Which Drone Should I Buy To Shoot Real Estate Property Video?

January 21st, 2016

DJIPhantom3Manuel In New Jersey says:

I want to buy a drone for real estate, my question is if you know what are the minimum requirements or if you know any web page or any tutorial.

Here is my take on this question along with some real estate drone resources:

  • If you are just starting out you are probably willing to go with a GoPro size camera. Something like the DJI Phantom 3 shown above. The technology in this area is getting better and better very fast.
  • If you are a new drone pilot UAV Boot Camp is a good place to start learning how to fly.
  • Colin Smith has a DVD with 9 hours of instruction on DJI Phantom 3 and Inspire 1.
  • DroneLife.com is a blog that focuses just on purchasing, or hiring a drone for photography.
  • DroneLawJournal.com, by Peter Sachs, is my favorite reference for Drone Law. Drone Law is a confusing subject and Peter, who is a Lawyer and a Drone enthusiast helps sort out the facts on Drone Law.
  • Real estate photographers getting started with drone photography/video should carefully consider if shooting their own aerial video is worth the expense and risk. There are many businesses that are specializing in shooting aerial photography/video that you can hire.

I sure there are many readers that can help fill in and expand these resources and recommendations on which drone to buy for real estate photography/video.

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18 Responses to “Which Drone Should I Buy To Shoot Real Estate Property Video?”

  • By far and away the #1 question day in/ day out; “do you have a drone”. Ugh. Finally I caved and bought one. The new Phantom 3 Pros are decent quality 4k cameras, 22mm I think. About $1300 with a nice case. I’ve used it 2 or 3 times in the last 30 days… Waste-of-money. But yes; “I have a drone”… (so I get the job).

    Photographs of roofs & driveways are NOT the way to get showings if you ask me. RARELY a property merits a drone. It’s just how brokers sell listings. IMO.

  • I have to agree with Dave.
    For the amount of times I actually ‘need’ a drone, spending a grand or more just doesn’t pencil out.
    From all I’ve seen, large estates with acres and acres is where these shine.
    However, my ‘bread & butter’ is the smaller single family listings with a half acre or so.

    Done the road a way…maybe

  • I also have to agree with Dave on this one. I spent about $1200 on my phantom 2 vision plus and have only used it 4 or 5 times in the past 10 months. I’m certainly not saying that it cannot be a profitable part of your business but I would suggest doing some research on your market, let your clients know you have it (or getting it) and feel it out first.

    Also, my drone is worth probably half of what I paid within 6 months. If I were to do it again I would to down the gently used route instead of brand new. Definitely something to consider.

  • I have had two drones over the last three years, the first was based on a DJI Flamewheel with a go pro fitted. The second is the Phantom 3 Pro. I have done probably about 80 properties with them and you do get unique and interesting shots. Imo the go pro is simply far to wide with too much barrel distortion and not really suitable for RE work. The camera that comes with the 3 Pro is much better and the photos are more natural

  • I would also agree with the above, we are based in the UK and we get a lot of enquiries but the actual number of orders is only around 1-2 per month. We don’t actually own a drone although we do offer the service. We subcontract to approved suppliers when we get a job that requires a drone. We only make a small mark up to cover the costs of the arrangement, but we do get the rest of the work and don’t lose any instructions because we don’t offer the service. BUT if you are going to buy one bear this in mind. We use fully certified, fully insured suppliers with large rigs capable of carrying a high resolution compact system camera/DSLR and the image quality is far superior. AND even employing these “experts” we have seen a drone crash whilst shooting for us in the hands of an expert pilot (due to a technical error) thankfully no damage to property or person, apart from the drone and camera were written-off at a total cost of around £4000!! I don’t think we will go to the expense and commitment of training in the short term.

  • I purchased the DJI Phantom 3, with extra batteries, a carrying case, some extra props….tally was about $1,800. I’ve probably made up about 1/2 of that so far.

    I bought a drone about 6 months ago and glad I did. While it has not paid for itself, I am able to chase down new leads – commercial clients such as builders, developers, brick and mortar companies, etc. I also don’t charge a lot of money for it as well….$20 to $30 a photo at the time of a photo shoot. I have also introduced some drone video too.

