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RCMA Presentation At Real Estate Connect®

Published: 27/03/2014
By: larry

InmanConnectThe Real Estate Connect® conference put on by Inman News was held last January 15-17 in NYC.

This is a video of a session at last January's Real Estate Connect titled, Why the real estate industry has been an early adopter of drones. The session is by Matt Murphy of Boston Virtual Imaging,

First of all I can't help commenting on the fact that the sooner we all quit using the term Drone for these devices the better. The process of regulation of these devices is going to be difficult enough without using the same term for them that we use for shooting people. Call them UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or RCMA (Remote Control Model Aircraft) or model airplanes. It's in everyone's best interest to STOP calling them Drones.

The reason I wanted pass on Matt's little presentation is several fold:

  1. Agents are all being educated in the aspects of RMCA and there huge potential in real estate photography and videography. This kind of talk at conferences is clearly building a big demand for aerial photography videography.
  2. Matt shows the the three general sizes of RCMA. We've had discussions about the pros and cons of medium size vs large RCMA.
    •  Blade Nano: As Matt points out using a little guy like this to build up your expertise without putting more expensive gear at risk. This doesn't even carry a camera. It's just for getting flying practice.
    • DJI Phantom 2: The medium size RCMA that carries a GoPRO.
    • DJI S800 EVO: The upper-end RMCA that will carry DSLRs.

With these kind of presentations being given at Real Estate Connect you can see why agents are getting RCMA themselves and demanding that RCMA aerial video be a part of their videos.

25 comments on “RCMA Presentation At Real Estate Connect®”

  1. A year ago, I would have been interested. Today, he said nothing. I'd love to have seen the big boy fly. Waste of 8 minutes.

  2. Hi Everyone,

    Thanks for watching the video and the comments. To provide some context for the video, this was delivered to a large room full of non-technical real estate agents and executives, most of whom were seeing a UAS fly for the first time. We only had 8 minutes to provide a very quick intro to a broad topic so it wasn't the right forum for a deep dive into the technical or regulatory issues. However, I enjoy talking about the more in depth technical and regulatory issues and would be happy to continue the conversation here.

    I would have liked to fly the larger hexcopter in this video but the stage area was very close to the audience so I played it safe and flew the Phantom with prop guards. Flying a big hexcopter without prop guards in close quarters next to 1000+ people would not have been the right thing to do in this situation.

    Thanks for the comments about the word "Drones" vs "UAS", "UAV", "RCMA". I agree that we would all be better off if the public knew these machines as something other than "Drones". However, I think the word "drone" is a term that may be with us for the long term. I think it may be easier to get the general public to think of the word "drone" in a more positive light than it will be to teach the general public a new vocabulary. Either way, public perception needs to change towards a more positive understanding of how these machines will be integrated into everyday life. I do believe that we will get there.

    Feel free to contact me. I enjoy talking about this stuff and I'm happy to share what we've learned along the way.

    -Matt Murphy

  3. Not sure how many people who criticized your video have ever actually had to stand up in front of a conference and give a presentation, but I think you informed the audience about the most important aspect of AP and that's the ability to tell a story cost effectively from a perspective that wasn't easily doable before the introduction of this technology.

    Real Estate agents just need to be aware that its available and how it might differentiate their listings from others, they don't need to know where to purchase one or how to fly it.

  4. @Matt Murphy - I can't stress enough how much I appreciate the number of times you mentioned safety, or did something that anyone who flies one of these would recognize as the safe choice.

    With an audience made up of real estate agents looking for an edge, I would have been terrified by any presentation that sent the crowd scrambling to see who could be first to purchase and fly the biggest, baddest MR on the block.


  5. I think UAV's are cool, but where does the cost verses risk verses payback make it a going venture? We all can use google aerial view with attribution right now, however the point here is the inside needs to be shot too. After it is done, will the output be really a money maker? Will the agents go for the charge you need to make a profit? Yes high end homes may want this but they are not selling fast...if it is just a way to grab the listing, then maybe I can see it.

    What happens when the insurance companies catch up on the risk cost? What happens when you lose one in a tree or a lake with your camera aboard...where is that replacement cost going to come from? How many more do you have to do, just to brake even?

