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Insect-inspired flotation system could save your drone from a watery grave

If you’re a drone pilot, does your heart rate increase a little the moment you take your flying machine out over the sea or a lake? It’s fair to say that in most cases, a drone crash on such a surface usually means only one thing – less stuff to carry back to the car.

In search of a solution for safer landings and peace of mind, Indiana startup DroneRafts has come up with the WaterStrider, a lightweight flotation device designed specifically for the DJI Phantom 3 machine (though more DJI copters may be included soon.)

Named after the insect that cleverly skips across water, the WaterSlider weighs just 300 grams and comprises a frame with bouyant landing pods at the end of each of its four splayed legs.

Aware that “some of the most beautiful places to film have the worst options for takeoff and landing,” the design team is trumpeting the contraption not only as a drone flotation device, but also as an accessory that enables “fearless landings anywhere.”

Indeed, if you compare the WaterStrider to the Phantom’s existing somewhat minimalist landing gear, it’s not hard to see how it’d help your machine cope better with touchdowns on more rugged terrain, or even unexpectedly heavy landings on any kind of surface.

The extra weight is likely to slow the speed of your machine a little, and it may be a bit less stable in windy conditions, but if hitting top speed isn’t important, and the flying conditions are good, the WaterStrider should offer peace of mind if you’re flying over water or intending to land on rough ground.

Of course, if you’re out with your drone trying to shoot some gorgeous footage of the great outdoors, the last thing you want is for one of those bulbous pods to appear in shot. The good news is that, according to DroneRafts, this is likely to happen only during “particularly aggressive maneuvers,” so as long as you’re a smooth operator with a steady hand, your shots should remain pod-free.

The WaterStrider is currently seeking backing on Kickstarter. If you fancy kitting out your Phantom with the kit, you’ll need to pledge $179, which beats the expected retail price by a decent $60. If the team hits the $22,500 funding target in the next 30 days, global shipping should start this summer.

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