Drones: the new aerial surfing perspective

Drones are flying above the surf. You can see them, and you can hear them. Surfing drones are now part of the surfers' world and deliver spectacular footage for our personal archives.

Drones are the new helicopters. In the last couple of decades, surfers and wave riders, in general, had to pay for a helicopter to get stunning aerial video and photos.

Huge investments were made to capture the adrenaline levels of big-wave surfers in spots like Jaws and Pipeline.

In fact, aerial perspective changes how we see surfing and how we read waves.

It was only a matter of time until the fast-growing surf gadget industry invented a cheap alternative. Hollywood loves it, too.

The new surfing drones can be divided into two main categories:

  • Drones with built-in cameras and WiFi live transmission devices;
  • Drones with a special clip for attaching GoPro cameras;

Surfing drones can be easily operated with remote controls and deliver high-quality videos and pictures from above.

They're also called quadcopters and unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs).

Surf's up: captivating aerial images of surfers captured by drone | Photo: Saito/Creative Commons

What Makes a Good UAV?

When buying a drone, there are several characteristics, features, specifications, and requirements that you should take into consideration. Here are some examples:

  1. Purpose: Do you want to use the drone for recreational purposes, such as aerial photography or sightseeing, or for commercial purposes, such as surveying or mapping? This will help you determine which features and specifications are most important;
  2. Flight time: How long do you want the drone to be able to stay in the air on a single charge? Consider the size and weight of the drone as well, as these can affect its flight time;
  3. Range: How far do you want the drone to be able to fly from the controller? Keep in mind that the FAA has a maximum range of 400 feet (122 meters) for drones;
  4. Camera quality: If you want to use a drone for aerial photography or videography, you'll want to consider the quality of the camera. Look for a drone with a high-resolution camera and the ability to shoot in 4K or higher;
  5. Durability: Drones can be prone to crashes and other accidental damage, so you'll want to look for a model that is rugged and durable;
  6. Ease of use: If you're a beginner, you'll want to look for a drone that is easy to set up and fly. Consider features such as automatic takeoff and landing, as well as a user-friendly interface;
  7. Price: Determine your budget and look for a drone that offers the features and specifications you need at a price that fits your budget;

Using Drones for Aerial Surf Videography

To use a drone for surfing and aerial surf photography, you will need to have a good quality drone equipped with a good camera, a robust lens, and a long-lasting set of batteries.

It is also recommended to use a drone with a high-resolution camera, such as one that can film in 4K.

To capture the best footage, position the drone at a 30-45° angle to the breaking waves, looking down the shoulder of the wave as the surfer rides towards you.

This will show the curl of the wave and provide a clear depiction of the wave size relative to the surfer.

It is important to follow all local regulations and guidelines for flying drones and to ensure your own and others' safety while operating the drone.

It may also be helpful to use polarizer filters to improve the quality of the footage.

UAV: drones photography captures the thrill of learning to surf | Photo: Lelievre/Creative Commons

Flying Rules and Regulations

There are several regulations that apply to flying a drone in the United States. Here are some of the main ones:

  1. You must register your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) if it weighs more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (25 kilograms);
  2. You must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA if you plan to use your drone for commercial purposes, such as taking photos or videos that you will sell or use to promote a business;
  3. You must follow all FAA regulations for flying drones, including flying only in daylight, staying below 400 feet (122 meters), maintaining a safe distance from other aircraft and people, and not flying over crowds or near emergency response efforts;
  4. You must follow any additional state or local regulations that may apply to drone use, as well as any specific rules that may be in place at the beach or other location where you plan to fly your drone;

It is important to note that these regulations are subject to change, so it is always a good idea to stay up to date on the latest rules and guidelines for flying drones in your country.

The best drones for surfing in 2024 are:


DJI Mavic 3 Classic

DJI Mavic 3 Classic

The DJI Mavic 3 Classic is the king of drones and captures stunning aerial shots in spectacular color detail.

It has a number of features and specifications, including:

  • 4/3 CMOS Hasselblad camera that can record 5.1K video;
  • 15-kilometer max transmission range;
  • Omnidirectional obstacle sensing;
  • Max flight time of 46 minutes (in a controlled test environment with specific conditions, including flying at a constant speed of 32.4 kph in a windless environment at sea level, with APAS off, AirSense off, camera parameters set to 1080p/24fps, video mode off, and from 100% battery level until 0%);
  • Lightweight body and HD transmission for an exceptional operating experience;
  • Increased flight time of almost 50% compared to the Mavic 2 Pro;
  • Specially made Hasselblad camera for high-quality photos and video;
  • Capable of flying in a variety of environments and conditions;
  • Compact and portable design for easy transport;

Buy: Amazon.com


DJI Air 2S

DJI Air 2S

The DJI Air 2S is an ultraportable and foldable drone for content creation.

