can Drones Hear Conversation

Can drones hear conversations?

With the flurry of FAA approvals, it has now become a common sight to spot more drones in the skies than there are birds.

According to the numbers released by the administration, as many as 871,000 drones have been registered, and the number is still growing. 

While this is a great positive for aviation and other industries, it has also sparked concerns regarding the ability of drones to invade your privacy, including the possibility of eavesdropping on your conversations. 

But can drones hear conversations? 

Continue reading as I explain this in detail, along with other crucial information. 

Can Drones Hear Conversations? 

Yes, drones can hear conversations. Specialized drones, like ones that are custom-made, are equipped with sophisticated systems that enable them to hear almost every type of sound. And of any frequency.  

Police drones and military drones for listening are the best examples I could think of. 

But the same isn’t true for your regular recreational or consumer drones. They can’t hear your conversations in 8 out of 10 cases. 

Why Can’t Most Consumer Drones Record Audio?

Can Drones Hear Conversations?

Most consumer drones, also called recreational drones, can’t record audio due to the following limitations: 

Legal Aspects

Many countries have set strict laws when it comes to recording audio via drones to uphold everyone’s right to privacy. As a result, manufacturers opt not to equip their drones with audio recording capabilities to comply with these restrictions. 

Cost

Cost is the next biggest challenge in making a cheap consumer drone record audio, as doing the same would require installing a high-grade audio setup or a microphone. 

Lack of Standardization

Standardizing the audio recording feature in UAVs is highly complex. This is because there’s nothing like a one-size-fits-all solution here.

In case you don’t know, the type and location of the mic significantly impact the sound quality. Add to this the varying sizes and shapes of consumer drones. 

Battery Life

Drones, be they small or big, have a limited battery life. It varies from 10 minutes to 40 minutes (approx.).

With already a myriad of components utilizing this battery to operate, adding another power-hungry element in the form of a mic will further amp up the battery consumption. There’s another disadvantage to this, and that’s a reduced flight time. 

Drone Weight

Consumer drones are lightweight, with many models falling in the range of 200g to 250g. Take the example of the DJI Mini 4 Pro. It weighs just 249g and has no built-in audio recording setup.

Adding one from the outside will only increase this weight, upsurge power consumption (as discussed above), reduce flight time, and impact the drone’s stability while flying. 

Limited Use Cases

Last but not least, consumer drones aren’t meant, or you can say, not designed to record audio. Their functioning suits photography and videography the best. 

Can Drones Understand Conversations Through Vibrations?

Yes, a drone can understand your conversations through vibrations. 

But here’s a catch. 

It has to be VERY close to you in order to catch these vibrations and turn them into audio. But with the drone technology not yet developed to that level, this method isn’t completely foolproof, resulting in the final audio being difficult to interpret. 

How To Improve the Quality of Drone Audio Recordings? 

How To Improve the Quality of Drone Audio Recordings

From using a high-grade drone with a built-in microphone to improving your flying technique, try the following tips to improve the quality of your drone audio recordings: 

Use a High-Grade Drone + Mic

This goes without saying, but still, invest in a high-grade drone with a quality built-in mic, preferably with noise cancelation.

I generally don’t prefer external microphones, since they are more prone to catching unnecessary noises from the surroundings.  

Improve Your Flying Technique 

Sometimes, the poor audio quality isn’t because of anything else but your flying technique.

Too many jerks or rapid drone movements often introduce vibrations into your audio recordings, ruining them.

In addition, not maintaining an optimal distance from the sound source is another culprit. Hence, work on improving your piloting technique. 

Mind the Flying Conditions 

Mind your flying conditions for better sound pickup, avoiding rainy weather, strong winds, and places with loud noises. As a thumb rule, only choose quiet locations for recording.

Tweak Your Drone’s Audio Settings

If your drone has any adjustable audio settings, go ahead and tweak them. Set the microphone gain to an appropriate level to avoid distortions and choose the right audio format, like WAV or MP3, based on your needs. 

Use External Recorders

Lastly, external recorders can also help you with pro-level audio recordings. These are very economical and easy to mount on your drone.

Plus, these devices offer more control over audio quality and allow you to capture high-fidelity sound with ease. 

