We received our SwellPro Splash 3 drone within 4 days of ordering it. After having a little fiasco with our DJI Mavic Pro, we couldn’t have been more excited!
Let’s start off by giving a little background on what happened with the DJI Mavic, which I was so happy with. I don’t think the DJI crash was my fault. I was flying it over water and getting the most epic shot of all time of S/V Carthago leaving a pass here in Fiji when a glitch caused it to go into auto landing mode. Instead of an epic shot, I ended up crashing my drone and watching it sink 100 feet. Fortunately, DJI recognized that it was a glitch and offered a free replacement under warranty. Although it took them 3 very long weeks to reach that outcome, at least they recognized the glitch was their fault and honored the warranty.
I love my DJI Mavic Pro drone and have become quite familiar with it. Launching it from the boat, from the dinghy, from small tiny spaces is no problem. It’s stable, consistent and reliable (except for the glitch). The best part is its portability. I could fit it in a small dry bag and take it anywhere I want. The 4K camera quality is phenomenal and there’s a wealth of accessories such as UV filters available for it. My only complaint is that it’s not waterproof. And crashing a drone is a risk you have to accept if you’re going to fly a drone. I denied it for the longest time, but chances are you will crash it at some point.
This is where the SwellPro Splash 3 drone comes in. They have designed an IP67 rated drone. Not only are the motors waterproof, but so is the 4K camera and the gimbal. This is a dream come true for any boater who wants to fly drones around the water.
From my research, I knew the SwellPro Splash 3 drone was going to be bigger than the DJI Mavic drone; nobody beats the compactness and convenience of the folding arms. So when I got the SwellPro Splash 3 drone in a nifty soft foam travel case I was pleasantly surprised about it being more portable than I expected even though “portable” is not the first word I would use to describe it. For it to fit in this case means I need to attach the propellers every time I want to fly it but it’s no more than 2 minutes. I guess I was spoiled by the DJI Mavic drone which allows you to just unfold the arms, put your phone into the controller and go!
I’ve crashed the DJI Mavic a total of 5 times (4 times into trees, once into the water), but I never had to replace the propellers or anything else. On the SwellPro Splash 3 drone, if you crash into anything the carbon fiber propellers will smash to pieces right away. I know this for a fact. I smashed the original set and the replacement set on the first day. To be fair I must mention the Swell Pro Splash 3 drone comes with removable legs which allow boaters to hand launch and catch the drone safely if it’s stable when flying where as the the DJI Mavic drone has propellers so close to the body of the drone that it’s pretty hard to catch without risking losing a finger or two. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it on the Mavic, and I consider myself quite a risk taker. This means that if you want to launch from a dinghy you need to do it from the bench or from the floor. Any wrong movement and it’ll slice up your rubber. Good luck getting home! With the SwellPro Splash 3 drone you could fly it alongside the boat and hand catch it from a safe distance. More about crashing the SwellPro Splash 3 coming up. There’s also a video clip in the SwellPro Splash 3 drone video review.
A big difference between the DJI Mavic Pro and the SwellPro Splash 3 drone is the way that you use features such as “follow me” so that it flies itself. On the SwellPro Splash 3 drone the “follow me” mode will follow a little bluetooth device which you theoretically would have in your pocket. However, if you buy a waterproof drone you’re probably going to be doing water activities. I guess you could put it in a dry bag or a ziplock but I’d like it to be waterproof. The DJI Mavic Pro on the other hand can do this through software so it doesn’t require additional hardware. Another major difference is the SwellPro Splash 3 drone comes with a nice, big controller that features a decent sized screen so you don’t need to use your phone at all. I especially like this because the DJI Mavic Pro requires you to use your phone/tablet and because I have a lifeproof case the iPhone doesn’t fit too well. Another difference is the SwellPro Splash 3 drone can add on accessories such as a payload releaser for $159. I don’t know what I’ll use it for but people have used it for fishing and I can’t get over how cool it would be to deliver beer to a neighbor boat or Gina when she’s on a beach. As a sailor, I also like that the Swell Pro Splash V3 drone can fly in windy conditions. Also you can take bigger risks because in a worst case scenario where you crash it over the water you won’t lose your entire investment. This should result in some pretty cool shots actively sailing.
Let’s address the big elephant in the room though. I crashed the Swell Pro Splash V3 drone twice on day one of owning it and it’s unusable right now because I broke the propellers. Fortunately, they’re replaceable so the damage isn’t catastrophic. How could I have let this happen? Well, I followed the manual provided for the Swellpro Splash V3 drone to calibrate it but it kept swerving around and wouldn’t hold steady, even when the wind was virtually zero. I might have been doing something wrong, but I followed what the manual said “to the t.” The first crash was my fault, I didn’t install one of the propellers correctly so it flew off and that threw the whole thing off balance. I accept full responsibility for my error. However, I would still prefer it if the propellers could stay in place so you don’t have to put them on and off every time you want to fly it. The second crash was due to a landing approach towards the boat with a drone that seemed like it had drunk more rum than Captain Ron. It drifted right into the standing rigging.
In hindsight, I could have just landed it in the water and retrieved it with the dinghy. That’s the point of a waterproof drone, isn’t it? However, the GPS mode it should have been able to keep steady. At least that’s what the promotional videos advertise! Even though I calibrated it correctly, during the flight the gimbal went off balance and slowly tilted to the side until it was completely flopped over and it wasn’t able to maintain a stable position. I messaged support and they immediately hopped on a Whatsapp call with me and offered to send me new propellers as well as a new sticker that covers the GPS because apparently it has barometric pressure sensors that help the controller keep it steady. What a world of a difference compared to DJI support! Hopefully it was a fluke and once I get the new parts it’ll work well. I’ll be writing a follow up review once I can actually see the SwellPro Splash 3 drone work.
To sum up, while the DJI Mavic Pro is not waterproof, it is very portable and much easier to fly “out of the box.” Insurance could help others overcome the risks of flying over water but is not a viable option when you’re in countries where its hard even to mail a postcard. Another option is to buy/make foam floaters, but that’s pretty risky unless the water is perfectly flat. For us and our primary use around water, the SwellPro Splash V3 drone has “built in insurance” by being waterproof. I did not expect it to be so unstable in flight that I could not land it safely on the boat’s foredeck but hopefully it’s a quality control issue that’ll be fixed. Given the support I have received from the SwellPro team, I have decided to give it another chance instead of requesting a refund. Make sure to subscribe to our mailing list (top right of this page) so you’re updated when I post a follow up!
Disclaimer: This is our honest and unbiased review. However, we must disclose that as an “influencer,” Swell Pro offered us a discount on their Splash 3 drone.
June 29, 2017:
The conversation has been opened up on our Facebook page and “drone guru” and fellow cruiser Rick Moore has chimed in with some valuable feedback and suggestions: