How to Waterproof a Drone?

You may be surprised to know this, but it’s true. The majority of the drones you come across on the internet are “non-waterproof.”

Yes! Even the top-selling DJI models you go crazy about are vulnerable to water damage due to no default protection. Take the examples of Mini 3 Pro and Mavic 3.

Luckily, it’s possible to make your quadcopter splashproof with a few DIY steps and confidently navigate the skies even when faced with adverse weather conditions, as discussed in this comprehensive guide. 

So, let’s start. 

Why Is Waterproofing Important for Drones?

Drones

Image Credit: Phantom Rain

Waterproofing your drone provides it with the following benefits: 

Protection From Water Intrusion

Your drone is just another electronic piece. Hence, even a slight exposure to rain, mist, and accidental water splashes is enough to damage its internal circuitry and make the sensitive sensors malfunction.

This is true for all consumer and professional models. 

This is where waterproofing comes to your rescue. It creates a barrier around the vulnerable parts, safeguarding them from water intrusion. 

Optimal Performance in All Weather Conditions

Waterproofing your drone is crucial for its optimal functionality in unpredictable environments.

By protecting sensitive electronic components from moisture, rain, or snow, it ensures reliable operation and prevents damage.  

Longer Lifespan

I can tell from my personal experience that certain water-related issues can permanently damage your drone’s key components, leaving it unusable for life. 

Waterproofing not only protects your investment but also lets you fly your drone for a more extended period. 

By the way, do you know how long a drone lasts? Check out the answer here

Freedom to Explore New Environments

Knowing that your UAV is waterproof, you can explore new environments with freedom. 

Whether you want to capture a beautiful rainbow on a rainy day or venture into the ocean to explore the aquatic life underneath, waterproofing opens up endless opportunities for you.  

What Are the Risks of Water Damage to Drones?

Water damage poses several risks to non-hydrophobic drones, such as: 

  • Damage to sensitive electrical parts 
  • Corrosion and rusting on the metal components, including the motor 
  • Short circuit in the circuit board
  • Fogginess on the camera lens
  • Sensor malfunctioning 
  • Faulty battery

What Are the Different Waterproofing Methods for Drones?

Image Credit: Phantom Rain

You can waterproof your drone through any of the following methods: 

Waterproof Sprays (or Coatings)

Have you ever used spray paint cans before? If yes, these waterproof sprays are exactly the same. 

An optimal exterior waterproofing solution for your drone, these sprays work by forming a protective layer, or what I call a hydrophobic barrier, to repel water.

Just give the spray can a nice shake and apply its “thin” layer across the entire drone body, as if you’re painting it.   

Note: Don’t use a random waterproof spray on your drone’s circuitry. There are specialized waterproofing sprays for electronic components, like Aculon’s NanoProof® Series

Conformal Coatings

If you want a cost-effective waterproofing solution for your aircraft’s internal circuitry, conformal coatings are your best bet! 

Simply put, a conformal coating is a breathable, protective coating of thin polymeric film.

It’s applied to circuit boards and other electrical elements for 360° protection against moisture and other harsher conditions. 

The best part? Conformal coatings can be applied in a number of ways, such as spraying, brushing, dip coating, and dispensing. 

Silicone Sealants and Adhesives

I’ve made several drones waterproof, many of mine and some of my pals. If certain points are the most difficult to deal with, they are access ports, seams, and cable entry points. 

But not anymore! 

Following one of my friend’s recommendations, I once tried flexible silicone-based sealants and adhesives.

And guess what? The results were fantastic!

I was able to reinforce the weak points and seal gaps in my drone’s body, ensuring reliable protection from water and temperature changes. 

Internal Cable Management

Let’s say you don’t favor using any waterproofing methods discussed so far. In such a scenario, strategically organizing the cables inside your drone can also contribute to its overall water resistance. 

Just see that no cables are positioned in areas susceptible to water accumulation or seepage. 

Component Replacement

Last but not least, replacing the existing components with their waterproof alternatives (if available) is another good option. 

For example, I’ve replaced the ESCs (Electronic Speed Controllers) and motors of all my drones with their waterproof substitutes. 

Step-by-Step Guide to Waterproof a Drone

Image Credit: Phantom Rain

In this section, I’ll discuss the detailed steps to use conformal coatings to waterproof your drone. 

The reason behind choosing this particular method is that it’ll optimally seal your unmanned aircraft’s vulnerable components, safeguarding them against moisture and enhancing their resilience in wet conditions. 

Supplies

  • Safety gloves
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • UV torch
  • Anti-corrosive solution 
  • Conformal coating
  • Soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Heat gun

Procedure

These are the steps for you to follow. 

  • Choose Between Silicone and Acrylic Conformal Coating
  • Disassemble Your Drone
  • Clean the Electronic Components
  • Apply the Coating
  • Test the Waterproofing of Your Drone

Once you’ve gathered the above supplies, follow these steps: 

Choose Between Silicone and Acrylic Conformal Coating

Before we get into the actual process, you must decide between silicone and acrylic conformal coating to waterproof your drone.

Although there’s no harm as such in using any of these, I personally prefer and recommend silicone ones. 

This is because a silicone-based conformal coating is highly flexible and offers suitable protection from both extreme temperatures and moisture. It’s easy to remove as well. 

On the other hand, the acrylic conformal coating lacks flexibility and is quite rigid. Thus, getting it off your drone later is a tough task!

If you’re looking for the best silicone conformal coating, check out this product from MG Chemicals.   

Disassemble Your Drone

Now comes the trickiest part. 

Put on your safety gloves and disassemble your beloved drone with the utmost care. Separate its PCB while leaving the connected wires untouched. Repeat this for the ESCs and FCs. 