It features the following characteristics:

  • 1-inch CMOS sensor for high-quality photos and video;
  • Autonomous functions, including MasterShots, which automatically captures and edits professional-quality video sequences;
  • Ability to record 5.4K UHD video;
  • Compact and lightweight design, weighing less than 600 grams (1.3 pounds);
  • 12-kilometer transmission range;
  • Capable of capturing FHD 1080p video at 30 frames per second and 12Mbps;
  • Ability to fly for up to 31 minutes on a single charge;
  • Multiple intelligent shooting modes, including Hyperlapse, ActiveTrack, and QuickShots;
  • Compatibility with DJI's Smart Controller for an enhanced operating experience;

Buy: Amazon.com


DJI Mini 3 Pro

DJI Mini 3 Pro

The DJI Mini 3 Pro is a safe, regulation, friendly, compact, and ultralight drone.

Its features include:

  • Redesigned structure and form, which allows for larger propellers and improved propulsion efficiency, resulting in longer battery life;
  • Compact size, weighing just 199 grams (7.05 ounces);
  • Capability to shoot images at up to 48MP and video at up to 4K/60fps;
  • Digital video zoom, available up to 2x in 4K, up to 3x in 2.7K, and up to 4x in Full HD;
  • HDR video recording, available at frame rates up to 30fps;
  • Aperture and ISO equivalent to those of the DJI Mavic 3;
  • Multiple intelligent shooting modes, including Hyperlapse, ActiveTrack, and QuickShots;
  • Compatibility with DJI's Smart Controller for an enhanced operating experience;

Buy: Amazon.com


Parrot Anafi AI

Parrot Anafi AI

The Parrot Anafi AI is a superb, ultra-compact professional drone.

It comes with the following features:

  • Compact size, measuring 304 x 130 x 118 mm when folded and 320 x 440 x 118 mm when unfolded;
  • Lightweight design, weighing 898 grams (1.98 pounds);
  • Capability to be ready to fly in 60 seconds;
  • Maximum flight time of 32 minutes;
  • Maximum horizontal speed of 16 meters per second (34 mph) and maximum vertical speed of 4 meters per second (9 mph);
  • Maximum wind resistance of 14 meters per second (31.3 mph) during flight and 12 meters per second (26.8 mph) during takeoff and landing;
  • 4G connectivity, allowing for expanded range and the ability to perform beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations;
  • 21 MP camera with a 180-degree vertical tilt and 4K video recording capability;
  • Multiple intelligent shooting modes;

Buy: Amazon.com


Holy Stone HS720

Holy Stone HS720

The Holy Stone HS720 is an inexpensive portable drone.

It features:

  • 2.4GHz transmitter with a control range of up to 3000 feet;
  • LED screen displaying battery level and GPS signal;
  • Button for turning on or off the drone light;
  • Option for right-hand throttle mode for left-handers;
  • 2 batteries providing up to 46 minutes of flight time;
  • Ability to follow your steps, fly in a preset route, circle a point of interest, and return home through the use of the app;
  • 4K EIS (electronic image stabilization) camera;
  • 2-axis gimbal for stable and smooth footage;
  • Brushless motor for improved performance and durability;
  • 5G WiFi transmission for high-quality video transmission;
  • Optical flow sensor for improved stability;
  • Smart Return Home function for automatic, safe return to the starting point;

Buy: Amazon.com


Rufko F11 Pro

Ruko F11 Pro

The Ruko F11 Pro is an affordable quadcopter drone.

Its main characteristics are as follows:

  • 4K UHD camera for high-quality video and photos;
  • Live video capability through the use of a phone that supports dual-band WiFi (2.4 and 5G);
  • Flight time of up to 60 minutes with the inclusion of an extra battery;
  • GPS for improved stability and the ability to return home;
  • Brushless motor for improved performance and durability;
  • Remote control distance of around 0.75 miles;
  • Solid construction and good performance;
  • Comes with a carrying case for convenient storage and transport;

Buy: Amazon.com

The surfing drones review has been updated on January 14, 2024.

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