Choosing the best fishing drone to buy? This is a question we often get asked! In reality, every person is unique and has different requirements. In this article we are do our best to answer this question.
The drone fishing market has a number of respected fishing drone brands. This has completely changed from a few years back when there were only three or so serious contenders in the New Zealand (NZ) marketplace.
These days, models such as Shark X, Condor, Cuta Copter, Gannet and Aeroo are commonplace. In the past, the only popular drone fishing brands in NZ were Splashdrone, AeroKontiki and, of course, the DJI range (as a photography drone that could carry a small payload).
Now that consumers have a number of quality choices it can get confusing, especially for a first-time drone fisherman looking to dive into this great fishing past-time. So it’s important to remember that everyone has different needs when looking at what to buy – even if you have owned a fishing drone before and want to upgrade.
Which way do you go? Lets go through ten major considerations you should be looking at when deciding which brand and model to choose.
1. Your Budget
Of course the biggest guiding factor is budget, or how much money you are willing to part with when you buy a fishing drone. Pricing ranges from about $700, right through to $9,000 (NZD1).
At the lowest price end of the market is Aeroo, which sell for under $1,000. This is really good if you are starting out and trying to get a feel for how it all works. It is made for taking a single bait and sinker, compared with the top-end of the market with the AeroKontiki, which can carry a full 25 hook long-line set.
Here is a brief overview of what the range of most brand prices are (there is likely to be some overlap, but this is generally where the brands are). * Note, the pricing & model options below are correct at the time of writing this article.
Price-range of common fishing drone models in NZ
- The Aeroo from Australia is the cheapest budget drone on the market at $700 to $900 (depending on bundle).
- The Condor A22 model is the next most expensive, and sits at about $1,699.
- The popular Swellpro Fisherman FD1, which starts at $2,299.
- Basic versions of Splashdrone 4, Shark X, Poseidon, and most of the Gannet II models generally sit in the $3000-$3999 Price bracket.
- Cuta Copters, and higher specification Splashdrone 4 models, the Gannet II Max and the new Fisherman Max are $4000-$4999
- The AeroKontiki – highly regarded and NZ made, these are obviously more pricey than others on this list. However, at this price you get a drone that can handle a full 25x hook long-line, and one that is known for stability, partly due to the coaxial design of its six motors.
|Price range||Option 1||Option 2||Option 3||Option 4|
$700 – $900
|$1000-$1999||Condor A22 |
|$3000-$3999||Rippton Shark X |
|Splashdrone 4 Basic|
|Poseidon Pro II |
|$4000-$4999||Gannet II Max/+|
|Splashdrone 4 Advanced|
|Fisherman Max |
|Cuta Copter Trident 5000 |
Obviously most people are going to be influenced by their budget. However, as you can see above, there is a wide price-range to choose from, and most should be able to get into this fishing hobby on smaller budgets.
(Drone Fishing NZ offers purchasing options that allow you to spread your budget over a number of weeks.)
2. Purpose-made Fishing Drone
Some of the drone fishing brands on the market are purpose made as fishing drones from the ground up. Many of these have some sort of resistance to saltwater and sand, while some are sufficiently sealed to land in water! Models like Splashdrone, Gannet, Rippton, Poseidon and Cuta Copter are examples of purpose-made fishing drones with at least some level of saltwater resistance (although some more than others).
Then there are models like the Aeroo and Condor, which were originally designed as photography drones. These have since had factory-made release systems added that enable them to carry a bait payload and function well as fishing drones.
Other models, like the DJI Phantom and Mavic range, are really photography drones that can be tricked out to carry third-party bait payload systems from companies like Gannet and Skyclip. These are excellent camera drones, but do have a significant disadvantage as fishing drones: they have no water resistance – so if they go down in the water it’s all over. And simply being around saltwater can damage the external metal parts.
It’s worth mentioning, drones that are purpose made for fishing are water resistant and somewhat sealed, so generally more expensive for obvious reasons.
3. Bait & Trace Payload Capacity
Bait & Trace payloads vary greatly in terms of type and weight. Payload weight capacity of fishing drones range from 250g to about 7kg. Some people just want to take a single baited hook and sinker out – in that case (unless you are fishing for sharks) you won’t need much lifting capacity.
Four years ago the Swellpro Splashdrone 3 had a weight carrying capacity of 1kg, which was good at the time. The latest model from SwellPro, the Fisherman Max, can carry 3.5kg or more! Some of the Cuta Copter models lift 4kg, and the Aero Kontiki will reliably lift up to 7kg. Most fisherman simply won’t need to carry 7kg. Many won’t need 4kg either, so it’s good to choose a drone with a payload capacity that suits your style of fishing. Generally, the heavier the payload weight carrying ability, the bigger and heavier the drone is, and the more expensive it will be as well.
You may ask why someone would even design a fishing drone to lift 7kg of weight? People who fish with this kind of drone (ie. an AeroKontiki) are often looking to haul a full 25 hook long-line, which includes buoys, a long-line backbone and two big sinkers for each end of the set. That’s serious fishing!
