Amphibious drone returns, packing a 4K camera
Two years ago we first heard about the Splash Drone, a floating quadcopter that can land on the water to get underwater shots via a user-supplied GoPro camera. Well, the just-announced Splash Drone 3 features its own motor-stabilized 4K/25fps camera, along with improved flight control and propulsion systems, plus the return of a Payload Release System that allows it to deliver things like fishing bait or life preservers up to its maximum control range of 1 km (3,280 ft).
There are actually two versions of the Splash Drone 3, namely the Auto and the Fisherman. The Auto comes standard with the waterproof 4K camera and 2-axis gimbal, while the Fisherman comes with the Payload Release System. That said, the camera and payload modules can be quickly detached from the aircraft and swapped, so either drone can use either module.
The main difference between the two quadcopters is that while both can be remotely controlled using the redesigned radio remote control, the Auto can also be flown using an iOS/Android mobile app. This allows users to pre-program flight paths using waypoint navigation, and also to access features such as a Follow Me mode (in which the drone flies along above the user, tracking them via their cell phone signal).
Video and 14-megapixel stills from the camera module are recorded to an onboard SD card, and are also streamed live to a 5-inch screen on the remote. The payload module can handle a maximum cargo weight of 2.5 lb (1.1 kg), plus it contains a fixed-position HD camera of its own, so users can see how close the payload lands to its target once released.
One charge of the drone's lithium-polymer battery should be good for 16 to 18 minutes of flight time. In the case of the Auto model, if its battery does get critically low while the drone is still in flight, the aircraft will automatically land itself wherever it happens to be at the time. Auto users can also activate a Return to Home feature using the remote, in which the GPS-enabled drone will automatically return to its point of take-off.
The Splash Drone 3 is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, where a pledge of US$1,149 is required for a Fisherman (retail $1,399) or $1,399 for an Auto (retail $1,699). Delivery is estimated for July, assuming it reaches production.
It can be seen in action, in the following video.