    While you may not get your money back, I think it all depends on how you market yourself and set yourself apart from other area photographers. In my case and business model, fast pennies vs. slow nickels. Area photographers who offer drone work charge big money. I don’t. I’d rather appeal to the wallets of most real estate agents and charge them $20 a photo and get 3 to 4 photos on top of my usual fee. I’ve gotten sticker shock at this price! Agents are prepared to pay an arm and a leg for it and when they hear $20 a photo…their jaw drops to the floor! Yes, it is cheap money, but I call these sales “popcorn sales.” Quick margin money money. I also may “throw” in a drone video or photo to an unsuspecting client and when they see it, the client is hooked.

    I’ve also gotten some business because of donating my time with the drone for our local rotary club. Every year our local rotary club puts out a calendar and area photographers photograph local landmarks of the town. The calendars are sold to anyone and each month features a photo with a different photograph and photographer. My work was featured in 3 separate months! I was the only photographer who had a drone. Plus, I captured some really cool leaf peeping photos that just came out fabo! Also, a local 300 acre Apple farm was featured and the owner wanted some drone work so that he can make enlargements and frame them.

    So, just because you buy the drone, don’t expect everyone to flock to you. You still need good old hustle to help you along. You need to pedal the drone work and maybe “throw in” some free drone photos to existing clients or some area builders. Bottom line? Get a drone that fits best with your wallet. Do some smart marketing. Be safe when you fly. And by all means, get your 333 from the F.A.A. I did. Lends more credibility to you.

  • Although I don’t own one….yet, I have been looking at drones since about 2009, long before they were popular. I looked into using one back then when the price for anything that would carry a decent DSLR was around $4,000. That pretty much stopped me right there but I still kept checking on them. Today the price is way down and the technology is up. One company and drone that is never mentioned here and one I have been looking at is the Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon. It has a 4K detachable camera with a no distortion lens, 3-axis stabilized gimbal and also has several features that none of the others have. It comes with a built-in Android FPV screen in the transmitter and, best of all, comes with a SteadyGrip to use the camera off drone, hand held. All this for around the same price as the DJI Phantom Professional. It is also slightly larger and heavier than the Phantom which I believe would make it more stable in a wind. The features it doesn’t have yet are fly-down-a-wire and waypoints. Both of which I think would be great features for real estate shooting. When they add these features I think it would be the best option out there. I am also waiting for the FAA to make up it’s mind on how to allow commercial use of drones. Until then I don’t think I would chance getting caught and fined. Very few photographers have a pilot’s license which is one of the requirements to get a 333 exemption.

  • I don’t own one yet but have been looking. It MIGHT fit my equipment outlay budget this year. I have had some clients give me drone generated shots (not video) and ask that they be included in the tour which I typically accommodate. One in particular, there is a drone club in their 55+ community that borders a private (non-controlled) air strip – go figure. It creates a perspective I can’t create with a pole that is well beyond “the roof of the house”. An example is the major clubhouse with Olympic size pool and lap lanes, multiple tennis and basketball courts, multiple other sport all on a peninsula surrounded by water. Instead of creating another golf course community, they turned what would have been fairways into lakes so most homes are lakefront. Of the photos provided, I do touch up and color correct a little and DJI is far superior to the GoPro and Yuneec.

  • @Larry Gray. I’m curious to know why you think the DJI Phantom images are better? Have you worked on images from all 3 drones? I believe all three cameras shoot 12MB stills and I think the cameras that DJI uses might be the same cameras that Yuneec uses.

  • I also get the question on a somewhat regular basis, but when I explain to them the the cost of a good one, the cost of insurance and the cost of getting a license (because I am making money from it), clients understand why when I say it just doesn’t make good business sense for as little as I can use it.

