain off most of the charge. It is risky to store your battery when it’s fully charged or with too low of a charge because it can become permanently damaged.

Store the batteries separately 

If you live somewhere with an extended rainy season and you need to store your drone for awhile, it is safer to store your drone batteries separately. You can keep them in a LiPo bag or a fire-proof container. Either of these will prevent a fire that might be caused by a battery short. Also, remember to keep the batteries away from direct sunlight, as this can cause them to overheat or explode.

Store batteries in a cool, dry environment

Once you have taken all the above measures, it’s time to store your battery. Batteries should always be stored in a cool, dry place. Extreme heat is not ideal not only for the batteries but also for the electrical components of the controller and the drone.

Also, batteries should be stored in a dry place because moisture and humidity lead to corrosion. This is especially the case on the metallic parts of your drone and its controller.

Which parts of a drone are most at risk of being damaged by water?

The inner components of a drone have a higher risk of damage from water than the body of the drone. However, water might cause corrosion on the body as well, as we mentioned earlier. Here are parts you need to pay close attention to if your drone lands in the water and why.

Motor – Drones are built with two types of motors. If your drone is not water-resistant, it means that its motors are also not waterproof. Water damages the electronics found in the motor, thus affecting the efficacy or even flight ability of the drone.

Main Board – Water and the drone’s mainboards don’t go well together. There can be a short circuit caused by water on the electronics on the circuit board. This might cause permanent damage forcing you to incur a replacement cost.

Cameras – If your drone stays in the water for long, its cameras and lenses will also become victims. You might notice some fog on the lens or blurry photos. If the camera is not working, the only alternative will be to buy a new one.

Batteries – Water can significantly damage your batteries. The chemical composition in them reacts with water and might cause an explosion.

How to prevent a drone water landing

Sometimes flying your drone over water bodies is inevitable. Therefore, you must take the necessary precautions to ensure your drone is safe in such situations. Here are some things to ensure your aircraft doesn’t land in the water.

For a more detailed guide to flying a drone over water, check out our article about tips for flying a drone over water » 

Shot planning

Flying a drone over water is a risky affair, but what do you do if that’s the only way to get the shot you need? It would help if you prepared for your shot well by choosing the perfect shooting location, running a few tests to get the right angle, and visualizing your intended video or image. These steps will help you execute your shot smoothly and effectively, minimizing your risk of landing in the water.

Establish a maximum flight distance

If you are flying your drone above water bodies, ensure that you can see your drone at all times.  If your shots demand that you fly your drone for longer distances, setting a maximum flight distance would be ideal. There are drone apps that you can use to set the distance. However, the distance you select on the app must be within the range of your controller’s ability.

This is also important to make sure you don’t get the drone so far out that it can’t make the trip back without running out of battery. Running out of battery charge over the water means only one thing. 

Practice

Practice always makes perfect, and therefore you should practice if you are flying your drone over water bodies. The more you practice, the more you will become an expert in launching, flying, and returning home skills. This way, you will learn to control your drone better, become confident, and able to conduct a safe flight over water.

Avoid obstacles

You might face some obstacles (jetties, power lines, buildings, etc.) when flying your drone near water, thus endangering it. Some of these obstacles interfere with the GPS signal of your drone, and that’s why you must be cautious. They include ship containers or gadgets that use magnets. Other natural barriers could be trees, birds, or rocks. All these obstacles can make you lose your drone.

Coating your drone

If you must fly your aircraft above water bodies, you should consider “waterproof” coating it. This is done using hydrophobic technology, which involves applying hydrophobic coating (link) on all your aircraft parts. 

The first thing to do is to dismantle all the parts of your drone and first coat the inner parts, including the circuit boards, camera gear, and motors. However, do not touch the camera itself with the coating material. When the coat is completely dry, reassemble the UAV and coat its outer parts. Once the body is dry, try flying it out in the rain and see if it is repelling the water.

Conclusion

We have discussed everything about what to do if your drone gets wet.  Taking action quickly and recovering the drone from water is the first step. After that, follow the step-by-step repair guide we’ve provided. Also, we have mentioned that if it starts raining on your drone, you should bring it back home, then clean, inspect and store it until the rain is gone, and the weather is safe for flying. 

Also, the tips we’ve shared on how to prevent your drone from falling into the water should help prevent any such catastrophe. We hope this information has been instructive and will help you safely fly your drone.

Elizabeth Ciobanu

Editor-in-Chief. Elizabeth is a full-time (homeschooling!) mom of four, and serial entrepreneur in a variety of enterprises, one of which is producing content for Droneblog. If free time existed, she would love to spend more time on hobbies such as flying a drone.

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