Camera drones are great at capturing aerial photos and videos, but do they also record sound to go along with the videos?
Drones are not capable of recording sounds because they are not equipped with a built-in mic. If you really want to record sound, you can attach an external mic to the drone, but the mic will predominantly capture the motor noise and the prop wash, which usually drowns out any other audio.
It would certainly be cool if your drone video could also record the sounds of nature, or events, but at this time, it’s simply not realistic. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few tricks you can try to record sound that syncs with your drone video.
Do Drones Have a Microphone?
When I purchased my first two drones, one big question I had was whether they have a microphone. I was quite surprised to discover that drones do not come with a built in microphone. I soon learned however, that you can in fact purchase an external microphone to mount on your drone.
Due to a lack of a built-in microphone, drones cannot record sounds. There’s a good reason that drones don’t come with microphones though. If you think about it, there are not many sounds that can be recorded while flying your drone several hundred feet in the air. And even if there was something to hear that high up, the drone’s blades would render pretty much all the audio useless. Even if you keep the drone low to the ground to try to record the sounds of an event, the propeller noise would block out anything you hope to record.
If you’re determined to try, it is actually possible to attach an external microphone to record sounds. But remember, the external mic and devices will capture the prop sound and the prop wash. Alternatively, you can use your controller device to record sounds.
Many people that have attached mics to their drones use sound editing software to filter and remove these props’ sounds, but the result is always a bit questionable. This is because the source of the noise is too close to the recording device.
Why Don’t Drones Have a Microphone?
There are three reasons why drones have no built-in microphones.
- Drones, especially electric drones, have electric motors, which produce sound whenever they fly. If drones had a built-in microphone, they would record the low humming noise generated from electric motors.
- The microphone will primarily capture the prop wash sound, since it’s the loudest sound in the proximity of the drone. The prop wash sound is the high air volume displaced by drones’ propellers, and it is usually fairly loud.
- Even if you took care of the electric motors’ noise and somehow made the prop completely silent, there is still the problem of the noise of the wind. And since drones move in the air, it creates a wind noise around the mic, making the sound very unpleasant.
Does the Mavic Mini Record Sound?
The Mavic Mini doesn’t directly record sound because it does not have a built-in mic. However, if you want to record sound with your Mavic Mini, consider getting an external microphone.
On the other hand, you can use your controller device to record sounds. But remember, the external mic and devices will capture the prop sound and the prop wash.
Does Mavic Pro Record Audio?
Like the Mavic Mini, the Mavic Pro does not have any microphone, and therefore it does not record any audio.
Remember, the audio you hear on your controller is recorded on your controller only via its microphone. But, if you want audio from the drone, you should attach a Dictaphone or sound recorder.
Will Drones Ever Record Sounds?
Drones might never record sounds. This is due to the inherent limitations of the noise level of the drone itself and the prop wash. Even if drones were produced that did have a microphone, the only sound you are likely to hear is the noise of the drone itself.
However, we can never underestimate the power of technology. Even if drones probably don’t record good audio or audio at all for the next 5-10 years, those tech nerds might one day figure out how to incorporate an internal mic and deal with the overriding drone noise.
How to Record Sound to Pair With Your Drone Video?
You can either record sound with your drone using a standalone voice recorder or the microphone on your controller device.
Record Sound Using a Standalone Voice Recorder
Using a standalone voice recorder that you carry along with you (not attached to the drone) is one of the most common ways to attempt to record sound.
The voice recorder will record the sounds at the place where you are at, your voice, the people around you, the prop’s sound if the drone is close to you, among others. However, it will not actually record the sound from the flight.
When using a standalone voice recorder, start your recordings with one or two claps of your hand, which are used as a reference point when syncing the audio.
A standalone voice recorder will provide you with a separate audio track that you can add later to the video. Even though this method of recording is easy, it requires some technical knowledge and experience using editing software.
Record Sound Using Microphone on Your Controller Device
You can also record sound to go with your drone video using the microphone on your controller device.
Some controller devices have an app known as DJI GO 4. DJI GO 4 is an app with an in-built capability to help the microphone on your device record sound. The app is compatible with most modern DJI drones such as the Phantom 4, Mavic 2, Pro, Air, and Spark.
While using the app, all you need to do is enable the option for caching the transmission video. After that, you can also allow the sound recording on the app by locating the cache option under the menu’s general setting.
This recording method will record your speaking or any other ambient noises present around you. However, you cannot use this method to record the sound on the drone itself.
Once you record the sound, the sound file will be stored on the controlling device you are using and not on the drone. After that, you will need to download the cache separately on your computer to blend in with the drone footage’s video cache.
Finally, you can also record sound using an iPhone or an iPad as the controller device.
How to Record Sound with a Microphone Mounted on Your Drone
You can record sound using a microphone attached to your drone by following these three simple steps: getting sound, playing sound, and editing the sound.
Step 1: Get Sound
Getting sound is the first thing you need to do before any other thing. You can get sound in these three ways;
- Using a built-in microphone on the video transmitter
- Using a built-in microphone on your FPV camera
- Using an external microphone
Regardless of the way you choose to get sound, I still find that the best sound quality comes from an external microphone. This long-range switchable transmitter from amazon has among the best sound quality. Once you have the microphone, you can attach the white signal wire to your VTX audio inputs.
Step 2: Play Sound
Once you finish with the connections set up, you now need to play the audio sound in itself. If you are using FPV monitors to play the sound, make sure you have built-in speakers and audio input to connect your video receiver. If you are using FPV goggles, you should have an earphone jack somewhere to which you can connect headphones.
Step 3: Edit the Sound
Once you play the sound, you will think that the noise going into your ears is just too loud. In this case, most people turn down the noise using a potentiometer on their headset. However, if you cannot use the potentiometer, try to add a resistor to the signal to reduce it.
How to Add Audio to Drone Footage
Even though drones cannot record sound directly, you can still add audio to drone footage.
You can add audio to the recorded visual by attaching an external microphone to a recording gadget. From the device, the sound is recorded while the drone is doing the visual recording.
After that, use software to edit and incorporate the audio recorded with the drone’s visual. The use of audio edit software will enable you to have audio of the best or desired quality.
On the other hand, if the sound needed is music, then software for editing video is required to add the soundtrack to the visual record. In this case, you can use the DJI GO 4 app.
To use the app, upload the music to the local library, and then during editing, click the addition symbol ‘+’ displayed on the music. After that, select local music and do the necessary editing. Through this, you can add the desired music to the video recorded. You can do this at different intervals during the editing session.
Image Credit: Dotterel