What do drones have to do with podcasting, you ask? Well, if my visit to the Podcast Show 2022 is any measure, then I’m not the only person (by a long way!) interested in adding video to their podcasting workflow. And if we’re going to make video, we might as well explore every angle. Even the vertical.
So, I thought I’d delve in and figure out whether drones have a place in helping create better video around your podcast. These things aren’t cheap, and they aren’t for everyone. But if you have a show that suits, and the budget to buy, then they might be a way to create amazing video to help engage your listeners, and grow your show.
Let’s take a look at why you might use one, what you might create with it, and finish with a recommendation on what to buy. Time to fly!
Why You Might Consider a Drone in Podcasting
Okay, why would I even consider a drone? I’m already spending $100s on shiny audio gadgets! Or, if I’m wise, less than $100… (psst.. Check out our equipment guide for gear in both budget brackets!)
Also, why a drone? I’ve already got a webcam, a cellphone and a Digital video camera! Do I really need more gear? And a relatively expensive bit of gear at that…
The short answer is, you don’t.
This is luxury. It’s extraneous. It’s a gamble on being able to make it pay off.
The longer answer is this…
Video can work wonders as a promo tool, and as a compliment to audio when done right.
Video has always had a potential place in engaging your existing audience or attracting new fans. And, if video floats your boat, then drones can capture a really cool, new kind of video. After all, these things are still pretty rare, so you can get in early. Thanks to that, this type of footage is still unique, and it might be even more unique in your particular space.
It’s early. Drone footage is still rare. Perhaps even more so in your niche. That means it can stand out, engage your audience, and attract new fans.
With a bit of practice, it doesn’t take much to create truly spectacular, attention-grabbing video with a drone! Push that to your audience now, early, then to your niche more widely, and you’ve got a great chance of standing out.
As they say, early is on time, and on time is late!
How to Use a Drone in Podcasting
How might you use the drone? What could you create? Here are a few particular contexts where it could give you an advantage.
Bear in mind, I’ve given some pretty specific examples here, but hopefully, they spark some ideas in your own particular niche.
We’ll get to the ‘how’ in the next section. As in, what do you use that video FOR? But, first, let’s look at WHAT you might capture.
1. Outdoor Activities or Sports
This is the no-brainer use case. From cycling to motorsports to mountain climbing, you can capture brilliant footage of your exploits, events or adventures from all angles.
This might be action shots of what you’re doing, or it might just be a recording of your recording location from a unique angle.
Imagine popping on a lapel mic and recording an episode as you cycle your favourite route, describing every turn and technique as you go. That’s great in itself, but what if you add some drone footage of the cycle, to edit in with the audio? You don’t see that kind of thing outside of commercial TV, normally! But with a drone and a friend to pilot, you can run a tour de France stage run-through, or a climbing demo on a fraction of that budget.
2. Events & Trade Shows
Many of us record at big events related to our topic. In recent years, event videos have more commonly featured drone footage, and… pun intended… it’s shown an entirely new angle on things.
Record with a drone at an event means you can really show the scale of the building and the crowd. You can record yourself from a distance, or from on-high, interviewing people on-location. This all adds more interest and creates some spectacular images to use on social or YouTube to promote your show.
3. Physical Object Based (Property Podcasts, Design)
Some shows concentrate on physical objects in the real world. That might be a property show, exploring how to invest, or it might be a show that looks at design or architecture.
The latter’s great example is 99% Invisible, which explores design in the real world. They might well have done this, considering their budget, but drone footage of the buildings they describe or the environments they explore would add a huge amount to the deep audio descriptions. Many of these could be done from the ground, but they could be done even more amazingly from the air.
4. Location-Based (History, Local News, Environment, Tourism)
There’s no shortage of shows based around either just one location or a particular type of location. The former might include a local tourism show, such as a “Tour of Edinburgh” podcast or a “Hull News” podcast. The latter would revolve around a location theme, such as historical events like Bannockburn or Dunkirk.
