Camera drones have unimaginably revolutionized aerial videography in the past decade, but do they also record sound to go along with the videos?
Drones are not capable of recording audio because they are not equipped with a built-in mic, you can however attach a wireless external mic on them and record audio, but the mic will predominantly capture the propeller wash and wind noise.
But haven’t we all seen people recording audio from the drone, from its controller, with a wireless external mic attached to the drone, with a lavalier mic hanging from the drone, and many more.
And as a drone enthusiast, I have more or less tried every single way possible to record a decent audio from my drone.
I also had a fascinating short interview with a company that had successfully incorporated sound recording with drones, by reducing propeller noise and by using a special and fascinating microphone.
In the video below you can watch what they have been able to do.
You can read the interview down below
So Why Can’t Drones Record Audio?
Drones can’t record audio simply because they are very loud.
If you haven’t been exposed to drone noise before it is the same level as a functioning washing machine or a very loud alarm clock, which makes it hard to record audio not only with it but also around it.
But if you think about it even if drones had no propeller and motor noise there wouldn’t be much to hear when you are that high up.
I mean the drone will be flying 20-400 feet above the ground, recoding from that high up can be useful for a white noise that is going to be layered with a video, but for dedicated audio, you need higher quality audio recorded within a 2 meter radius from the sound source.
But this doesn’t mean it is impossible, infact there are different ways you can use to record sound with your drone
Other Methods Of Recording Audio With Your Drone
1. Recording Audio Using The Smartphone mic
The most common way of recording audio while operating your drone is by using your smartphone’s built-in mic.
This is commonly used when people want to record themselves talking for live streaming, or narrating what is happening around them, so if you are well-spoken it is a great feature to use.
But you don’t have to necessarily need to speak to use this feature you can also record the ambient sound around you especially if there are birds chirping or ocean crashing that would be wonderful background noise.
However for this to work the drone has to be at least 100 ft (30m) far from you, or it will ruin what you recorded.
So to record audio with your smartphone while flying your drone follow the steps below
Note: This feature is only available for DJI drone users
- Open DJI GO 4 app
- Tap the three dots in the upper righthand corner
- Enable “cache during video shooting” and/or “record audio with video cache”.
Once you do that your smartphone/tablet mic will start recording and the audio recorded will be synced up with the video from the drone.
The video below explains the process very well.
There is however a catch with this method, The video footage will be 780/1080p max quality.
There will be the footage from the drone once you land it but if you want to use that with the audio you got from your phone you will have to edit them and it is not going to be an easy process.
To enhance the sound you can buy a dedicated external mic and connect it to your phone, they are very cheap and they will definitely upgrade your quality audio significantly
However since smartphones have a single port you need a splitter cable to connect the external mic, unless you have a wireless mic.
Splitter cables are super cheap you can get them for like 10 bucks on amazon, however make sure they fit into the controller’s clamp.
2. Mounting a Lavalier Microphone on The Drone or Dangling Underneath
It is also possible to attach a lavalier microphone directly on the aircraft, the audio wouldn’t be pretty but you can process it and make it somewhat better by cutting certain frequencies from the full spectrum of audio.
However what I recommend you do is instead of attaching a mic directly to the aircraft, you can have a lavalier mic dangling about 10 to 20 feet underneath the drone.
This method of recording audio is way better than attaching a mic to the drone, one because you will minimize as much buzzing noise from the props, because the further the mic is from the propeller and the motor the better, and two the mic won’t have physical contact with the drone which decreases the vibrations from the motors.
After you are done recording you can edit the audio with video editing software like adobe premiere by using EQ audio plugins it wouldn’t be perfect but it can work.
I suggest using a hyper-cardioid or mic as they will filter out some of the noise coming from the propellers and they will pick more sound from the ground instead of from above.
Even so, you’d probably have to get right up next to the subject in order to get a decent audio.
So, what’s the catch?
Dangling the mic from the drone may result in the mic swinging back and forth as the drone moves, Creating a pendulum effect that can actually cause the prop to destabilize! this effect will be worse on smaller drones such as Mavic mini
Additionally, the added weight of the mic can reduce the total flight time of the drone, especially in lighter drones such as the Mavic mini. Not to mention the swinging mic could potentially latch onto objects nearby such as trees or power lines.
You can either record sound with your drone using a standalone voice recorder or the microphone on your controller device.