    So many tools out there but I really think this is just an cool attention grabber for now. QR codes are free to use but how many of them do you see in real estate actually being used?

    Websites for agents don't get the attention needed, single property websites are not found easily. My point I don't see the ultimate value in learning and investing into this technology as the pay back won't be there. I'll wait for the market to catch up with the hype. But I still think they are a cool toy, so when I have an extra $2,000 to waste on a toy maybe I will.

  6. @Tom Garrett - insurance aside (it's a total unknown for the moment), the math changes by location. In my area, UAV aerial stills from a small camera (Hero3+ Black or better) run $200-$300. Video runs higher. Considering that you can outfit yourself for decent video in the $2500-$12,000 range without trying too hard, the venture would doesn't really fit the "Cool extra" category.
    I'm not suggesting you spend money on something that you don't see as a viable (profitable) tool for your business, but it's most definitely not just a toy in all markets.

  7. Thanks Dan...yes it definitely has it's place. It just does not make sense yet in my marketplace. Most agents will not spend money on regular photography let alone UAV vids

  8. @Tom Garrett, obviously everyone has to evaluate their own situation but if what @Daniel says is true that you can get $200-$300 for stills and more for video with an estimated $3500 worth of equipment, when most photographers are only charging approximately $200 for stills and a little more for video of the entire house with a comparable investment in equipment, then I'd argue that you could probably make a good argument for just doing aerial.

    You give some good reasons for not jumping on the UAV bandwagon but there are some compelling reasons for doing AP too. First it provides a perspective on the property that most photographers can't easily provide and most realtors want. Even for something as simple as an elevated shot of the front of the house I can launch my MR in less time, with less effort than it would take using a pole and certainly less expensive then a full sized aircraft. It provides a much better quality and more personal view of the property than Google. Is this required for every property? No more than twilight shots and PAP.

    A key to profitable AP is your equipment, is it quick to deploy, easy to fly and dependable. For the elevated shot previously mentioned I simply:

    1. take the quad out, place it on the ground facing the property
    2. turn on the camera, plug in the battery [or tether]
    3. wait for about a minute for the quad to initialize and lock in the GPS
    4. hit the record button on the camera
    5. arm the MR and immediately advance the throttle to 50%, the quad automatically takes off and comes to about a six foot hover
    6. Increase the throttle until the MR gets to the desired height, 10' to 20'
    7. reduce the throttle to 50% and let it hover there for as long as I want but 30 seconds is plenty
    8. reduce the throttle enough to start a descent
    9. land and unplug the MR battery and hit the record button
    10. put it away

    I can do that whole sequence in five minutes, its safe and very easy to do and I don't know a single realtor that doesn't want an elevated front establishing shot. Are they willing to pay for it? Would I charge $200 for that? At the very least, no. But if you add that shot to the rest of the great shots you've done of the house you'll almost always have a very happy client.

    It really is that simple but what most photographers and realtors seem to fail to recognize is that what people are really looking for, the thing that separates AP from all other photography is the perspective. They aren't really interested in showing off your piloting skills. If all you did was provide 10 different vista's of the property accomplishing it the way I described, can you charge $200? I can't answer that but I can tell you that if your calm and follow those very simple steps for every shot you can complete that shoot in about 15 minutes.

    QR codes are a gimmick, Ap is not. It provides a different view, much the same way as a wide angle lens. Should you use a wide angle lens on every shot?

  9. To add to what Chuck said, when I mentioned to the owner of a real estate sales company that I was thinking about getting into REP the first thing she asked is if I could do "radio control" photography. My Phantom 2 is on order. I don't think it will take too long to pay for itself.

  10. I did a test of the gimbal in windy conditions. It was about 10mph gusting to 20mph. I shot this with a GoPro 1080P30, if you look off in the distance you can see a couple of things, there's a white wind sock in the middle of the field and its standing straight out, you can see the the traffic on the freeway so you know this was not shot at 60FPS and slowed down to make it look more stable and how much the trees are moving in front of the building. With the exception of editing the length and encoding this video is "raw."

    There's nothing great or exciting about this shot, but that's kind of the point in such windy conditions. Anyone that has been doing aerial knows how difficult it can be getting good footage in gusty conditions. Although not a well composed shot you can get a sense of how stable this is.