  • I have been using drones to shoot Real Estate videos for 3 years. As such I have logged about 100 hrs of flight time. I am currently on my 4th machine (I tend to crash into things) which is a DJI Inspire 1. I actually regret this purchase. Drone #3, which is still in great working order, is a DJI Phantom 3 Profesional. At half the cost of the Inspire 1, it performs the same or better as a single operator. Plus the small size is a real plus when you are flying in tighter spaces around a home (trees, wires, chimneys, etc). The DJI ecosystem is by far the best choice for mere mortal shooters like me. They are so far ahead of the curve in flight dynamics and usability it will be hard for others to catch up. My final piece of advice is to go cheap when you are just starting out. It takes a while to get the hang of flying and filming. You will most surely crash and burn early on. The camera specs are way less important than your framing and shooting style. The only must is a great 3 axis gimble.

  • Jeff, do you have the required pilots license and the 333 FAA exemption? If not, are you not afraid of being caught and fined? I personally don’t want any hassles from the FAA. I’ve read and heard they can be you know what’s to deal with. I have had a few realtors ask me if I did drone shots but I have had to tell them no, not yet. I really think it would be something good to offer and would set me apart from my competition around here (which is quite a bit).

  • I do not have the license (I did register my drones though) and have never given it second thought. Maybe it’s because I am not aware of anyone that has been fined for this kind of work, or because I don’t agree with the current regulations. Either way, as long as you are respectful and safety conscious, the work we do only helps our client and the surrounding neighborhood. Pro-Tip: My typical shoot (photo’s and video) lasts 2-4 hours. I ALWAYS fly the drone as the very last thing I do, helps to make a quick getaway:)

  • I bought a Yuneec Typhoon 5004K and it is easy to fly and has a 4K camera. The gimbal is incredible! It also shoots in RAW so that is nice. I have filed for the FAA’s 333 exemption and I am waiting to hear from them. Takes several weeks. I have also read that they require everyone to be a pilot. I think this is radical because I am not going to go to pilot school to fly a drone. They need to catch up to what is going on and make another class for drone photography. Getting the exemption is not enough. You need a pilot’s license if you plan on making money with your drone. If it is just a hobby then the exemptions is enough.
    The Yuneec is a good system and it includes a handheld gimbal that works well using the same camera that’s on the drone. Yuneec’s support is very good and it has a nice warranty.

  • Yeah, it was only after I bought a Phantom 3 Advanced last week that I found out the FAA requires both a 333 exemption AND a pilot certificate to operate the drone commercially. It’s just plain stupid. How does it make sense to have hobbyists all over the skies with the same air craft but If you want to charge for the photos you have to have a pilot certificate? I predict that the final FAA rules will require some sort of knowledge test for commercial operators and not a full blown pilot certificate but who knows? I think I’m going to do as Jeff Griggs said. Be sensible and don’t do anything stupid and you won’t get in trouble. I really don’t think I will be using mine for other than acreage, lake fronts and estates. The Phantom 3 is so easy to operate once you get everything set up. If it’s up in the air and you let go of the controls the thing just hovers. If you drop dead it eventually flies back to where it started and lands. Amazing.

  • The new Yuneec Typhoon H hexacopter is in my opinion going to be a far better choice in several aspects: redundancy, backpack with extra battery included, embeded Android 7″ monitor.
    I own a P3 PRO and had an I1, The latter got a prop-system failure midflight and crashed, luckily i film all my flights for documentation and could claim crash warranty and got all my money back from the vendor after lots of paperwork with DJI. Am planning to move to Typhoon H for abovementioned reasons.
    It can also be flewn by Typhoon Wizard, very handy RC.

  • As mentioned in my earlier comment we outsource to professional companies, this is a really useful read from one company we work with. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/want-drone-professional-read-before-you-spend-penny-ben-o-leary?trk=prof-post

  • I agree with not to buy a drone, But I could say it is a good idea to buy a telescopic monopod, I meet this guy from the insurance company and he shows up with:

    $30 dollars moisture meter.
    $1000 thermos camera
    $20 12 feet stick or monopod for cameras, work with phones and cameras and you can takes pictures high enough to show a different view of the house. Bought it 30 days ago and have use it so many times.

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