Record an aerial tour of the area, and you could release an entire video version of your episode based on that. Or, create ‘shorts’ where you record just a few videos, and edit them in with highlights from the audio.
How to Use Drone Footage in Podcasting
Now that you have the footage, how are you going to use it? Here are some ideas:
- Video Promos
Create 30s to 60s aerial footage videos with a voiceover. These can go on social media, YouTube, Spotify and many other places to promote your show.
- Social Stories
Stand out from the ‘selfie-cam’ crowd by including drone footage on YouTube shorts, Instagram stories, Twitter posts and elsewhere.
- YouTube Show “Highlights”
Create 3 to 10 min videos for YouTube, either taking highlights from your standard episode, or ‘extra footage’ created around the show recording.
- Video Podcasting+
Get a new angle on your normal recording setup, or record at an event or elsewhere with the help of a friend. Then edit it into the video edition of your episode.
- Members Only Footage
If you have a private community, whether free or paid, offer them more through behind-the-scenes footage, longer captures of your activities or drone-enhanced instructional videos.
Best Drones to Buy for Podcasters
In truth, there aren’t too many unique needs for the world of podcasting. So the recommendation I’m going to make is the one that I’d give if you were shooting footage for just about any purpose.
The one requirement I do have is that the drone is under 250g in weight, which means it flies (ha ha ha) under the weight limit where you’re required to get a license. That means it’s much easier to get started with, and the regulations about where you can fly are far lighter. If you’re planning to fly around people, events, etc, then always get permission, anyway, though, and check the laws where you live.
A Note From Lauren Connolly
Hey! Professional drone pilot AND podcaster here. I think it’s important to note that when you fly, if you are doing it for any sort of compensation, it does require a Small Unmanned Aircraft Certification through the FAA. I will say we have gotten some cool shots for the podcast using the drone- so even hiring out a drone pilot for a few events would be worth it!
Great feedback, thanks Lauren!
Given that condition, to me, it comes down to one company, DJI, and their Mavic Mini series. Competitors exist, of course, but I’ve tried both of the models below. The flying experience and the footage quality were so good that I stopped looking further, so these are my favourites.
These links are affiliates, so we’d earn a small commission should you choose to buy through them – never at any extra cost to yourself!
DJI Mavic Mini 2
The Mavic Mini 2 is the OG best ‘light’ drone, carrying a fantastic camera and an excellent feature set.
A friend of mine who works in film has had features published on commercial TV – the BBC and elsewhere – which were filmed with this excellent little unit. At only £450 for the full package, this is an excellent purchase.
At this price, you get some excellent functionality, including:
- Full 4k Video
- Excellent stabilisation even in strong winds (up to level 5 or 38kph)
- 10km transmission distance (line of sight only!)
- About 30 minutes of flight time
DJI Mavic Mini 3
The Mavic Mini 3 is the newest addition to the Mini range, still coming in under 250g (by 1g!), so you can still fly it without a license. It’s a very similar unit in most respects but has a few upgrades that can make it worth the extra money, selling at £519 for the standard package.
Here are a few of the differences:
- Improved camera – bigger sensor and f/1.7 aperture (vs f/2.8 on the Mini 2)
- Better battery life at 38 minutes (vs 31 on the Mini 2)
- Better collision detection, preventing more crashes
- Vertical shooting mode – get those selfies much more easily!
The Mavic Mini 3 is such an impressive piece of kit. Stunning picture quality and is so easy to fly that my single-figure-age kids routinely take it out for a spin.
Roundup: Is a Drone Worth Buying?
In most cases, certainly not. They’re expensive, and they’re not necessary.
But in some cases – I’ve covered a range of them above – they could be a way to really catch the eye of your potential listeners. If you have the budget, then this kind of footage can undoubtedly help you stand out in a sea of podcasts all doing bog-standard promos.
I also can’t deny this part of it: they’re flippin’ fun! Not just the flying, but the editing, too. There are so many more possibilities as soon as you start exploring what these things can do.
So, I’ll stop droning on, now (sorry, couldn’t resist…), and let you make up your own mind. See you in the skies!