3. Use screen record to record audio
One way of recording audio is by using the voice recorder app on your phone
However, if you have ever tried to record audio with voice recording apps while flying your drone, DJI GO 4 will force stop them.
But you can use a screen recording app while DJI Go 4 is running, this method is useful if you want to narrate what is happening around you.
If you are using an Android product, I recommend using AZ screen recorder.
For Apple products you can not use the apple screen record because it does not record outside audio, it just record sounds that are from the phone such as notification from the phone and such, so you will have to download other 3rd party screen recorder, I recommend app called “record it”
4. Using a Standalone Sound Recorder
Using a standalone voice recorder that you carry along with you is one of the more professional ways of recording sound while operating drones
You can simply attach the mic to yourself instead of the drone, however, the recording will not be from the flight itself, instead it will record the sounds at the place where you are at.
However, you would have to sync the audio with the video post-flight, which can be a bit overwhelming and it does require a certain level of technical experience and knowledge in video editing software, personally I use adobe premiere but there are various software you can use.
To make things easier you can use the clapping method. so basically you clap when you begin recording, as this can be used as a point of reference when you are editing.
5. Using the Microphone On Your smart Controller
If you have a DJI smart controller you can use it to record audio, just like you would use your smartphone or tablet.
The Smart Controller supports microSD cards with a capacity of up to 128 GB, which will be useful in this situation
You can also record sound to go with your drone video using the microphone on your controller device.
To allow the sound recording in the smart controller locate the cache option under the menu’s general setting and turn it on.
The recorded audio will be stored on the SD card you inserted in the smart controller. After that, you will need to download the cache separately on your computer to blend in with the video footage you got from the drone,
How to Add Audio to Drone Footage
If you used the video caching method or if you record audio with a dedicated mic you might have edit the clip with the audio post-production. there are hundreds of both paid and free tools to assist you with that.
On the other hand, if the sound needed is music DJI Go 4 app will provide you with an overwhelming amount of loyalty free music or you can download them from youtube.
To use the app, upload the music to the local library, and then during the editing prosses just click the plus symbol ‘+’ displayed on the music, then select your desired mucis, you can do this at different intervals during the editing session.
Will Drones Ever Record audio?
Things that have been thought to be impossible has come to life in the history of technologies, and recording audio with drones is one of them,
Even though it is not publicly available yet, a company called dotterel has been developing a technology that will be incorporated with drones.
Dotterel is a company that develops noise reduction and audio recording technology for unmanned aerial vehicles.
They don’t make their own drones but they are woking with the major companies such as DJI and autel robotics
So in the end, a drone would probably need to be modified to have the capability of recording audio.
Right now this is not possible because of the law, as it should be, to be honest. There will be a lot of weird people trying to spy on neighborhoods: Legality of recording by civilians, on the positive side these drones can be used for emergency services, defense.
The same company that produced the microphone is also producing passive noise reduction shrouds to make the drones quieter.
Drone noise reduction
The same company trying to record audio with drones, has produced noise reduction and safety shrouds that will be mounted on drone propellers
The safety shrouds firstly reduce the noise of the propeller by absorbing the sounds from the propeller as the core as it is made of acoustic materials that absorb some frequencies. Then reflects any residual noise upwards and they also provide the propellers a protection against crash.
Just like propeller guards the shrouds can be retrofitted to any drones you own if it is made for the drone specific to the drone that you are using. I am not sure when but the shrouds will be available for public any time soon.
There is a possibility the shrouds will come refitted to the drone because the company making them is working with the big manufacturers.
Do any DJI drones record audio
Even though DJI drones have shown to be great at capturing aerial videos they are not capable of recording audio because they are not equipped with a built-in mic, you can however attach a wireless external mic on them and record audio, but the mic will predominantly capture the propeller wash and wind noise.
Can military drones record audio
Even though military drones have a phenomenal camera with an amazing zooming capability and a thermal sensor they are not capable of recording audio because they are notoriously noisy machines, furthermore they operate thousands of feet above the ground.
Can drones hear inside your house?
Although drones can record video from outside your house are not capable of hearing from inside your house, as a matter of fact, drones cannot record audio at all because they are notoriously noisy machines, furthermore, you will very likely hear a drone that is approaching your house.
Is there a quiet drone propeller
There are propellers you can buy that are quieter just by a few decibels but something like an audio need you need more than that I mean if you are looking for a background white noise you can go for it but for dedicated audio, it will be terrible.