Why you (probably) don’t need a drone for YouTube…

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You may have seen the influx of different drone footage on YouTube. Whether it is establishing shots, capturing awesome adventures, or a YouTube channel specifically about drones, there seem to be more drones than ever on YouTube. Because YouTube is all about standing out from the crowd, do you need one to be successful?

You do not need a drone to be successful on YouTube. People searching for educational content will be distracted by the overuse of drone footage. Entertainment content only benefits from drone footage if you can deliver interesting and well thought through footage.

I have several YouTube channels, and I can assure you that the growth of my most successful YouTube channel wasn’t anything to do with drone footage – that’s because none of my successful videos have any drone footage in them whatsoever.

Do you need a drone for YouTube 1

In this article, we will go over whether or not you need to buy a drone for YouTube and the positives and negatives about buying a drone specifically to enhance your YouTube channel or start a new one.

What a drone gives your YouTube videos

There is no doubt that the purchase of a new drone is exciting. When I bought my drone, I was so excited about the potential for using it to enhance my videos on several different content creator platforms.

Using your drone to capture the role footage, capture some important parts of the storytelling structure, and become a one-person content creation machine is all part of the reason people buy a drone specifically for their YouTube content.

Let’s take a look at each of these benefits below.

Fun b roll

To keep your audience engaged and increase the retention rate and watch time of their videos, some content creators like to change the angle, shot, or screen every 3 to 10 seconds.

It’s not important what is shown other than it relates somewhat to what you are talking about.

You can use drone footage as a B role and cutaway footage for your YouTube videos which may help increase the retention rate.

It would help if you used this technique sparingly because too much drone footage and too many changes can also be distracting to the main message of your YouTube videos.

Hacking the YouTube algorithm is all part of the fun of creating YouTube content.

Often, people are searching for answers to problems in their life and do not consider subscribing unless the content is valuable. As long as the content is valuable and solves a problem, the drone footage will help retain people watching the video.

If the topic of your YouTube channel fits, adding drone footage to show off your local area is also very valuable and entertaining for people watching YouTube videos. This

Scene setting shots

Simple storytelling techniques involve setting the scene early on for your audience. Many of my most popular YouTube videos do not require any scene-setting as I am answering a question directly for my audience.

However, if your YouTube channel relies on the audience following a narrative throughout the video, drone footage can be used to provide background information and set the scene of your YouTube video story.

For example, if your video is about your travels, you can use drone footage to provide a quick, interesting intro to set the scene for the rest of your video. Using a drone to capture this footage certainly helps retain the interest of your audience.

Sparingly drone shots can be incredibly powerful storytelling tools.

The ability to record yourself

Using a drone to record yourself is becoming easier as drone technology improves.

My DJI Mavic air has a follow me mode and a variety of other automated follow modes, making it ideal for following me from various angles.

I used my drone to follow me while I was on my bike or passing through an interesting scene.

One type of shot that I found particularly impactful and helped progress the story and move it forward was to hover the drone directly above the head and then move through the shot on a bike or by walking.

Buying a drone allows you to step away from the simple vlogging angle of a close shot held by your hand or a camera situated on a pole or wall and allows you to suspend a camera in the sky and capture you in a variety of different ways.

Buying a drone can turn you into a solo content creator powerhouse if used in the right way.

Drone info content

I have seen several different creators give reviews and opinions on various drones and technology they have purchased.

If your YouTube channel is about drones having a drone makes perfect sense.

However, you may want to include tech reviews on your channel and reviewing a drone is the perfect addition to any technological review you perform. Tech reviews do particularly well on YouTube since they attract an audience looking to purchase the latest technology and are much easier to monetise should you reach the 1000 subscriber threshold and 4000 watch hours per month threshold.

Why you don’t need a drone for youtube

Having a drone often seems like the perfect accompaniment for any YouTube creator. Before you launch into buying new technology, you may need to consider the extra logistical effort required for capturing drone footage and the legalities around using your drone for monetary reasons.

Here are all of the reasons why you probably don’t need a drone for YouTube.

A drone is not a magic subscriber magnet

If your channel is struggling to obtain subscribers and views, you should look at the fundamental aspects of your channel and not assume that a drone will magically attract people to your channel.

I have been there…

When my YouTube channels were not doing well, I looked at all of the different technologies I could throw at them to make them appear like they are doing better. I needed to look at the fundamentals of the channel and ask myself whether or not the audience was genuinely interested in the content I was creating.

Guess what – the drone content was more of a distraction than useful addition to my videos.

One of my subscribers pointed out that they often liked the topic of my video, but they found the drone shots offputting and a complete distraction. I did not want to listen to this feedback as it flew in the face of why I bought my drone.

My best videos and the videos which attracted the most subscribers and watch time do not include drone footage. In the early days of a YouTube channel, being as helpful as possible with the content and not worrying about the cinematography components until you have developed a strong audience foundation is the thing that will grow your channel.

You need to get your licence

Depending on where you live, you may need to get your license because if your YouTube video is monetised, you are now using your drone for business purposes.

If you intend to monetise your YouTube videos, you must have a part 107 remote pilot license if you live in the United States of America.

If you do not monetise your YouTube channel, you do not need to get a license. However, it is quite a grey area of the regulations in several countries.

In Australia, I have decided to err on the side of caution and register my drone as if I was using it to start a business.

