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Articles / Recreational / Found the Perfect Drone to Track My Jetski Riding – and It Terrifies Me

Found the Perfect Drone to Track My Jetski Riding – and It Terrifies Me

13 June 2024
Article Found the Perfect Drone to Track My Jetski Riding – and It Terrifies Me
As a licensed commercial drone pilot with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority in Australia, I’ve spent countless hours perfecting the art of capturing those breathtaking aerial shots. However, one aspect that has always been particularly challenging and, quite frankly, terrifying is flying drones over water, especially when tracking high-speed jetskis. Through trial and error, I’ve found that while many recreational drones from DJI and other providers are impressive, the Skydio 2+ from the USA stands out, especially for the demanding conditions of tracking fast jetskis on the water.

Comparing DJI and Skydio 2+: Functionality vs. Tracking Technology

DJI drones, such as the Mavic/Air/2/3 and the Phantom series, are renowned for their stability, camera quality, and ease of use. They employ advanced visual software tracking systems that are highly effective for many scenarios. However, when it comes to the dynamic environment of water, especially with the added complexity of tracking a fast-moving jetski amidst waves, these drones can sometimes struggle.

Enter the Skydio 2+, a commercial-grade offering from Skydio, a USA-based company. The Skydio 2+ is not just another drone; it represents a leap in tracking technology. Unlike DJI drones that rely primarily on visual tracking systems, the Skydio 2+ uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) combined with a GPS dongle that can be slipped into your wetsuit (I use a lube-free condom to protect the non-waterproof magic wand). This dual approach ensures robust tracking performance even in challenging environments.

The Challenges of Tracking Over Water

Water presents a unique set of challenges for drone tracking. The reflective surface of water can confuse visual tracking systems, leading to unstable or lost tracking. Moreover, the presence of waves adds another layer of complexity, making it difficult for drones to maintain a steady lock on fast-moving subjects like jetskis.

Technical aspects such as the drone's ability to maintain GPS signals, handle wind gusts, and adjust for motion dynamics over water are crucial. The Skydio 2+ excels in these areas due to its AI-driven tracking and GPS integration. The AI can predict movement patterns and adjust accordingly, while the GPS dongle provides a steady reference point, ensuring the drone stays on track even when visual cues are disrupted.

Why the Skydio 2+ Excels

The Skydio 2+ is designed for high-performance tracking, making it ideal for capturing the exhilarating speed and agility of jetskiing. Its AI system doesn't rely solely on visual tracking, which is a significant advantage over water. The absence of a compass in the Skydio 2+ means it isn't susceptible to magnetic interference, a common issue near large bodies of water.

Watch Video
Thrilled to share an exciting video from JetSurfing Nation, showcasing their incredible Skydio 2+ footage of jet boards and efoils in action. This video perfectly captures the thrill and innovation in water sports, aligning with our passion for cutting-edge technology and adventure that I have not ;).

Unfortunately, the Skydio 2+ is no longer available as a recreational drone and is now exclusively sold as a commercial-grade offering. This shift means that hobbyists and recreational drone pilots may find themselves limited to options like DJI drones for their aerial photography and tracking needs, at least for the time being. While this change may seem like a setback, DJI's advanced technology and user-friendly features still provide a viable and effective solution for capturing dynamic jetski action, ensuring that enthusiasts can continue to enjoy their passion from the skies.  So here are my top 10 tips if you wish to get that awesome shot!

10 Tips for Flying DJI Drones Over Water

Flying drones over water, especially to capture the exhilarating action of jetskiing, requires careful preparation and awareness. Here are some essential tips for using DJI drones in these challenging environments:
  1. Pre-Flight Planning: Ensure all firmware is up to date and perform a thorough pre-flight check. Choose a day with minimal wind and clear weather to avoid unnecessary complications.
  2. Adjust Camera Settings: Optimize camera settings for reflective surfaces. Use manual focus to prevent the camera from constantly adjusting due to reflections.
  3. Use Intelligent Flight Modes: Utilize DJI’s Intelligent Flight Modes like ActiveTrack to maintain focus on the jetski. However, be prepared to take manual control if the tracking system loses its target.
  4. Maintain Line of Sight: Always keep the drone within your line of sight. This is crucial for quickly regaining control if the drone starts to drift or loses track, plus it's the law.
  5. Practice Emergency Procedures: Be familiar with emergency procedures, such as Return to Home (RTH), and practice them regularly to ensure you can act swiftly in case of a malfunction.
  6. Stay High, Stay Safe: Fly at a higher altitude to avoid spray and turbulence caused by the jetski. This also gives you more time to react if the drone starts to lose stability.
  7. Remember Where Home Is: Make sure that the drone will fly home if the link is lost. Ensure home is on dry land, so don’t take off from a boat or your jetski!
  8. Understand the Law: In Australia, visit CASA’s Know Your Drone and take the quiz. Post your score in the section below - be honest, dare you!
  9. Monitor Battery Like a Hawk: Keep a close eye on battery levels. Water can be an unforgiving environment, and running out of power over it can lead to disastrous results.
  10. If You Can't Afford to Lose a Drone in the Water, Don’t Fly Over Water: It’s simple but essential advice. The risk of losing a drone to water damage is always present, so only fly over water if you're prepared for that possibility.
Watch Video
Thanks to DM Productions for allowing us to showcase their remarkable DJI video over water. Like and subscribe!

Following these guidelines will help you maximize the potential of your DJI drone while minimizing the risks associated with flying over water.

Flying drones over water to capture the thrilling action of jetskiing is no small feat. While DJI drones offer excellent functionality, the Skydio 2+ sets a new standard with its AI-driven tracking and GPS integration. By understanding the unique challenges of water environments and leveraging the strengths of each drone, you can achieve stunning aerial footage that truly captures the essence of jetskiing.

For more information on DJI drones, visit DJI's official website. And if you're ready to take your jetski tracking to the next level, have a commercial drone licence then consider exploring the Skydio 2+ here. Happy flying, and stay safe!


Jun 2024
7/11 on that Quiz... DOH failed :)
Jun 2024
I fly my drone over the lake where we ride. Had some close calls. RTH was one!!
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