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What Is the Best Drone for Real Estate Photography?

April 12th, 2017

I’ve had several people ask me to recommend a drone for real estate photography recently.

In researching this subject I found this recent review of drones for real estate photography by Andrew Nixon. This is a useful guide for using drones in real estate photography.

Rather than recommending only one Andrew recommends three:

  1. Typhoon H – Best value
  2. Phantom 4 PRO – Most advanced features
  3. DJI Inspire 1 v2.0 – Best for professional video

Additionally, just a few hours before I put up this post, Tony and Chelsea Northrup uploaded a video that compares all the top DJI drones.

What do you think is the best drone for real estate photography?

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13 Responses to “What Is the Best Drone for Real Estate Photography?”

  • Sorry for long post, TLDR: I really like all of the DJI products, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them.

    I started shooting RE aerials with the Phantom 3 Pro connected to an Android phone. The still camera was meh for stills, but with some work you could get decent photos. I’ve since moved to the Phantom 4 Pro with an iPad mini 4, and even though the camera is much better (mechanical shutter, larger sensor, selectable focus, adjustable f stop) the stills are still not as good as the video. I wonder why that is. Also the saturation in the video is a bit low when recording video in D-Log.

    I considered the Mavic and Inspire 2 and test flew each. Loved the Mavic and was torn between the Mavic and the P4P. The small size and low weight of the Mavic is what convinced me to go with the P4P as the waterfront properties get pretty windy and the Mavic wouldn’t stand a chance. As a matter of fact, the P4P fought so hard on one of my first flights with it it started drifting away, at full throttle! I had to drop altitude and switch to sport mode. I don’t think the Mavic would have made it.

    The Inspire is cool! It’s huge and you’d never have to worry about getting the blades in the shot. ROI on an Inspire isn’t that good. The Inspire 1 Pro comes with the same camera as the Phantom 3 Pro and is so much more expensive to run. If you upgrade to the X5 camera you double the price of the Inspire, but you do get a much better camera. The Inspire 2 has all the collision avoidance and useful bells and whistles one would want on a “drone” but I can’t justify the price. Right now the Inspire 2 is about 3K, the X4s (same camera that is on P4P) is an additional 500ish. For that price you can have two P4Ps and multiple batteries and shoot 90% of what the Inspire will. Plus it’s too big for me to transport. I have a large Pelican case with two P4Ps in it with extra batteries, props, and accoutrement. I couldn’t imagine carrying two Inspires.

    P.S. Getting into using a drone has started me down a slippery slope of multi rotor stuff. I’ve built a racing drone from scratch, attached cameras to micro drones, and have joined local groups for FPV racing and general drone shenanigans.

  • My 1st was an Inspire 1… 2nd was an Inspire 1 v2…. and my 3rd, and the one I use now, is an Inspire 1 PRO. Love all of them… but the Inspire is a bit LARGE… have thought about getting a smaller drone for smaller jobs.

    I crashed the 1st Inspire three times… costing me close to $600 in repairs… but I was still learning. After you pay a few repair bills you quickly learn to be more conservative and cautious…

  • I heard very good things about the Mavic Pro. Stable, Small (fits in a bagpack) an a good camera too.
    This pano is made with the Mavic Pro… http://hdrpano.ch/diab8.html

  • I started with a p3pro. Did the job well and have since upgraddd to the P4pro. Much better sensor. Inspire would be a little overkill I think for most real estate work. P4 with a backpack and iPad is a great tool to have. About half the shoots I do involve a drone now.

  • I started with a DJI Phantom 3 Standard. It was a nice airframe but the image quality was terrible. I ended up doing a lot of research and moves to Autel Robotics. Fantastic airframe very similar to DJI. Better software, great range, and most importantly great image quality. I really only use it for stills but have been incredibly happy with it and it is very well priced. It also has a swappable payload so if a newer camera is releases you can put it on the same air frame. Right now it uses the Sony Exymos R sensor which is fantastic. Also comes with a great controller as well as a hard case for a relatively low price.

  • @Rich King

    I’m so envious that you’re getting that much aerial work! I push aerial around here so hard and it just has not taken off. I’m currently using a P2 Vision +. It’s old and outdated but if I’m not getting new work it’s really hard to justify a new purchase (would buy a 4 Pro). The sensor is very small and images need a good amount of processing but all said and done still produces solid results.

