The best underwater drones and ROVs in 2023

One of the best underwater drones traversing the sea bed
(Image credit: RJE Oceanbotics SRV-8 ROV)

The best underwater drones open up a whole new world of aquatic exploration. Also known as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), underwater drones are essentially mini, remote-controlled submarines; allowing you to shoot video even deeper than the 40m/130ft that scuba divers traditionally descend to. As well as shooting video, you can also use them to perform checks on your own boat, or take your fishing trips to another level. 

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The idea of an underwater drone may sound weird, as the best drones (opens in new tab) are typically designed for aerial use. But as the saying goes, what goes up can also go down, and underwater drones are nowadays both very capable and surprisingly affordable. 

Below, we list the very best underwater drones and ROVs on the market today, explain what each has to offer, and share the facts and figures you need to choose between them.

Best underwater drones and ROVs

Why you can trust Digital Camera World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out how we test.

(Image credit: PowerVision )
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1. PowerVision PowerRay

The best underwater drone for most people

Specifications

Max depth: 30m (98ft)
Control: Wireless remote control
Camera: 4K/12MP
Battery: 4 hours
Sonar: Yes (Optional)
Speed: 4 knots
Size: 465 x 270 x 126 mm
Weight: 3.8kg

Reasons to buy

+
4K resolution
+
Decent camera
+
Option to add VR goggles

Reasons to avoid

-
Umbilical could be longer
-
Limited to 30m

Traveling underwater is not a friendly environment for high-frequency radio used for the live video feedback on aerial drones, so the PowerRay is provided with a 70m (230ft) umbilical cable that gently rests behind it as it is propelled by its two horizontal props. The body also features a central vertical thruster to make changing depth a straightforward process that won’t cause tangling of the communication cable.

The depths can be a murky place, even the first few meters, so the Ray adds two dimmable 450-lumen headlight lights to illuminate your subject, which can be captured in 4K (30fps max) or 4,000 x 3,000-pixel stills. With a maximum ISO of 1600, the camera is more than capable in the depths the PowerRay can manage, though the 1/2.3-inch sensor could be bigger in a perfect world. 32 or 64Gb SD storage is provided depending on the version you choose (but you can put your own card in). 

There is a PowerRay Explorer which is the basic video shooting drone, and a more expensive PowerRay Wizard edition which adds the PowerSeeker sonar device (which can detect the underwater landscape and use temperature data to identify fishing hotspots), bait dropper, and a carry-on friendly travel case and Zeiss VR One Goggles, which provide an alternative means of exploring the depths from the deck. 

The latter isn’t just good fun, it makes enjoying the 1080p live feedback easier than on your phone screen on a bright day, although the price differential between the Explorer and Wizard versions is considerable in some stores.

(Image credit: Chasing Innovation)
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2. Chasing Innovation Gladius Mini

Smart features and 100m depth

Specifications

Max depth: 100m (330ft) or 50m (165ft)
Control: Wireless remote, umbilical to Wi-Fi unit
Camera: 4K / 12 Megapixel
Battery: 4 hours
Speed: 4 knots
Size: 383 x 223 x 137 mm
Weight: 2.5kg

Reasons to buy

+
Five thrusters meaning tilt control
+
Good smart features
+
HDMI out on base

Reasons to avoid

-
Less stable than heavier craft

The Chasing Innovation Gladius Mini is supplied in a nice backpack (not unlike one photographer who might use to carry a body and lenses), with a laptop in a separate bay. Setting up is reasonably easy – an included towel means you can set the drone down on sharp coastal rocks safely. 

On the downside, the protective caps for the 50m or 100m tether cable are easily lost, but otherwise, the drone is solidly built and can be thrown into the sea after setup and can easily take a few knocks underwater. 

The bright color is easily spotted too. Smart features include depth-lock (like altitude hold on a flying drone), and there is 64GB storage to record. The five thrusters make the drone quick to respond – useful as you need to tilt the body up or down to look around. 

You can lock the pitch, but the camera (and accompanying 1,200-lumen lights) cannot be separately turned, making this a real pilot’s craft, and fun with it. 

The thoughtful app is easily operated, and VR compatible, and the 4K camera produces great results, with the only complaint really being that in rougher seas the image stabilization could be better. Overall, though, it's a great product.

