High-quality bathymetric maps of inland water bodies are a common requirement for hydraulic engineering and hydrological science applications. Remote sensing methods, such as space-borne and airborne multispectral imaging or lidar, have been developed to estimate water depth, but are ineffective for most inland water bodies, because of the attenuation of electromagnetic radiation in water, especially under turbid conditions. Surveys conducted with boats equipped with sonars can retrieve accurate water depths, but are expensive, time-consuming, and unsuitable for unnavigable water bodies. We develop and assess a novel approach to retrieve accurate and high-resolution bathymetry maps. We measured accurate water depths using a tethered floating sonar controlled by an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in a lake and in two different rivers located in Denmark. The developed technique combines the advantages of remote sensing with the potential of bathymetric sonars. UAV surveys can be conducted also in unnavigable, inaccessible, or remote water bodies. The tethered sonar can measure bathymetry with an accuracy of ∼ 2.1 % of the actual depth for observations up to 35 m, without being significantly affected by water turbidity, bed form, or bed material.