4. Drone Range
The out-of-water and in-water terrain of most beaches around New Zealand vary greatly. This includes the makeup of the sea bottom, currents, surf conditions, weather exposure and fish feeding habits, such as how deep they feed.
For this reason, on some beaches you will catch fish at 200 metres out, while at others you need to drop your line at 800 metres to have any chance of success. So obviously you want a drone that can safely reach the ranges you intend to fish at, and one that can also handle likely weather conditions. And if you need it to get more than 500 metres out, you can’t forget about being able to return home if there is a strong offshore wind blowing at the time.
These and other inclement weather conditions affect the battery life of your drone. Some of the smaller fishing drones, such as the Aeroo, simply aren’t designed for harsh conditions or long ranges, so you will want to factor this in. Many purpose-made fishing drones offer 1-1.5km control range, but battery life needs to be factored in. A combination of weather, and the weight of a baited trace on a fishing line, can have a dramatic effect on battery drain.
At the other extreme the Splashdrone 4 drone can reach upto 3km range and the DJI models are often more than 5km range (remembering that under NZ law you are supposed to keep the drone in line-of-sight while in flight).
This is a super important factor as you really want your drone to just work the same way day-in and day-out. Brands like AeroKontiki have a good reputation in this department, but at the same time they are much more expensive to buy than other brands on the market.
We find that most modern drones in 2023, from all the major brands, are generally reasonably reliable. Aside from this there are a number of other factors that can influence a drone performance (which can effect any drone), including user error and also external interference.
6. Drone Size, Transport & Storage
Another important thing to consider is how compact you need your drone to be, especially when it is in its case. This becomes even more important when you need to stow your Fishing drone in your motor-home, where space is at a premium. Drones like the SD4, FD1 and Poseidon have pretty small casea, and of course the Aeroo is the smallest of them all. But even the new Swellpro Fisherman Max with it’s folding carbon fibre arms has a surprisingly small case which is really good for transporting around.
7. Additional Features
Some models, like the SwellPro FD1, Shark X and others, are made for fishing. They are simply designed for this purpose, are used for manual fishing fights and can’t connect to an APP or do Auto Fish. But many fisherman are not looking for “all the bells and whistles”, so for them the FD1 is perfect!
On the other hand, the Splashdrone 4 model (SD4) has a huge range of features. So much so that it’s not just a fishing drone with a mechanical release and 2kg bait payload capacity, but also a water-resistant, marine photography drone, as home on a boat as at the beach. The SD4 has advanced features like Orbit boat, Return to Remote Control (ie. the boat rather than it’s starting position), it has full APP control, you can change out the camera’s and gimbals for more advanced ones (see below), it has a “slide out battery” for easy changing of the drone battery on the fly. The SD4 also has some impressive water resistant camera options and the camera can be easily upgraded in the future to a different one (you can make this change yourself), for example you can choose a 3-Axis 4K camera, a Low Light 4K camera, and even a night vision (thermal) camera!
The other advanced feature that some fishing drones have is Auto Fish or Auto Cast, which lets the fisherman use the phone APP to pin point where they want to drop their bait & then the drone does the rest and flies home itself.
8. Multi-use Drone
Many of the fishing drones on the market are purely designed for fishing, models like the Swellpro Fisherman, the Cuta Copter, and the designed specifically for dropping a line and nothing else. Then models like the Splashdrone 4 are great fishing drones however they are also a good photography drone particularly if you want to get video around and over the ocean. Then there are the DJI range of drones which aren’t really fishing drones at all, but with a small attachment they have the ability to attach a fishing line.
This consideration is more about your main purpose for purchasing a fishing drone, a) is it soley going to be a fishing drone? b) Is it a fishing and marine photography drone? or c) are you buying it for land based photography and from time to time you might go fishing with it?
9. Local or International
While sometimes it might be tempting to buy overseas either with the manufacturer or from an overseas seller, especially if you might save a hundred dollars it is worth bearing in mind a couple of things:
- Is GST or sales tax added to the purchase price? If GST isn’t added then it is highly likely you will be asked to pay sales tax once it get’s to customs, and customs won’t release the drone until it is paid.
- Is freight added to the purchase price?
- Is this in New Zealand Dollars or say another currency?
Probably the biggest issue about purchasing a new fishing drone from overseas is the lack of local after sales support, if you ever need help. Because you cut out the local shops or agents in New Zealand when you bought the drone, they generally aren’t going to be willing to help you if you ever have problems, and you may have to send the drone back to China to get help with it.
10. Personal Taste
Lastly, but not to diminish its importance – your personal preference counts too. Once you’ve considered all the practical requirements to meet your personal needs as a drone fisherman, which do you prefer? That’s up to you!
We hope this article has been helpful to you, and gives you a better understanding of the important things you should consider when you want to purchase a fishing drone. Please feel free to reach out and ask any questions you may have, we are happy to assist!
- All prices indicated are in New Zealand Dollars (NZD), and are correct at the time of writing ↩︎