(Image credit: Chasing Innovation)
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3. Chasing Innovation Dory

The best underwater drone for beginners

Specifications

Max depth: 15m (50ft)
Control: Umbilical to Wi-Fi unit, phone app
Camera: 1080p
Battery: 1 hour
Speed: 1.5 knots
Width: 188mm
Weight: 2.5kg

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastic price
+
Waterproof Wi-Fi buoy 
+
Family-friendly fun 

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 1080p
-
Must recover buoy to retrieve drone

This is in many respects a smaller version of Chasing’s Gladius Mini (number 2 on our list). It’s certainly the same striking yellow, and very pleasingly incorporates the maneuverable five-thruster design, which makes it possible to tilt the body (and, by extension, the camera) up and down. If you think that might make it hard to control, worry not – the depth lock feature is retained from its bigger brother too. So how has Chasing sliced the price so low? 

Firstly the camera is a more modest 1080p, supported by only 250 lumens of light (at shallower depths this shouldn’t be an issue). Secondly the umbilical is significantly shorter, though the surface end is actually a floating Wi-Fi buoy, so you can throw it in the water and, so long as you’re within Wi-Fi range of it (admittedly not far given the water), you have control, maximizing the use of the 15m (50ft) tether. 

Finally, that control is all on-screen using the app, so there is no physical controller unit. That means you’ll need to be cautious of getting water on the touch screen but on the plus side the battery is contained in the drone and is the only element you’ll need to charge and the 720p live feed is ideal for piloting with. For most, this will be all the underwater drone needed, and the app is well-featured, even supporting live streaming to social media. This could make a boat trip more fun, or even add educational value to exploring lakeside pools.

Read: The best underwater housings for cameras and phones (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: PowerVision )
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4. PowerVision PowerDolphin

The best ROV for surface level shooting

Specifications

Max depth: N/A
Control: Wireless remote control
Camera: 4K UHD / 12 Megapixel
Battery: 5,800 mAh / 2 hours
Sonar: Yes (Optional)
Pilot aids: Self-righting, GPS
Speed: 10 knots
Size: 530 x 230 x 130mm
Weight: 2.3kg

Reasons to buy

+
Wireless control
+
Sonar mapping and bait dropping

Reasons to avoid

-
Not submersible

Like its natural namesake, the PowerDolphin skims along the surface, able to see above and below. Piloting is very familiar to aerial drone operators, featuring as it does a phone-ready remote controller with an app that uses your phone as a monitor (this will be very familiar to PowerEgg X users since it’s the same controller and the same Vision+ 2 app! Available for Android or iOS).

While the craft remains on the surface, propelled forward by two propellers, the 4K camera can be expended on an arm to look an impressive 150 degrees down into the water, or 70 degrees above the surface in much the same way as an aerial drone’s camera gimbal can be tilted. Thanks to being above water, GPS return to home is available.  

If you really just want to skim around the surface, you can make do with the PowerDolphin Standard pack, though the PowerDolphin Explorer adds a better remote and 800m range (though it helps to stand a few feet above the surface, say on a boat). 

The PowerDolphin Wizard edition is definitely the best value though, including as it does the ‘PowerSeeker’ sonar device, which can be used to map the water bed or look for fish inefficient grid patterns, and a bait-dropping box to further push the odds in your favor.

(Image credit: ThorRobotics)
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5. ThorRobotics King Crab 100X

An underwater robot with a grabber arm

Specifications

Max depth: 100m (328ft)
Control: Umbilical to base station
Camera: 4K / 12 Megapixel
Battery: 2 hours
Sonar: Yes (optional)
Speed: 1.5 knots
Size: 352 x 282 x 224 mm
Weight: 5.5kg

Reasons to buy

+
Four powerful thrusters
+
Robot arm
+
Wireless version available (5m depth)

Reasons to avoid

-
Inelegant construction and controller

This is a real traditionalist's underwater explorer robot, which is not only very capable but looks the part too (though is not actually quite as big as it might seem at first glance; viewed from above it’s about the size of a letter). 

Control is via a generous 300m cable, supplied on a reel, and an iOS or Android app (unless you opt for the Ground Station). There is none of the design elegance of the PowerVision products; this is a device designed not in reference to aerodynamic drones and consumer products, but professional ones. 

In order to give it the strength to do a job, the body houses four thrusters, meaning you can get enough force and direction behind the robot arm to lift up to 10kg of
objects from beneath the waves. You might choose, for example, to assist environmental projects by lifting debris or litter, or you might fancy beating coastal (metal) detectorists by grabbing valuables before they wash up on the shore. 

You can see what you’re doing from the camera, though oddly the focal length is such that the hands themselves are too near to be in perfect focus – not to the extent it’ll slow you down, though. 

You can also record in 4K UHD onto the camera which provides 1080p live feedback as you explore the depths, illuminated by two 1000-lumen LEDs. ThorRobotics can also provide specially tailored versions with a 'Ground Station,’ or even longer cables.