How To Prevent Drones From Hearing Your Conversations? 

How To Prevent Drones From Hearing Your Conversations

Below are some simple things you can do to prevent any drone from eavesdropping on your conversations: 

Stay Aware of Nearby Drones

First things first, be aware of any drone flying near you. This is the best you can do to avoid your conversations being recorded, especially if the place where you live has high drone activity. 

If I talk about myself, I always check if any additional and strange component is attached to the drone flying near me or if it seems to behave weirdly and tries to invade my privacy.  

Use Radar Detectors

You can also keep an eye on nearby drones via the radar. Though it’s an expensive technology, the complete setup of which can tune to $300,000 or higher, its cheap alternatives also exist on platforms like Amazon.  

What these radar detectors do is detect any drone movement in your vicinity, alerting you if anyone tries to invade your personal space. 

You can also read my article on can drones be tracked to learn about other ways to track a drone. 

Install Physical Barriers

Physical barriers like sound-absorbing walls, drone jammers, and special soundproof curtains are your next best bet for preventing drones from recording your audio. These barriers will prevent the sound from traveling and being picked by the UAV. 

Pro Tip: Follow this quick guide to learn how to soundproof your walls or, the best, how to soundproof your entire room

Whisper or Use a White Noise Machine

Do you speak loudly during conversations? If so, please change this habit and speak softly or whisper. This will make it difficult for even the high-end audio drones to pick your audio.

You can also use a white noise machine to mask the sound of your conversations. Check out this article for the best white noise machines and buy one. 

Talk to the Drone Owner

Do you feel nothing has worked for you so far? Talk to the drone owner and let them know your concerns. This works in most cases and you should try it before anything else. 

Report to Local Authorities

Your issue has not yet been resolved? Then inform the FAA or your local authorities. They will communicate with the drone owner and take necessary actions

Conclusion 

To conclude, I hope it’s clear to you that drones CAN hear conversations. Provided they have a specialized microphone (or any other setup) built-in.

However, the audio quality isn’t great and varies from model to model. There are other limitations, too, limiting their audio pickup abilities. 

While I’ve rarely come across recreational/consumer drones that could record my audio.

But one of my friend owns a custom-made drone that is equipped with a sophisticated audio recording system comprising a DJI Mic. And it clearly picks up our conversations.

With drone technology evolving at a rapid pace, let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for audio recording capabilities in the upcoming drone models. Until then, happy flying. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Can Drones Record Audio?

A: Drones can record audio, but only  poor quality due to lots of ambient noises. Take the example of sound generated by the drone’s rotors, motors, propellers, etc.  

Q: How Far Away Can a Drone Be Heard?

A: There isn’t a direct answer to this. It depends on several factors, like the type, environment where it’s flying, and your listening range. Here’s an example. 

While a small drone like the DJI Mini 3 Pro can be difficult to hear from more than a few hundred feet away.

But its larger counterpart, the DJI Mavic 3 Pro, can be heard from up to 400 feet away or even further in quiet environments.

In general, you can hear the sound of a drone from up to 400 feet away under ideal conditions. 

Q: Can Drones Be Made Silent?

A: I once tried making my drone silent but failed. It’s not possible to make a drone silent, but its sound can be reduced significantly through the following ways: 

    • Use more efficient and quieter motor

    • Use quieter propellers

    • Improve the drone’s aerodynamics

    • Use a smaller and lightweight drone

Q: How Loud Is a Drone?

A: The loudness of a drone varies with its design, propeller speed, and environment where it’s flying.

What I’ve so far understood is that small camera drones produce a noise level of around 60 dB to 70 dB, similar to the noise level of a conversation or a dishwasher. 

On the other hand, larger and more powerful drones can produce noise levels of up to 80 dB, similar to the noise level of a lawnmower.

Q: Can Police Drones Hear You?

A: In most cases, yes, police drones can hear conversations. They are equipped with advanced tech to record both audio and video from crime scenes for law enforcement. 

Author
Diptesh Das

Diptesh Das is your friendly ‘content maniac’ and drone enthusiastic! Being passionate about content writing. He is a firm believer of the power of words and thereby ended up leveraging them to create an impact by sharing his drone knowledge and experiences.

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