Drones are great for capturing breathtaking videos, but when it comes to capturing audio, they kind of suck. If you are new to drones, you might be asking yourself do drones record sound.
Commercial camera drones in the market cannot record sound as they do not have a mic onboard. Even if they have a mic, the recorded sound will be useless because of background noise from motors, propeller wash, and high wind.
In this blog post, let’s explore the idea of recording sound with your drone with a few hacks that might just work for you.
Why are there no drones with microphones?
Drone are such sophisticated machines but why don’t they have a component as simple as a mic? You might ask.
The reason is pretty straightforward: Even if they put one on board, it won’t be of any use.
If you have flown a drone before or even saw one flying from close, you know well how noisy the motors and propellers can be. If a drone is hovering above your head, you can barely hear your own voice let alone record something worth listening to. Here are the reasons a microphone on a drone will be useless:
The sound of the blades swishing through the air to propel an aircraft is known as a propeller wash.
The audio produced by this device is loud, and it will most certainly destroy any recording you attempt to make with a microphone connected to your drone.
Propellers are run by electric motors which are as loud as a vacuum cleaner.
This is very obvious considering even an expensive camera drone like DJI Mavic Pro has motors and propellers which produce noise around 60dB (decibels). This level of noise is equivalent to a vacuum cleaner and will increase the static and background noise in your recording.
If you live in a windy place or your drone is meant to fly in high winds, the last thing you want is to record everything with a mic.
Even if you managed to put up with all this static and noise, the final piece of the puzzle will be the wind rustling past your microphone while recording.
Wind may not look like much on a video but the sound is unbearable unless you have a top-notch studio mic.
Due to these background noises, any recording you might get from an onboard microphone will be utterly useless.
But, can we remove the background noise with software?
This is theoretically possible. In fact, in 2018, there was a study that successfully removed the background noise to recover 67% of the original speech. But it was just for demonstration purposes and a hobby drone flyer neither have the knowledge nor the software to do this magic at home.
Why do you need to record sound via drone?
Companies normally do not try to build a solution for a non-existent problem. Such is the case here. There is no valid use case for a drone to record audio.
- If it is flying at several thousand feet, there is no sound to record except for the gushing sound of wind and propellers.
- If you want to go perv on someone and record their speech, a drone is not a stealthy method to do this. Your target will see and hear the drone coming from a mile. (and don’t do this, please. Even if technically possible, it’s creepy and violates privacy which can be illegal)
- There are better ways to record your surrounding or put sound over your captured videos (keep reading)
How to record audio with your drone?
If you are still looking for ways to record sound with your drone, here are a few ways you can hack it.
Use the GoPro mic attached to your drone
If your drone came with a gimbal, you can attach a GoPro or any other action cam with a mic to record audio from the surrounding.
The sound of birds and distant vehicles might be clear after some cleaning in post-production. This is still not great for recording conversations, though.
Attach a condenser microphone to your drone. If you have a fancy camera that does 4K video, chances are it also has an onboard microphone that records stereo audio. So why not use it? Normally drones do not process this data because they want to save battery life. Still, almost all modern image processing software allows you to change the settings of the recorded video based on the sensor attached to the device.
Use your controller or smartphone mic
If you want to record the calm and soothing sound of gentle winds and birds chirping in your surrounding while your drone is recording a flyby video, using your controller or connected smartphone video is the best way to do it.
Since the drone is flying far away, there is no background noise to pollute your audio. You can then export the drone video and your controller or phone audio to your PC and sync them. In the below video, Dylan explains how you can do that via your Fly App
Use an external recorder with a mic
There are several small recorders available in the market that can be connected to your drone, which allow for separate recording of onboard and external audio. This means you can capture the video from your 4K camera and also record surround sound from the attached microphone.
This is great if you need high-quality audio but it will add additional weight that your drone has to carry and complexity since you now need an additional component (the recorder) to integrate with the drone system.
Dotterel makes one microphone array that can filter out the noise and concentrate on the target that you want to record voice for. These are perfect for applications like news reporting, military, and emergency rescue operations where listening to voices can save lives.
Use a mic dangling below your drone
If attaching a mic to your drone body is capturing too much noise, your last resort is to use a small mic dangling several feet beneath your drone that records sound from the surrounding without the background noise in the immediate vicinity of the drone.
This is a hack, and you will have to put together several components to make this work perfectly. To avoid noise from the rotors, I’d suggest using a hyper-cardioid pattern mic or a tight polar pattern like a shotgun mic as they will filter out some of the noise coming from the drone above and only focus on the sound below.
Even so, you’d probably have to get right up next to the subject in order to record any sound, and you’d still end up with a lot of motor noise.
Do drones record sound? In a nutshell, the answer is no. Unless specified in its specifications, drones do not usually include an onboard microphone. Even then, they may not perform well because you need external equipment to capture audio separately.
So even though drones are slowly becoming our eyes in the sky, their audio capabilities are still very limited.
FAQs – Do drones record sound?
Does Mavic mini 2 record sound?
Like all DJI drones, the Mavic mini 3 does not have any mic onboard the drone. Therefore it cannot record any sound. However, you can use your phone or controller mic to record the audio of your surrounding.
How does DJI Fly App audio recording work?
You can enable recording from the DJI Fly App by going to the broadcast setting and turning on the option “Record audio with video cache”. This will record audio using your phone or controller’s mic.