Exploration

Drone Surfing Hits the Waves

Who needs a kite for speedier surfing when a heavy-duty drone will do?

A quick grab of the tow line hanging down from overhead, a running start, a hop onto the surfboard and the new watersport was born.

Drones really are everywhere, and now there's proof that a heavy-duty one can actually pull one daring surfer over the water.

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The feat comes courtesy of Freefly Systems, a company based near Seattle specializing in making cinematography equipment that includes multi-axis stabilizers, a miniature camera car and a line of drones, reports GrindTV. Their team closed out the summer by hitting the beach with the Freefly ALTA 8 drone.

Under the cloudy end-of-summer sky in Washington state, it didn't matter that there were hardly any ripples on the water. One of the guys from Freefly Systems sped over the surface on a board, holding onto a line dragged by the eight-motor drone. You really, really don't want to crash this thing because the price starts at $17,495.

Although this particular drone was designed for aerial cinematography, it does have a 20-pound maximum payload, not counting the battery weight. Clearly it can handle a surfer tow, once the person gets a running start. The fun isn't endless, though. According to the specs, the drone's flight time is only about 10 minutes with the lighter battery packs and the heaviest payload.

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Kites definitely have an advantage over drones when it comes to riding the waves. They act like sails to capture the wind for long stretches without needing recharging. And, if you have to bail, the setup can be righted fairly quickly. My sense is that once you let go of the drone tow line, you probably have to start over back on the shore.

That said, I wouldn't be surprised at all if one day surfers do hitch rides to the barrels from powerful drones instead of boats. If the wind changes and the waves start getting too rough, a big drone could potentially lift the surfer up up and away to safety. For now, this pro cinematography drone offers a speedier ride from the sky.

Here's a closer look at this novel water activity: