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Cover Story: Ken Heron, A Drone Pilot’s Journey

It’s no secret that Ken Heron and I are friends. We’ve been friends for a while now – five, or six years.

After all, I seem to be appearing in more and more of his videos on YouTube. I’m supposed to be the camera guy, not sure why that is! So, yeah, no secret there.

Image: Ken Heron

Of course, I met Ken Heron long before I met Ken Heron. Like many of you out there, I met Ken through his YouTube channel, Ken Heron – YouTube.

I actually was one of the earliest watchers of Ken and his channel, as it was of great interest to me and my own drone pursuit. Ken grabs you, there’s no other way to describe it.

He’s funny, charismatic, and knowledgeable about the subject of drones and some other things.

It was his conveyance of passion for the hobby that has led many of us, me included, to pick up a controller and become a drone pilot.

Image: Ken Heron

To say Ken Heron has had an influence on me would be an understatement, and I’m not alone. After all, how could he not?

He has an enormous influence on the whole of the drone community, with a strong presence, not only in the GPS community, but that of the FPV community as well.

The charm and, of course, great hair are just how he is. As I mentioned above, I met Ken as one of his fans, never thinking it would go beyond that.

The how or why of us becoming the friends that we have quite frankly eludes me.

That’s just how knowing Ken is though, he forms instant bonds and long-lasting friendships. A good example of that would be Jeff Sills. If you’re not familiar with Jeff, he helps Ken on TNL and does the show’s Drone News segment, one of the first types of drone news we had ever seen.

Ken and Jeff went to high school together. I would have liked to explore that further, but Ken is fairly tight-lipped sometimes.

That is some commitment and dedication to a friendship there. Especially if you ever watched the TNL Drone News segment.

Then again, if you know Ken, you wouldn’t expect anything less. So, I’m sure Jeff’s alright! I recently tried that chair out myself and Jeff, we need you brother. It’s harder than it looks, and I’ll leave it at that.

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The Interview

I recently sat down with Ken and interviewed him for this very article. Ken’s a bit squirrelly when it comes to talking about himself or his past.

I initially tried this by sending an email with the questions written out. The idea was to just have Ken fill in the answers and send it back.

We actually live about fours apart, and after a while, it became clear if it was to get done, some other measure would be needed, so I sat him down in front of a camera, since just sending him an email with questions just wasn’t going to work, not for Ken.

Ken will be Ken after all.

The interview only plays a small part in any article as there is always independent research used to verify and check things. But with Ken, it certainly has become a focal point for this feature.

The interview itself runs about 35 minutes long and was on a continuous run.

In this interview we do get some things out of Ken that no one else has, so it’s worth watching it through.

» MORE: Part 1: My Journey from Drone Hobbyist to Part 107 Pilot

Ken Heron’s Early Life

Ken Heron was born in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Aug 21st, 1966. Now, Ken only spent the earliest part of his life in Florida, the first few years. He can still be a Florida Man if you want him to be.

It does leave one to wonder if living so close to NASA may have played some part in his love of aviation. He would have only been three when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, so some of his earliest influences, perhaps.

Although this didn’t come up in the conversation, you do have to wonder. Ken has a sister who is three years his younger and they grew up in a single-parent home for the most part.

He moved a lot growing up. He stated that 17 times, and it’s here that the friendly, get-along-with-everyone Ken sort of came from.

You can see that; it was this need to make friends quickly and be noticeable yet unnoticeable at the same time, through this period, that would have kept bullies and such at bay. It’s hard to punch a guy who’s making you laugh, you know.

Ken deals with many of life’s adversities with humor. Growing up moving from one place to another could be tough on any kid. I have spoken with Ken’s mother, who is simply as sweet as can be.

You can tell she did her best to provide for both of her children as they grew up.

Another point I took away from this portion of the interview was Ken’s biggest influence growing up. It turns out it was mainly his grandparents. Primarily that of his grandfather, who suffered from being legally blind.

His grandfather’s disability led to Ken being around a lot of audio equipment growing up, as his grandfather would use recording devices for dictation. It was this influence that led Ken into radio, drawn there by sound effects and a fascination for the technology.

» MORE: Part 2: I Just Got My Part 107. Now what?

Although he was well on his way, radio began in earnest for Ken in high school. He took on a tech and hosting position at WHHS a High School Station, out of Haverford PA.

An interesting fact about WHHS is that it is the oldest high school-run station in the United States, making its first broadcast on Dec 6, 1949.

After that, Ken did attend a fly-by-night broadcasting college. These were very typical at the time and were constantly being advertised. This in due course led to a real hosting position at a radio station.