Tip: Remove the heatsink to access the PCB easily. 

Clean the Electronic Components

This particular step is highly important and, thus, a little bit time-consuming. With the help of a soft-bristled toothbrush dipped in isopropyl alcohol, gently start cleaning the sensitive electronic parts. 

Doing this will make the silicone coating stick better to the parts, ensuring long-lasting protection. 

Once the cleaning is done, let everything air dry. Alternatively, I recommend using a hair gun at this stage to speed up the drying process. Just ensure you set it at the lowest setting! 

Apply the Coating

Provided all the electronic parts have dried up, start applying the conformal coating. Start with the main circuit board and move to the ESCs and FCs. 

Since this silicone coating is translucent and not clearly visible to the naked eye, you must use the UV torch to see if you’re applying the coating correctly. 

Note: Don’t use the silicone coating for ports, sockets, and cameras. Instead, use any non-corrosive solution to waterproof these. 

Let the coating air dry, or use the heat gun. 

Test the Waterproofing of Your Drone

It’s time for testing waterproofing effectiveness.  

But how can I test the effectiveness of the waterproofing on my drone?

This is what I usually do:

  • Start with a gentle water exposure, like mist or light rain. 
  • Gradually increase the water intensity to ensure your drone remains functional. 
  • Check for any signs of water penetration or malfunctions. 

At last, submerge your waterproofed drone in water for a short period, but cautiously. Monitor its performance and inspect for water damage afterward. 

Maintenance and Care of a Waterproof Drone

Image Credit: Phantom Rain

I’ve rounded up the following maintenance and care tips to help you guys ensure the longer lifespan and performance of your waterproof drone. 

Avoid Flying in Bad Weather

Never take out your drone for a flight in bad weather, like heavy showers or gusty winds.

These dreaded enemies of your drone can not only compromise your drone’s waterproofing but also take it off your radar. 

Dry the Drone After Flying it in Wet Conditions 

Thoroughly drying your drone after flying it in wet conditions is as important as waterproofing it to prevent water damage. 

Gently wipe off any moisture on your drone using a non-abrasive cloth, like this Amazon Basics Microfiber Cleaning Cloth.

For hard-to-reach areas, such as the crevices and connectors, I personally use a hairdryer at its lowest settings. This also speeds up the drying process for me! 

Finally, let your drone air dry overnight before putting it back in its case, as moisture left behind can lead to corrosion over time.

Tip: You can also wrap your UAV in a cloth and immerse it in raw rice to absorb the leftover moisture.

Regularly Clean the Drone

Regular cleaning of your drone goes a long way in safeguarding its DIY waterproof coating, resulting in optimal performance and longer lifespan. 

Inspect the Drone For Damage

No matter how carefully you operate your drone, there’s always a chance it may undergo damage or wear in rough weather, such as dents, cracks, or broken components during the flight. 

That’s why it’s crucial to thoroughly inspect your drone after landing to identify these signs. 

Use the Right Waterproofing Materials

Use the right waterproofing materials for your drone, e.g., conformal coatings like silicone or acrylic, waterproof casings, or sealing compounds, to extend its life and reliability in various environmental conditions.

Follow these tips for complete maintenance for waterproofed drones. 

Conclusion 

Although a DIY task, you must waterproof your drone with the utmost care to avoid any problems.   

Seal its critical areas, such as electronic connections and openings, using a compatible waterproofing agent or silicone. A wetsuit for your drone is also worth investing in.

Your job isn’t done after waterproofing your drone. Regular maintenance and thorough testing are crucial to ensure its resilience against water.

By implementing these measures, you can enhance your UAV’s durability and extend its usability in various weather conditions. 

Are you facing any issues while waterproofing your drone? Let’s connect in the comment section below. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: In Which Industries Are Waterproof Drones Commonly Used?

A: You’ll come across waterproof drones in a myriad of industries due to their ability to navigate air and water, like maritime, offshore, agriculture, environmental research, aerial inspection, mapping, surveying, etc. 

Q: Can I Waterproof Any Drone, or Are There Specific Models Suitable for Waterproofing?

A: Well, the answer to this question is both YES and NO. 

Let me explain. 

While you can definitely waterproof any drone with the available methods, in some models, it’ll only do more bad than good.

Take the example of DJI Mini 3 Pro. Being a lightweight drone, adding any waterproofing layer to it will increase its weight, impacting its battery life and flight stability. 

Q: Is Waterproofing a Drone a DIY-Friendly Task, or Should I Seek Professional Services? 

A: DIY waterproofing vs. professional services is always a hot topic for debate. But I would like to say that waterproofing a drone is a DIY-friendly task in most cases. 

Still, seeking professional service is OK if you’re dealing with a complicated drone model. 

Q: Are There Specific Maintenance Practices for Waterproofed Drones?

A: Yes, there are specific maintenance practices for waterproof drones. Please refer to the above sections for more details in this regard. 

Q: Can I Use a Waterproofing Spray on Electronic Components of Any Drone Model?

A: Frankly speaking, this depends on what waterproofing spray you’re going to use. 

There are different products available in the market, and not all of them are appropriate for the electronic components of your drone. Instead, narrow down your search to specialized sprays made for them. 

Q: Are There Considerations for Waterproofing Specific Drone Models, or Is the Process Generally the Same for All?

A: Yes, there are certain considerations for waterproofing specific drone models due to: 

  • Design differences
  • Warranty concerns
  • Compatibility issues
  • Different weights
Author
Diptesh Das

Diptesh Das is your friendly ‘content maniac’ and drone enthusiastic! Being passionate about content writing. He is a firm believer of the power of words and thereby ended up leveraging them to create an impact by sharing his drone knowledge and experiences.

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