Drones for Boats

Raymarine Axiom offers UAV integration for boats.

Drones for Boats
Launch and control your drone from the helm.Courtesy Raymarine

With marine multifunction displays, you can look underwater with sonar, all around the boat with radar, and even peer through the dark with a thermal camera. Now you can also look down from above on your boat, thanks to the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) control feature built into the Raymarine Axiom and Axiom Pro MFDs.

This marine-electronics first allows boaters to connect to a UAV, then control the drone and view images from its camera using the Axiom display. The patent-pending technology is currently compatible with DJI Spark and DJI Mavic series UAV video drones (see “Compatible UAV Models”). Features include single-button launch/track/record functions, GPS link for various follow modes, and real-time video streaming to the MFD.

It works like this: First you need to update your Axiom or Axiom Pro with the latest Raymarine Lighthouse software — version 3.5 — a free download directly to the MFD. Then pair a drone such as the DJI Mavic Pro (shown left, $1,299, store.dji.com) with the MFD. Press Take Off to launch the UAV and track it with a live-chart display on one side of the ­Axiom split-screen display, which will show the drone’s ­location, along with the direction in which the camera is pointed, the direction the drone is headed, and the course back to the boat.

The other side of the split screen shows a live feed from the UAV’s video camera with data overlays that include the drone’s distance from the boat, as well as its speed and altitude.

A Fish-On button is ­designed to automatically capture fishing action. As soon as you hook up (for example, while trolling for tuna or drifting for tarpon), you press the Hook-Up button. The drone instantly launches, acquires and tracks the boat, and starts recording aerial footage of the action. You can also view the action live on the Axiom ­display to see, for instance, if any mahi are following the one you just hooked.

Compatible UAV Models
The new UAV control function of Raymarine's Axiom and Axiom Pro MFDs is compatible with these video drones.

DJI Spark
The affordably priced Spark mini drone (not shown) includes ActiveTrack, which can automatically recognize and track objects. PalmControl mode allows you to control the Spark's movements and take pictures with hand gestures, and a stabilized two-axis gimbal for smooth video footage. You can choose from pano or shallow-focus modes to get the shots you want. Return-to-home mode ensures you won't lose your Spark when the battery runs low. With flight speeds up to 31 mph, it offers 16 minutes of maximum flying time on a single battery charge. $399; store.dji.com

DJI Mavic Air
Among the Mavic series is the Mavic Air (shown left). Designed to fold for easy transport, it features top-of-the-line flight and video performance. The three-axis gimbal, three-directional environment sensing, and 4K camera offer the capability of 32 megapixel sphere panoramas and 100 Mbps video capture. Gimbal dampeners create steady shots. It includes a remote, but you can also use hand gestures to launch and control this drone in SmartCapture mode. With flight speeds up to 42.5 mph, it offers 21 minutes of maximum flying time on a single charge. $799; store.dji.com