He grew up with not necessarily a hard life, but then again not exactly an easy one either. Ken himself described it as idyllic, which seems like more deflection than anything else.

Having found that he could easily make friends and avoid so many of the pitfalls so many of us encounter, Ken doesn’t have any of the vices that capture so many of us in that period, be it drinking or smoking or other.

Ken, from an early point, knew what he wanted to be – a radio host. And for the most part, growing up, it seems he focused on that goal, finding himself and his personality along the way.

Now, when trying to glean information from Ken, about Ken, it’s like herding cats. Ken is a master of playing both sides of the coin. Being willing and yet reluctant all at this same time.

I feel that we did gain some good insight into the young Ken Heron though. Sometimes, it’s what’s unsaid in a statement that gives away the most.

While talking with Ken, you can clearly see that it’s somewhat uncomfortable for him to look back. This is because Ken, being Ken, is always looking forward.

Ken Heron’s Radio Life

In the second part of the interview, I focused our attention on Ken’s time in radio. Ken has been in radio as a show host for forty years now.

You can only imagine that in that time there have been many ups and downs. If you’re not all that familiar with what’s been going on in radio in lately, things have been a bit topsy, turvy, especially through the 1990s.

Big corporate stations moved in on many of the independent stations at the time and bought them up. That left someone like Ken a bit out in the wind.

It shows in his work history in that he moved from station to station, and there have been a few. Some of them don’t even operate anymore, having not survived the buyouts.

» MORE: Part 3: How to Open A Drone Service Company

As a radio host, Ken is a tempered shock jock. He knows where the line is and just how far it can be pushed before going over. Although there are times when that line does seem to have been breached.

Here I need to warn you, in the interview, Ken regales us with the most memorable moment from radio. It is very adult-themed, so here’s your warning about that.

What comes across the most is the fire of passion Ken has for the work he does. How he pushes boundaries and the mindset and determination he has for his art, and it is an art.

Ken brings it up in the interview, and that was the time he spent as a co-host on the Beaner and Ken show.

Now if you lived in the Birmingham area anytime between 1998 and 2003 or Tuscaloosa from 2003 to 2006 on either 107.7 WRAX-FM or 100.5 WANZ-FM, you would have been listening to Beaner and Ken in the mornings. In this show, Ken worked alongside Guy Patton, better known as Beaner.

Image: Ken Heron, Guy Patton & Ken Heron, Year 2000

The Beaner and Ken show ran for 8 years and really was a number one ranked morning show in those demographics. Here we see though, where this is a sore spot for Ken.

The show was canceled when the original station was bought by Citadel Broadcasting and changed the station’s format.

Although it may have been an end to the Beaner and Ken show, Guy Patton has gone on to write and produce his own sitcom and in 2015 released the movie, Pearl.

Ken, he’s been busy too. Having moved on from the Beaner and Ken show, he worked at a few other stations before finding his new home of the last few years at 98.3 Paducah on the JC and Ken show, another morning show delivering on pure Ken content.

Image: Ken Heron

Of course, we all remember Kelly Green. Kelly is another of Ken’s longtime friends and work companions who was a part of the Kelly and Ken show on 100.9 The Farm. Also, the location of that Red Barn.

Kelly is also a long-time co-host for TNL, and still will co-host alongside Ken on occasion. It was this station that Ken references in the interview as what started him out in droning.

Much as the fall of the Beaner and Ken Show, The Farm also fell to a buyout situation and a format change, leaving Ken in a temporary lurch, his place at 98.3. Well, it’s Ken. So, the sky’s the limit!

In the last part of the interview, we see some of the real Ken, and some of the things that he is passionate about and couldn’t have hoped for better. We covered more of Ken’s YouTube life and he reveals some things!

» MORE: Part 4: How to Get Your Drone Business Off the Ground

Ken Heron’s YouTube Life

Now we come to the part mostly related to drones and what Ken Heron has brought to us all over the years.

In the third part of the interview, we discussed Ken Heron and his YouTube Channel.

We cover how he harnesses the power of social media and technology to share his knowledge, creativity, and, of course, his love for aerial photography, scratch that, I mean Aerial Videography.

As you may not have been aware, Ken’s not really a photographer and never has been. His passions have always been that of audio and video. He even gets a little heated in the interview, when I try hitting this point home.

What the video doesn’t show is we’ve had many conversations on shooting techniques and lighting and other aspects of still photography as well as videography, so, there’s a bit of background that segment doesn’t clarify. It was a bit of a dirty pool on my part. His reaction, however, is priceless.

One of the biggest takeaways was how and who inspired the Show, TNL. This is something Ken never talks much about.

