7 Reasons High School Publication Staffs Should Buy a 360-Degree Video Camera Rather Than a Drone

The preceding video was taken with a 360-degree video camera at a high school journalism camp at my school a few weeks ago. Check it out. Interact with it (with your mouse or finger, depending on the device you’re on). It’s pretty fun.

The last couple of years, some publication staffs have invested hundreds of dollars (some more than a thousand) in purchasing a drone for their school journalism program. Some schools that don’t have a drone are looking to join the bandwagon and get their own.

At this point, I think that’s a mistake.

Rather than pour in hundreds or thousands of dollars for a device that will be used infrequently, staffs should instead invest in a 360-degree video. Here are 7 reasons why:

  1. COST – As I’ve already said, 360-degree video technology is much cheaper than a drone. The LG G5 camera I purchased was less than $250. A Phantom 3 drone with a camera is at least twice that amount and some models eclipse $1,000.
  2. SAFETY – I probably worry about things more than I should, but I constantly have this fear a drone is going to take off (either due to an error on its part or the operator’s) and dive bomb a crowd at a ballgame or crash into a car windshield. I don’t have to worry about any of that with a 360-degree video camera.
  3. DURABILITY – If you want the gear to get used on staff, you have to check it out and let students use it. As we all know, gear that frequently gets checked out needs to be able to stand a little wear and tear. Compact, 360-degree video cameras are much better for this than the complex, often fragile drones.
  4. EASE – 360-video cameras are fairly simply to use and all staffers could be trained relatively quickly and become proficient. There is a steeper learning curve when it comes to drones. Often times, this means only one or two staffers can fly the drone.
  5. OPPORTUNITIES – Drones are pretty specialized devices that are generally great for capturing overall images and videos of outdoor events. However, they aren’t practical for much else. 360 video cams can be used inside classrooms, outdoors at a ballgame, in the middle of the lunchroom, or even mounted and mobile.
  6. REGULATIONS – Drones have quite a few rules and regulations imposed on their use — many by the FAA. There are no such special guidelines for 360 cams.
  7. FRIENDS – Honestly, if you’re still debating and can only spend your money on one or the other, purchase the 360 cam. You’ll get a lot more use out of it and if you really need the drone for a shot, it’s very likely a student in your school or member of your community has one and they would probably be thrilled to help you out with your special assignment.

Facebook just added 360-degree photo support last week and video was shortly before that. The technology is still fairly new and only going to improve and expand from this point forward. Hit the front end of the movement and experiment a bit.

Let us know how you’re using the 360 technology when you start and we’d love to showcase some of your work.


Aaron Manfull

Aaron is in his 26th year of advising student media. He is currently the Director of Student Media at Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Missouri. He is the Journalism Education Association Digital Media Chair and co-Director of Media Now. He is the 2023 JEA Teacher Inspiration Award Winner and is a former Dow Jones News Fund National Journalism Teacher of the Year. He is one of the authors of the textbook "Student Journalism and Media Literacy." You can find him on X and Instagram @manfull. He's a proud father. A transplanted Iowan. And an avid Hawkeye Fan.

Aaron Manfull has 865 posts and counting. See all posts by Aaron Manfull

2 thoughts on “7 Reasons High School Publication Staffs Should Buy a 360-Degree Video Camera Rather Than a Drone

  • February 13, 2018 at 12:20 am

    Thanks for the post. I am at a very high tech well funded school in Fairbanks Alaska. We are looking into the “next step” and 360 video seems to be one option along with augmented reality and of course drones. Your blog was helpful. Let me know if you want to bounce ideas off each other.

  • February 18, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    Great! Will send you an email. Look forward to hearing about your program and what you all do with the 360 video!

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