This blog, the YouTube channel associated with it, and my other channels all use drone content at some point. Therefore, it is easy to say that the drone is used for my content creation business.

The great thing is if it is used for creating content, it immediately is claimable as a tax write-off – a potential upside to registering your drone for content creation.

Extra expense

You probably do not need the extra expense of purchasing and running a drone if you are a new content creator on YouTube. Unless drone flying is a particular hobby or passion of yours, I would recommend focusing on the fundamentals of your channel rather than purchasing extra equipment which you do not need to tell a good story.

Drones with good cameras can be picked up secondhand, and if you want to know how to buy a secondhand drone, you should check out my other article – click here, where there is a 50 part checklist, and a free checklist download included.

how to buy a second hand drone

When I get bored of creating content, I often look at all the extra gadgets that I could purchase to play with during the creation of my videos.

If I catch myself thinking this way, I know that this is a warning sign, and I should take a little bit of a break and then come back and reassess the fundamentals of my channel to ensure the content is aligned with what the audience wants to see. New technology is not the answer to this question at any time.

Extra edit complexity

Editing YouTube videos takes a fair amount of time and practice. After creating YouTube content regularly, I can now edit and finish a full video in under two hours. However, it often took me many hours of frustrating editing to get it just right in the past.

Do you need a drone for YouTube

Adding drone footage into my mix dramatically increased the amount of time required for editing my YouTube videos.

It is not just the editing of the footage required when placing drone footage into your videos – you have to include the colour grading, upload, editing, stabilisation, and extra exporting time that comes along with including drone footage into your YouTube videos.

There is also complexity added with the management of extra memory cards. You also have to factor in the extra time it takes to get out and physically record the drone footage if you are not doing it as part of your daily routine.

Overall, including drone footage into your YouTube videos can be a massive pain in the bum.

The audience doesn’t often care

The biggest reason I would think twice when including drone footage into your YouTube videos is that the audience often does not care in the slightest.

Adventure, travel, and lifestyle YouTube is may benefit greatly from including drone footage in their content. However, for most YouTubers, the addition of drone footage is often more of a distraction than an added benefit to your content.

I have struggled with the concept of creating content without drone footage even though I have a drone ready at all times.

I ask myself before every video if the addition of drone footage or other B role footage would make the videos better.

Quite often, the added complication of including it along with the clash with the video topic means that I do not include drone footage.

It was very hard for me to go to all of the efforts of capturing drone footage, buying a drone, and learning to fly to realise that my audience did not care in the slightest for my drone B roll footage, and in fact, it puts some people off.

What type of drones do Youtubers use?

If you want to get a drone for YouTube, you may want to check out to see what drone your favourite content creator uses.

If you want a full rundown of this, check out my other article, where I go through what drone YouTubers use. Click here to be taken to the full article.

You will often find that YouTubers use the best drone on the market and stay quite current with drone technology.

For example, Casey Neistat is a great example of someone who uses a drone as a tool and not to fill his videos.

I love Casey because he has a very specific idea of what drone technology brings to his films and videos. He doesn’t want drones to look like drones in many different YouTube videos. He has talked about how he wants it to look like a camera on a boom or a fixed camera position way up high. What he doesn’t want is a drone video to look like he has bought a drone.

Take a look at some of his recent videos, and you’ll notice that the drone very rarely moves in a drone-like fashion. Casey wants smooth or stationary shots which don’t distract the viewer with jerky drone-like camera movement.

One thing I like about Casey is that he uses his equipment to their extremes. In his New York studio, he had a drone a graveyard of all of the drones he had damaged, and they looked like they were primarily the DJI Phantom series drones.

Which drone is best for YouTube videos?

Using the right drone for the job is an important factor when deciding what drone is best for YouTube videos.

Remember that a drone is a tool, and your decision should be based on its features and functionality rather than how cool you think a drone shop would be for your videos.

You need to ask yourself whether or not you will be travelling with your drone and what your budget is to achieve the desired shots.

These are the important parts of choosing a great drone for your YouTube video.

  • Size – if you are travelling with your drone, it needs to be as portable as possible whilst also powerful enough to fly in the conditions you regularly face.
  • Price – I noticed that YouTubers with much more subscribers purchased the more expensive and latest drones on the market. However, the most expensive drone isn’t necessarily the best drone for how you will use it. Always buy a drone within your budget, and you can pick up some awesome drones at a relatively inexpensive price.
  • Quality of footage – you should choose a drone that suits what you want it to do and not just by the best drone on the market because that’s what you think you need to do!


in this article, we have gone over everything you need to know about whether or not you need a drone for YouTube.

Ultimately, you have to realise that a drone is not a good automatic addition to your videos. Drone shots could easily detract from your message or fit properly into the narrative and story that you are regularly telling in your YouTube videos; the drone could become more of a distraction than an asset.

If your YouTube channel is not performing how you want it to perform, the best thing to do is to revisit the fundamentals of your channel and look to see what your audience engages with and double down on the stuff that is working. Adding a drone will not automatically make your content any better from the audience’s perspective.

If you want to purchase a drone, the footage’s portability, cost, and quality are the most important components to consider to ensure that you buy the perfect tool to support your content creation endeavours.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a Drone pilot, Writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. His drone footage has been featured on TV (ABC Documentary) and he has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drones.