» MORE: Part 5: The Truth About Running a Drone Business

Much like my own friendship with Ken, Ken knew for a while the person who planted the TNL seed, and he played a large role in Ken’s early drone videos. That was Dana Williams.

Now, if that name sounds familiar to you, you may be a fan of Diamond Rio. Dana is the Bass player and the baritone vocals for the band. He’s also a huge, fixed-wing RC flyer.

Image: Ken Heron, Dana Williams/Diamond Rio

It was upon Dana’s prompting that Ken created TNL or Thursday Night Live. Now, I have no doubt that we would know of Ken Heron even if he never started doing the weekly show TNL. He has that kind of character.

However, TNL is probably what garnered him the place he holds today. A show he planned and produced solely by himself for five years without missing a single week. That’s not to say he didn’t have some help along the way.

He does use a co-host, and there is always a behind-the-scenes thing happening. Like most of his non-TNL videos, though, it’s all Ken from start to finish. From idea creation to final edit and everything in between, it’s all Ken.

Once again, Ken’s actions show a drive and untamed determination any of us would be proud to have just a percentage of. It’s these very qualities that have led to Ken’s success and being recognized as one of the top leading Drone influencers today.

Of course, Ken, he’s too modest to let that blow his ego out.

That and if you were to ask, he would deny being an influencer at all. Which is total BLEEP! It is this modesty that is one of his more enduring qualities, as he does maintain a level head as to his celebrity.

» MORE: Part 6: Is Owning My Own Drone Business Worth It?

He is a very down-to-earth individual, although he has reached a certain level of fame. That’s not what drives him. Thankfully! He’d be impossible if it was.

Let’s be honest: Ken Heron is famous, but not in the Hollywood sense of famous. Within our drone community, though, 75%, if not even a bit higher, of any drone pilots you mention the name Ken Heron to, they’ll know exactly who you’re talking about.

They may be fans, or they may not like Ken much at all. Most are in the middle. They appreciate the humor and shenanigans Ken gets up to. They watch for the instructional How-To’s and to get Ken’s view on things.

Many of us watch to see Ken smash another drone; it’ll happen sooner or later.

So yeah, between Radio Ken and YouTube Ken, he’s made a mark in this world that won’t be easily forgotten. Not bad for a Florida Man, now is it!

Image: Ken Heron

We do learn a bit more about Ken’s inspiration for getting into droning. He wanted a particular shot of the Big Red Barn Office where he worked. It was here that he did the Kelly and Ken show.

Of course, this was way back, 11 years ago in 2012, so options were limited at the time to say the least. Then though, we learn much more about Ken’s inspiration from seeing footage in Hollywood films in the late 90’s and 2000’s. How he saw that and wanted to recreate it.

Ken also brings up a really good point as well about superpowers and how drones give everyone the power of flight. It’s not the first mention of this idea of superpowers from Ken.

Tell me he’s not nerdy, come on, I triple-dog dare you. In a way, he’s absolutely correct. The gift and power of voice – it is a superpower. The gift of flight, to soar with the eagles – that’s also a superpower as well.

Although we’re not all going to run off and become successful radio show hosts, we can all get a drone and fly.

» MORE: Part 7: The Biggest Mistakes I Made As A Drone Pilot (The Right Choices Now Will Save You Later!)


Ken Heron, what is there to say? Radio Ken, Drone Ken, YouTube Ken, Regular Ken, they really are all just the same guy.

Ok, I’ll give you there’s no regular Ken. In all the time I’ve known him, and in the process of gathering data and writing this article, I still couldn’t tell you what makes the man tick. I don’t think he could really tell you that himself.

The reason for that is there’s no end to the journey for Ken Heron. There’s tomorrow, sure. For Ken, though, it seems to be much more about the journey than any destination.

He finds the best in everything he does; he doesn’t look back with regrets and tries to find the lesson in mistakes. He has humor as his constant companion, and it brings him joy to share the humor with all who want to listen or watch.

He’s self-taught in many of the skills he’s needed to become one of the finest editors I know, and an ok drone pilot as well. I jest.

Ken is one of the most skilled drone pilots you can find, and I have learned quite a bit from him, in person and from his videos. As I know many of you have as well.

Much like the final interview question, “What do you see for you and the channel in the future?” Ken’s response was, “I don’t know!” I think that was a very fair and honest answer from Ken. He doesn’t know; none of us do.

Ken Heron, he’s quite too content with the now. Perhaps that’s Ken’s secret and another superpower; he truly is happy in the now of things, and the future will bring what it does.

Living in the now instead of the past or the future – if only the rest of us lived that way more often, we could be a little more like Ken. Now that’s not so bad!

Fly Safe! Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!

» MORE: Part 8: Dronelife Forever!