    Rich, if you don’t mind me asking, are you busy in your area? I have family members who just purchased a home in Beaufort, S.C. and was down there this past weekend helping them move (I’m in NJ). Curiously, I was checking out the local listings/rental’s and didn’t seem like people were using professionals too often?

  • I would love to be able to fly every drone made then tell you which is the best for real estate work… but I can’t. I can tell you about my experience with the two that I have owned.

    I first purchased the Bebop drone because it was affordable. However, it was not a stable aircraft. Interface was terrible… as a matter of fact I’ve already wasted too much time on the Bebop. No… no, no, no… just don’t. It’s an overpriced toy.

    I’ve been using the DJI Phantom 3 Pro for over a year now and I love it. I’m sure the Phantom 4 is better in some ways, but the P3P has no real issues that would warrant an upgrade at this time. The aircraft is very stable… very easy to fly… and has plenty of great features. I must agree with John that the video quality is better than the still image quality. So photos do take a bit of tweaking. (ie. color correcting, contrast adjustment, etc) My only complaint would be that the aircraft, controller, camera and iPhone app are always being updated. That’s both good and bad. It’s good to know that DJI is constantly improving. It’s bad because many times the updates are required in order to fly. So if you didn’t do a certain update before you went out to fly, you might be grounded. So it’s best to do a preflight check before you show up on location.

    Lastly, I’m seriously considering the DJI Mavic as a backup to my P3P because of its size and portability. It also has many updated features of the Phantom 4.

  • Mavic Pro. Great portability with many of the features of the Phantom Pro.

  • I have a 3DR Solo that they have quit making so eventually it will become obsolete with no software upgrades. My biggest gripe is it is a gopro camera only up to 4 Black. After that the relationship with Gopro was severed since Gopro came out with their own drone and they would not support 3DR Solo any longer. Why support the competition? I do not blame Gopro but I am sort of happy that Karma has flopped too. Regardless, all the features that the Solo has when it comes to photography and videography was to me spot on (I later realized….they where ok, but not spot on). Now, I am looking towards another drone since I will run into problems eventually and I want to improve my drone capture quality. I have been eyeing the Autel Robotics and I was curious how John M, aerial photos looked so I went over to his website. GORGEOUS work John M. I can see why you like it.

    I wanted to check out where Autel Robotics where…..and now I decided that I will go with Autel. I started to laugh! They are 5 miles south of where I live. WITHIN my own county. So I am going down there to check out their facilities within the next few days. I wish I had gone with Autel Robotics initially instead of 3DR Solo now…..oh well!!

    The part that excites me is that the payload can be swapped to meet to meet the job requirement and camera upgrades!

  • “What’s the best drone to buy?” is a lot like asking “What’s the best car to buy?”. You need to figure out what your budget is going to be. What will your customer’s pay for the service. Are you doing tract homes (don’t bother doing drone shots) or estates. What quality level are your customers going to expect. What’s the final output for the footage? Do you need/want to use a better camera than what comes with the lower priced models? Even your average wind profile is going to be a factor.

    If you are unsure if your customers will be willing to pay very much of a premium, you will need to limit your budget and your choices will be limited. If you know that you will have to battle more than a breeze and need to carry a real camera with interchangeable lenses to meet the quality and performance levels your customers will pay you for, the price can go way up. Your purchase has to make financial sense for your situation. If you are a professional mechanic working on aircraft, you aren’t buying your tools at the dollar tool store. If you are fixing your neighbors cars in exchange for beer and pizza, you aren’t buying from the Snap-on truck.

  • Phantom 4, good quality, recovers from bad handling, reasonably priced. Good images. Don’t forget image ratio is different from your stills rig so allow for cropping. Oh, get FAA certified. It’s not worth a $1000 fine and you will get more work when you are legal. Also a good way to take work from those that aren’t.

  • Just a note on the Phantom 4 & Phantom 4 Pro. I am sure most of us know that yesterday DJI announced their latest version of the Phantom 4, the Phantom 4 Advanced and Phantom 4 Advanced Plus instead of a Phantom 5. The Advanced seems to offer even better features with the Plus including it own monitor that can be raised to twice as bright as a cell phone. Useful in bright sunny days. Perhaps the Phantom 4 & Pro will start selling for discounted prices.

  • One thing I’ve already found with my Mavic (just starting aerial this season), is that it works great as a stand-in for PAP. Can be up, flying take multiple pics, and have it back in the box in just a few minutes. It is, after all, just a ‘flying camera.’ 🙂

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