Product shot of Qysea Fifish, one of the best underwater drones

(Image credit: Qysea)

6. Qysea Fifish V6 or V6S ROV

The best underwater drone for salvage and research

Specifications

Max depth: 100m (330ft)
Control: Wired remote to wireless surface unit
Camera: 4K
Battery: 6 hours
Speed: 3 knots
Size: 381 x 348 x 168mm
Weight: 3.9kg

Reasons to buy

+
Includes robot arm
+
4K UHD video
+
Tail-fin makes retrieving easy
+
FPV VR goggles support

Reasons to avoid

-
Controller seems generic
-
32GB MicroSD limit

The Fifish is available as a standard V6 and the V6S includes the robot arm accessory. On its own, this is a good quality ROV with a 100m maximum depth and tether to match. The controller is very reminiscent of a drone controller, with a space for your phone as a monitor. This is no bad thing in terms of maneuverability, and the posture lock (‘hover’) maintains position accurately, but we did wonder why the pad was plain white – a touch too generic. It does have a lock-depth button (like hover), however, which is useful to have easy access to.

In fact, many of the features – 4K camera and dual 2000-lumen lights – are more costly elsewhere and this may be the most wallet-friendly way to add a robot claw with over 5kg (11lbs) gripping force to your underwater expeditions. 

This will be ideal for positioning other equipment remotely or attempting to grip and lift sea-floor discoveries. There is also now a sleek black ‘Expert’ edition of this drone with 6000-lumen lighting and the option of on-shore power for longer missions, and other accessories on offer including sonar sensors. We must admit we liked the option of VR head tracking (the drone ‘looks’ with you) and appreciated that a cable reel was in the bundle.

(Image credit: YouCan Robot )
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7. YouCan Robot BW Space Pro 4K

The best underwater drone for camera quality

Specifications

Max depth: 100m (330ft)
Control: Wired remote to wireless surface unit
Camera: 4K
Battery: (Up to) 5 hours
Speed: 3 knots
Size: 380 x 348 x 168mm
Weight: 3.9kg

Reasons to buy

+
Zoom camera option
+
Stylish design with useful handles

Reasons to avoid

-
No left/right vertical thrusters

The BW Space Pro might not be the fastest of the drones here, but it is a quality product built with photographers in mind, which is why it's offered with a range of different cameras, including a 6x zoom lens (the benefits of which, in water, are open to debate). The aperture is, relatively speaking, at the wider end (f/1.5) for underwater drones, which is a noticeable plus. The Pro version also brings AI object-tracking.

Some of the manufacturer's stability claims are perhaps slightly overstated; the four thrusters make tilting 45 degrees each way possible, but the Gladius Mini does the same with an extra thruster for stability. It’s also worth mentioning that predecessors with similar branding cannot even do the tilt, so be warned if you're searching around for cheaper versions online.

Still, the robot has a sturdy frame that can be thrown into the water from the bank without worry, and subsequent control is via the Dive App (iOS/Android) with depth hold and auto-adjusting lighting (maxing at 1,380 lumens each from both headlights). Included in the box is a joypad-like remote with a (slightly flimsy) phone clip. Optionally, a larger mini-tablet grip controller is available too.

(Image credit: Chasing)
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8. Chasing M2

The best underwater drone for content creators

Specifications

Max depth: 100m (330ft)
Control: Wired remote to wireless surface unit
Camera: 4K
Battery: 98Wh
Speed: 3 knots
Size: 380 x 267 x 165mm
Weight: 4.5kg

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to control 
+
Thrusters well protected
+
Sealed SD card slot

Reasons to avoid

-
Lights could be brighter

Chasing is a big brand in the ROV world, and the M2 makes it obvious why with eight corner-mounted thrusters operated from a joypad-style control so piloting through the water is accessible to all.

The built-in camera is an ƒ/1.8 12 megapixel affair with a 1 / 2.3 CMOS and electronic stabilization so the motors shouldn’t disturb your footage. The 152˚ field of view is pretty wide. Video can be caught at 4K 30fps (up to 120fps is available at 1080p) but if you’re keen to capture with a GoPro there is a mount.

There are some exciting accessories for the M2, not least a robotic arm and a powered tether reel, or E-Reel, which will keep the tether out of the way automatically. There's also a swappable battery. If we could change anything, the lights would be further from the lens and brighter (they're 2 x 2000 lumens), but on the plus side, there are accessory rails.