  11. No, for GoPro's I use the XAircraft Stella Gimbal. Most of the other GoPro gimbals require tuning and have a horizontal drift problem when you yaw, that's part of what I was testing with this shot to make sure the horizon stayed level.

  12. ''No, for GoPro’s I use the XAircraft Stella Gimbal. Most of the other GoPro gimbals require tuning and have a horizontal drift problem when you yaw, that’s part of what I was testing with this shot to make sure the horizon stayed level.''

    Chuck, I;d like to know your suggestions for a beginner. Which outfit do you make or recommend for someone to invest in, that wants to use for AP in real estate.?
    I know it;s an open question, but your thoughts would be appreciated.

  13. Hi @Ken, if you have no experience at flying RC and AP then for the price you can't beat the DJI Phantom. I'd recommend the Phantom2 with the Stella gimbal, that way you can use the GoPro for other shots not just aerial.

    The downside to the Phantom is:

    After some experience you'll probably outgrow it and start looking for a different setup. What I mean by that is when you start out you'll find that after ten aerial shots there might only be one or two good ones that you can use, the shots weren't framed correctly, timing was off [too short or too long], only had part of an important object in the shot etc.. As you gain experience, that shooting ratio improves and you start wanting better control, more responsive with more stability. Depending on how often your flying and your aptitude for this sort of thing will be the deciding factor.

    A bigger downside to the Phantom is as you get better at shooting aerial footage you'll also probably want to upgrade the look of your footage by switching to a better camera. At this point the GoPro is about as good as it gets for camera's that size, you might decide to move up to a Sony NEX or Panasonic GH4 and there's no way that a Phantom can safely fly anything bigger than a GoPro.

    You won't get the level of stability in the conditions that I shot the clip that I posted earlier using a Phantom but that doesn't mean you can't achieve that level of stability with the Phantom, you just have to wait for the right conditions. So it depends on your location and how flexible your schedule is waiting for good conditions.

    The upside:

    Its pretty much an off-the-shelf plug-n-play solution for flying a GoPro. If you want a little expandability you should check out the DJI F450 this too is a good beginner quad but it requires a little more "RC DIY" knowledge to setup and tune.

    Even after you outgrow the Phantom and purchase something like what myself [and others] are offering the Phantom is still a valuable tool to use in situations where you might not want to risk more expensive equipment and its still great to practice with.

    The models of MR's that I am going to offer are complete, the next phase for me is to build the website and start marketing. I am starting the process of dismantling the prototypes to figure out more efficient ways to assemble the different models in a way that makes it easier to add, swap out and upgrade different components. I think it will take about 60 days before its online and start sales. I'd be willing to sell the prototype that I used to shoot that video for $3500. That would pretty much be an RTF solution where the only additional thing you'd need to buy would be the GoPro.

    That would be a great solution for someone, especially if your located in the Los Angeles area.

    But as I said, if your a beginner I think the Phantom is a great trainer that will enable you to get up to speed quickly and start shooting decent AP.

  14. Looking forward to seeing your products Chuck. Depending on what the feds do, a larger MR that can carry a better camera will be the natural progression from the Phantom.

  15. with a 400$ RTF quad you can already shoot with a sony nex-5R with a 16mm lens and it even has remote liveview.

  16. @Pedro I would discourage anyone from flying a $400 camera, a couple of hundred dollar gimbal, over a $300,000 house with a $400 quad. You might want to think about what happens when it all goes wrong.

  17. Chuck, thanks for the info.
    I decided to start out with the Phantom 2 Vision...the new + version just about to release.
    Since I;m not a tinkerer...I think I'm better off at this point to get a plug and go model 🙂
    The new Vision has the newer gimbal that offers more , and the Phantom has had some other improvements.
    Maybe one day, I;ll have one of your models.
    Thanks again, Chuck, for sharing your thoughts and suggestions.

  18. It all depends on your definition of drone. Titan developed aerial platforms for providing the internet in remote areas. They are designed to loiter at high altitudes for long periods of time so that they have a line-of-sight LOS to transmit data. Aerial imagery would be a bonus but they wouldn't have the ability to target a specific home or location.

    Multirotors can be purpose built solutions that hover, take footage of exactly what you need, are easy, safe and efficient to deploy for property videos. This is not a threat to that business in any way.

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