Aerial Property Shots With An Electric UAVs

July 26th, 2011

Thanks to Michael McCreary for pointing out this recent article on helimalibu.com. UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) technology is evolving very fast. The UAV the Helimalibu.com guys use is a rig worth about $20,000. This is typical for a UAV that will carry a DSLR. To me this seems far too expensive to be a practical addition to a real estate photography business. A UAV like this is ideal for shooting waterfront properties or the kinds of properties around Malibu but in most areas, the economics don’t make sense.

However, small economical UAVs are going to move into this business soon, if they haven’t already. For example I did a post on the Parrot AR.Drone ($299) a year ago when it came out. It’s a drone that has two built-in cameras that you can control with a iPhone or iPad via Wi-Fi. In the year that this device has been on the market it appears to have morphed in to a couple of versions and now has an onboard HD video camera. Here is a YouTube channel where users post video the’ve taken from Parrot UAVs. It appears that these devices are already capable of shooting some pretty cool aerial videos of homes. It looks like the the biggest issue is just keeping the drone stable while shooting. I haven’t had much time to research small UAVs but it appears if you could shoot stills with it you could do some pretty good elevated real estate shots.

Has anyone tried to shoot elevated shots with one of these?

8 Responses to “Aerial Property Shots With An Electric UAVs”

  • Since I play with RC toys I have favored this unit http://www.mikrokopter.de/ucwiki/en/MikroKopter These guys have developed the most stable flight control system I have seen. After playing with RC helicopters I have found the learning curve is rather steep and you need good hand eye coordination. The MikroKopter can be flown by almost anyone just watch this video http://vimeo.com/13726420 Also notice the camera stabilized mount as he is holding. I think this shows how well it will work for real estate http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nG7SrWn000 There is also a nice dressed up unit http://www.draganfly.com/ but they will send you a quote so I suspect it is expensive.

    I do think this has potential for many types of aerial photography, just one more toy for the toy box :-)

  • Looking at this option myself a year ago one thing to be aware of is the laws regarding UAV. While no government body has really outlawed them they are pretty much looking at a license for them, and judging by the proposed guidelines it is looking like you will need a license pretty much equivalent to a full aircraft pilots license.
    The governing bodies have no problem with anyone flying one of these as a hobby, infact there are very few laws, besides common sense ones e.g. don’t fly over crowds, keep under 400 ft etc. But the moment you put a camera on anything remote controlled that flies it goes from a toy to a UAV I.e. same class as those monster UAV the air force use.
    At the and of the day the cost and hassle of getting a license will pretty much rule this out for 99% of photogs. In Australia a basic private pilots license will run at about $15k then you need the setup to go with it, something steady enough for good photos you are looking at least $5k and that probably won’t lift more than 1kg in weight. I won’t even get into the detailed setup and running headaches that are out of most peoples knowledge.

  • It’s not so much putting a camera on the UAV, it’s more along the lines of using the UAV for commercial purposes, i.e., taking in money for services or products.

    I have a buddy who has his private pilot’s license, and I am welcome to take pics from his plane, but he will not allow me to sell them for the same reason – it takes a commercial pilot’s license to do this.

    Which is why I use a 50 foot mast…

  • The idea of RC aerial photography clearly isn’t new, but Adam is right, it’s NOT easy, at all. I’m not following the FAA regulation too closely, but I’m pretty sure just adding a camera for shooting to an otherwise ‘hobby’ model won’t require a license to fly… but adding a camera for actual flight control (as in a ‘pilot’s view) would. But the FAA seems to really be dragging along in the US. From what I understand, part of the regulations involve ‘for commercial use’ aspect. I had read about Australia already implementing some stringent rules essentially shutting down a couple of heli using firms.

    It should also be noted the DANGERS of the larger helis used to carry the weight of dSLRs. The rotor speeds are insane and an equipment failure could be deadly. That coupled with the cost of entry & maintence, I have completely written off ever attempting to add an RC heli to my tools.

    That all said, there are some people out there(including in the US) producing some really great photos and smooth video with various helis. I’d HIGHLY recommend checking out http://www.APLanding.com for a few examples and contacts if you are looking for someone to shoot from the air.

  • Wouldn’t it be simpler and cheaper to just use a hot air or helium balloon to hoist the camera, connected by a tether, and then shoot all you want?

  • I surfed Parrot’s website and found a link to some footage shot with a Parrot AR – check out http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/07/ipad-controlled-drone-captures-tuscaloosa-storm-damage/ to see the viz. The reporter, Aaron Brodie, managed to rig a GoPro HD camera to the unit to capture storm damage from tornadoes back in May 2011.

  • If you are talking video from conventional RC helicopters this fellow is great http://www.freeflycinema.com/ but it would be a long time before I would trust my flying skill to hoist up an AF 100 like he does. The Hexicopters and Octocopters are a totally different animal when it come to skill required. It is interesting to see the licensing problems that could occur. Government regulations always cause more problems, but I can see some of the safety aspects of having it regulated.

  • I have been taken aerial photo’s with a Mikrokopter. It’s a great platform for aerial photography and with the GPS function it can be ‘locked’ in the air while you can concentrate on taking pictures. But you have to be prepared on everything and controlling your equipment is the greatest priority concerning safety. That’s an error I have made. Flying about 1 year without big problems, I client asked me to do a very urgent shoot. I haven’t controlled my batteries thouroughly and one not complete loaded battery slipped in my case. The result was terrible. The mikrokopter feld from 70 metres high about just 3 feet from a grouped of parked cars. Luckily it didn’t deld on the roof or windshield of a car and most of all it didn’t hit any person. Camera and copter where completely destroyed.
    But still, it’s a great platform for aerial photography if you keep staying allert for 100%. I have hung camera’s under kites and blimps too but believe me, nothing can beat the mikrokopter. Here is a link to the US mikrokopter site: https://mikrokopter.us/shop and here you can see some video’s of the (german) developers: http://www.mikrokopter.de/ucwiki/VideoListe
    I start building a new one this winter.

    About the law… I don’t know how it is in the US, but here in Belgium, no licence is needed als long as the photographer stays on the ground.

    Yvan.

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