(Image credit: Geneinno)
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9. Geneinno S2

The best sea scooter for divers who want to be there

Specifications

Camera: None, but has GoPro mount
Control: Held by pilot
Max speed: 2.67mph / 4.3km/h
Battery: 45mins (11,000mAh rechargeable)
Weight: 538g
Dimensions: 504mm x 270mm x 148mm

Reasons to buy

+
4K resolution
+
Unique product
+
Electronic stabilization surprisingly good
+
Props can be replaced with racing tri-blades

Reasons to avoid

-
Need WiFi and app to alter camera settings
-
Action camera sold separately
-
Not good for cold-water inspection

If you feel you’d like to get down there with the glories of the deep rather than just pilot a camera then the Trident underwater scooter is the device for you. Built with a sizeable lithium battery to pull you along through the water, and simple controls the S2 builds on the success of their IndieGoGo-launched first generation. 

Photographers are not forgotten though; there is a GoPro (opens in new tab) mount on the front so you can record your trip just by screwing on your underwater camera (opens in new tab) in its housing; not only is it nice to be saving on a camera you might well already have, but it’s also nice to know you need only upgrade as you choose.

The Trident is driven simply by squeezing the triggers on each arm – it’s almost too easy, which is why there is both a kids mode and an app that allows you to enable a ‘parent mode’ and remotely monitor your kids while preventing submersion. In normal use, it can dive, but if you let go it floats, even with a GoPro attached, which alleviates a few concerns.

Product shot of the MOOCOR Underwater Fishing Camera

(Image credit: MOOCOR)

10. MOOCOR Underwater Fishing Camera

Drone alternative: a fishing camera that offers a glimpse below

Specifications

Camera: 720p
Control: Fishing float + 15m line
Max depth: 70cm (2ft)
Battery: 6 hours
Weight: 150g
Dimensions: 235mm x 196m x 133mm

Reasons to buy

+
Large 7in IPS display
+
Switch between infra-red and natural light
+
Great for recording and fishing

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery cable and switch a bit inelegant

Moocor’s fishing cameras offer an alternative to an underwater drone, sacrificing the control offered by thrusters and joysticks for the significantly lower investment required to dangle a camera below the surface – this should be enough for many, offering a perspective on fishing which you might have only imagined before. Set it up correctly and you’ll see the hook just before the lens.

If your primary purpose is a peek below the surface for fishing or just interest, then a big advantage to this is a relatively small and light battery – here 4,500mAh – can offer around six hours of power. On the downside, 1280 x 720 resolution, while offering a good view, certainly isn’t up there with 4K or 1080p, so you won’t be able to use the video for professional purposes. We would have also preferred to see a more modern codec for the video file.

See also: Best underwater fishing cameras (opens in new tab)

Choosing an underwater drone

Choosing a drone to explore beneath the surface isn’t the same as picking your ideal aerial drone. While, on the plus side, you’re unlikely to be forced into a weight category by aviation authority regulations, flying drones do have the advantage of traveling through the air, where radio waves travel relatively freely. Water isn’t a friendly environment for remote control, and certainly not video signals, so you’ll need to work around a tether cable. Ensuring this doesn’t encroach on your video is a skill you’ll need to practice, though of course boat inspections and the like don’t require quite the same caution.

  • Fishing: If you’re into fishing, then a drone can help identify a good spot before you cast your line. Some drones also have the option of accessories like sonar detectors which can really boost your catch.
  • Tether management: Though a tether is essential if you want to view live video previews from the depths, not every manufacturer supplies a reel – an essential management tool 
  • Battery life: In general this is notably longer than flying equivalents, but it should be remembered that with a speed of a few knots it’ll take longer to return home (if you have to pull on the tether, there are obviously risks, but it is a fall-back). 
  • Content storage: How will your drone record video and images? If it uses your phone as a monitor, will the app work and will there be a handy file transfer feature? 

What about an action camera? 

DJI Osmo Action 3 being used as low-tech underwater drone (Image credit: Adam Juniper)

An alternative that might work for work close to the surface is an action camera like DJI Osmo Action 3. (opens in new tab) That device’s ‘Adventure Combo’ comes with a 1.5m (5ft) extension pole which can be used to capture video from underwater – ideal for following fish or inspecting small boats, though without the advantage of live view feedback once the camera has gone beneath the surface.

Read more:

Best fishing drones (opens in new tab)
Best laser rangefinders (opens in new tab)
Best waterproof cameras (opens in new tab)
The best underwater housings for cameras and phones (opens in new tab)
Best rain covers for your camera gear (opens in new tab)
The best camera drones (opens in new tab)
The best drones for kids (opens in new tab) 

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Adam Juniper
Managing Editor

With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones. 


Adam is our resident expert on all aspects of camera drones and drone photography, from buying guides on the best choices for aerial photographers of all ability levels to the latest rules and regulations on piloting drones. 


He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones (opens in new tab), The Smart Smart Home Handbook (opens in new tab), 101 Tips for DSLR Video (opens in new tab) and The Drone Pilot's Handbook (opens in new tab)

With contributions from