Stunning sailing shots: how to choose and best use a drone

Drones are becoming increasingly popular among boaters for capturing breathtaking aerial footage. Here's how you can join in on the fun.

Sailing is an unforgettable experience, but why not enhance your sailing memories with stunning visuals?! Our tips on how to take drone footage on your boat will help you get the perfect shot. Plus, we'll show you how to minimise risks and prevent drone accidents at sea, so you won't lose your valuable data.

Choose a drone for sailing that is waterproof

At first glance, it might seem obvious, but there are dozens of boaters who have destroyed their drone in the waves. So if you're serious about capturing your sailing experiences at sea, a waterproof drone with a built-in camera is essential. As well as being able to shoot your sailing journey worry-free, the drone can be used to take footage of other fun activities, such as snorkelling, kiteboarding or paddleboarding.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Wondering what other activities to combine with sailing? Whether you enjoy water sports, such as snorkelling and kayaking, or prefer to explore islands and towns on foot or by bike — we've put together a list of the best. Try out our Top 12 fun activities to do on a sailing holiday and make the most of your yachting vacation.

A group of young people drinking and dancing at a party on a sailboat with a DJ playing music

When choosing your drone, you should focus on a few other features such as the weight of the drone, photo resolution, zoom, lens aperture and image stabilization. The formats in which the drone takes photos or shoots video are also important — the more of them the device supports, the better.

It is also advisable to choose a device that can land on the surface of the water. Also, consider the so-called home point (HP) — a fixed point for the drone to return to if it loses connection to the remote (something quite difficult to find at sea). In regattas, for example, this tends to be the judges' boat or the nearest piece of land. Having a home point also allows you to safely film from a greater distance. Keep in mind that mid-range drones have a signal range of about 5 km (individual models vary) but, even so, it's always best to keep your drone within sight.

A great choice for sailors is a device where you can set a dynamic home point — it continuously updates the position of the home point according to the position of the remote.

Another key aspect is flight time and battery level, especially in open sea. If the battery level indicates less than 30%, you should bring the drone close to the HP (home point) so that it can get an improved signal and land better. If you're planning to land it on a moving boat, you should start flying the drone back when the battery is at 50%. If intend to do a lot of flying, it definitely pays to have spare batteries to hand.

Aerial shot of a beautiful blue lagoon on a hot summer day with a sailboat. Top view of people swimming around the boat.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Don't have your drone yet?  You can find drones with a camera in online stores, such as on Amazon, or search for your local specialist shop. Believe us, you'll have a lot of fun with it when sailing and capture some great shots. Just remember that if the drone has a built-in camera, it is necessary in the EU to register the device and the pilot.

Filming with a drone when sailing

The biggest challenge when filming with a drone is to get good quality, detailed shots without crashing into anything on the boat. Professional videographers recommend filming from a height above the highest mast of the floating boat, about 10 to 20 metres up. If you'd like to get some really action-packed footage, take advantage of manoeuvres such as when turning during a race. As well as the action of the crew, you may even be able to capture boats battling it out.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Would you rather be steering the boat than filming it with a drone? Get your skipper's licence with us .

View from the top, photo from the drone, track in a circle behind the motor boat

It's easier with two people

Every shot requires cooperation and although you may not need a whole film crew with a director, cameraman and sound engineer when filming your voyage, it's still worth having a helper. They can help you track the drone in the air, hold the drone as it takes off and lands, and generally assess the situation to determine when the drone is "fired up" enough to take off safely.

Amazing view of a yacht in a bay with a beach, drone view

Your assistant can also help you in situations where the drone might hit the mast, shrouds (the steel cables holding the mast up) and other lines on board. You won't be able to see these on the screen or glasses connected to the drone. And, as you'll be focused on guiding it, you will need someone to give you perspective, even if your drone has to capability to automatically avoid obstacles.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Often when sailing, especially with a small boat, the only way to land a drone is to catch it in your hand. This can be quite an adrenaline rush. The "catcher" should wear a cap to prevent the risk of facial injuries and some more substantial gloves.

Man controlling a drone over the sea

Tips on shooting videos with a drone

Although today's audiovisual technologies make it easy to take high quality photos and videos, it pays to know some basic guidelines to make your yachting holiday footage even better. Whether you're an experienced sailor or looking for the perfect sailing destination for beginners, we've got some tips on how to film your dream holiday:

  • Think about your shots. You want to create an interesting video for family or friends, but you don't want to spend hours going over the rough footage.
  • Before you launch your drone into the air, take a look around for the most interesting locations to film. Also, make sure the weather is clear. There's only so much wind your drone can handle and you don't want it to get blown away.
  • Consider the resolution of the video. Will HD resolution be enough or do you want to project the video in Full HD (1920x1080) or 4K? Do you have a computer with enough capacity to handle the raw footage or would you like to shoot the video on your smartphone?
Waves and a yacht seen from above. Turquoise water background seen from above.
  • Find a helper to help you launch and land your drone, and generally help you with shot selection. It's also worth having a pair of gloves ready in case either of you have to catch the drone.
  • Don't forget to monitor your battery level, set a low battery warning or set it to "Return to home" or "Hover".
  • A drone makes a good servant, but a terrible master. Make sure that you are in control.

YACHTING.COM TIP: Already have a drone  as part of your sailing kit? Check out what else to bring with you in our guide — Sailing essentials: don't forget to pack these things.

From the deck of which boat will you capture stunning scenery?

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FAQ Drones on the boat