How to Waterproof a Drone from Snow, Water, Humidity and More!
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So living in the south, one thing is guaranteed: my drone gets wet. Whether it’s the constant 100% humidity or the abundance of ponds, lakes and shoreline, my drone needs to be able to handle some moisture. I need to make sure all my drones are as waterproof as possible and this is how.
You need to cover all sensitive electronic parts with silicone conformal coating to seal out water. You need to coat all exposed electronic ports with a rust and corrosion preventer like Corrosion X HD. Lastly, you may need to make modifications to your drone to save it from sinking such as a Getterback or floating drone landing gear.
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Can a drone get wet?
Like most electronics, the short answer is try to avoid getting your drone wet. Electronics and water just don’t mix and you are inviting everything from rust to short circuits and everything in between.
But you can’t just avoid moisture all together when flying your drone. Most drone flying takes place outside which introduces hundreds of sources of water from humidity to wet grass to snow to, yes, even water like ponds and ocean.
So most drones cannot get wet but we want to fly them in environments where they are going to inevitably get wet. That means we have to know how to waterproof our drones, or at least make them water resistant.
What do you need to waterproof a drone?
Waterproofing your drone isn’t all that difficult and definitely does not require you to be a tech wizard.
You are going to need two things: a silicone conformal coating and a rust and corrosion preventer.
For the silicone conformal coating, I recommend using this one mainly due to the fact that it fluoresces under black light which makes it easy to see whether or not you have full coverage of all the sensitive electronics on your drone. If you don’t have a black light, you can use this handy, little black light flashlight.
For the rust and corrosion preventer, I recommend using Corrosion X HD. For the price, it is the best anti-corrosion lubricant on the market.
The last thing you are going to want (and probably already have laying around) is some isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). If you don’t have some in your first aid kit already, you can just add this one to the cart. The rubbing alcohol is great for cleaning your drone electronics before waterproofing and it’s also great for removing and sealant from parts you covered on accident.
Now that you have your materials, it is time to start waterproofing your drone.
NOTE: Applying any coating to your drone’s electronics could void your warranty. Also, I am not responsible for any damage you cause to your drone while waterproofing it or when you are proving to your friends how waterproof your drone is. You do this at your own risk.
How to apply silicone conformal coating to your drone?
So first things first, you are going to want to remove the coverings and heat shrinks from the circuit board.
Next, you are going to want to make sure you clean the circuit board and remove all dirt to make sure that the silicone conformal coating has a nice, clean surface to adhere to. You can use rubbing alcohol and a toothbrush or q-tip to do this.
Now, it’s time to apply the conformal coating. If you bought the one recommended above, it comes with a handy little brush, much like a jar of nail polish.
You are going to want to brush on a thin layer over all the electronics except for any buttons, sensors or connection ports.
While the bottle says it should dry in 30 minutes, I would recommend at least half a day of drying.
Once dry, you can verify coverage by using a black light. If you missed any spots, just go over them again.
One coat is all you will need to waterproof your electronics as long as the black light has verified total coverage.
Now it is time to protect the areas of the electronics that we did not apply silicone conformal coating to.
How to apply anti-corrosion lubricant to your drone?
Now that you successfully have coated most of your drones electronics with silicone conformal coating, you have the option of taking your waterproof drone just a step further.
I say that this is optional because it does create a little bit of a mess and some people don’t want lubricant on their circuit board or in their connectors.
The big benefit of using an anti-corrosion lubricant is just that, to keep things from rusting and corroding, which is a big deal for connectors and sensors.
So if you are ok with a little brown “gunk” on your some of your drone internals in exchange for more peace of mind, you can continue with this step.
Much like the coating process above, we are going to apply a small amount of Corrosion X HD to the places we did not cover in the previous step. This means you want to spray a small amount on your buttons, sensors and connection ports.
This stuff is messy. Work over paper towels or newspaper and apply small amounts at a time. This stuff doesn’t need a drying time. It works like any lubricant like WD-40.
Now all the electronics on your drone are as waterproof as we can make them. If you made any mistakes while applying the coating or the anti-corrosion lubricant, read on to learn how to remove it.
How to remove silicone conformal coating from your drone?
As easily as the silicone conformal coating and anti-corrosion lubricant went on, it is even easier to take off.
All you need is to break out the rubbing alcohol again. If you want to remove coating from a particular spot on your drone’s circuit board, just use a q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol to wipe away the coating. It should only take a few passes to clean that spot.
If you want to remove all the coating, you are going to have to dip the entire board in alcohol. The coating should dissolve and all that is left to do is let it dry completely.
How to make your drone float?
So you have gone to all the trouble of waterproofing your drone, but what if you like flying it over water and you want to know that it will float in case it goes down?
Unfortunately, there isn’t any spray or coating that will magically make your drone float because a) drones are heavy and b) they are designed to fly not float.
But luckily for you, there are some companies that build floating landing gear for a wide variety of drone models. You might be able to find a drone float made specifically for your drone here.
If you can’t find one for your specific drone or if you are more of the Macgyver type, you could easily rig up some custom floats using pool floats or something similar. Check google for some DIY tutorials.
How to get your drone back if it sinks?
So, either you hate the way drone floats look, how they affect your drone’s flight or you just like to live life on the edge.
Your drone crashes into the water and sinks. How do you get it back?
Well depending on how deep the water is, you can try to fish it out with a big fishing hook and fishing rod. You could swim to go get it. You could use a cast net. Lots of options.
One guaranteed way to get it back is to use a device like the Getterback.
This nifty device attaches to your drone and if your drone sinks below 6 feet of water, CO2 gas erupts from the device sending a float towards the surface pulling your drone to the top of the water so you can go retrieve it.
How to care for a drone that got wet?
So your drone crashed into the water, completely submerged, but you were able to retrieve it thanks to the Getterback (or because you dove in after your baby).
How do we care for our drone after it gets wet? First things first, make sure to power it down and remove the battery.
If you happened to crash your drone into saltwater, make sure to rinse it off thoroughly with fresh water.
Next take a clean cloth and try to dry off as much excess water as you can. Then leave your drone in a warm, dry place to dry for a full 48 hours.
Lithium polymer batteries hate water and just to be safe, you may want to dispose of the wet one and replace it with one that hasn’t taken a swim.
If you are concerned about major water damage, it is best to take your drone to repair technician before attempting to power it back up.
Hopefully, your drone powers back up and lives to fly another day. You’ll definitely have a higher chance of your drone surviving a swim if you had waterproofed your drone electronics using the steps above.
Can you buy a waterproof drone?
So the good news is that you know how to waterproof any drone. The not-so-good news is that it may void your warranty and it is not guaranteed to be entirely waterproof, more like water resistant.
What if you really want a waterproof drone? Can you buy one?
Absolutely! There are actually drones that are built to handle water!
My top pick for the best waterproof drone is the SwellPro Splash Drone 3
Yes it is specifically made for fishing but it is a great overall drone too that is built for the water.
If the Splash Drone 3 is not your style, you can take a look at some other waterproof drones here.
So whether you are waterproofing a drone or buying a waterproof drone, you can now fly more confidently in rain or shine!