Presently, if you want to land a consumer drone on the water, you're pretty much limited to buying one of the special amphibious models. That, or you could try a DIY approach such as fastening styrofoam pool noodles to the skids. If a new Kickstarter project succeeds, however, there will soon be a commercial floatation product available for the popular DJI Phantom series of quadcopters.
Named for the insect which skims across the surface of the water, the WaterStrider system features four buoyant circular pods. These are extended out from the sides of the aircraft on individual carbon fiber legs, providing a wide stance and thus making tip-overs less likely.
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The front two pods are spaced more widely apart than those at the rear, in order to accommodate the drone's camera. A rep from DroneRafts, the company that makes the WaterStrider, tells us that the front pods shouldn't show up on the Phantom's camera during normal operation – although they could sneak into the shot during "aggressive maneuvers."
The whole rig weighs less than 300 grams, and attaches to the drone's landing gear using included straps in less than a minute. Besides its use on the water, the WaterStrider should also allow for landings on terrain such as tall grass, snow or loose sand – all things that can currently thwart the Phantom's skinny little skids.
Currently a pledge of US$139 will get you a WaterStrider kit, assuming all goes as it should. The planned retail price is US$239.
The system is demo'd in the video below.