Whensitcoming is supported by our readers. When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more
Many of us think of drones as toys for recreational purposes. However, drones have been disrupting many industries, including the real estate industry. Many top-notch agents have already been using drones for real estate photos and enjoying the amazing feedback from their clients.
- Drones in Realty
- What are the Benefits?
- What are the Limitations?
- What to Consider When Buying Drones for Real Estate Photos?
- Common Accessories for Camera Drones
The official name of a drone is an “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)”. It is an aircraft operated purely through remote controls by a human operator or a computer program. The very first drone was the Radioplane OQ-2. It was made by Reginald Denny in 1941. Comparing to its humongous 12 ft by 8 ft body, drones today are much more compact and lightweight. They are almost pocket size and no longer look like an actual plane.
Beyond military purposes, modern-day drones have an increasing impact on our society. They are used for humanitarian aids, weather forecasting, construction planning, delivering packages, etc. With improved photography and videography capabilities, drones are used by marketers nowadays to capture high-quality aerial pictures and videos. In the realty industry, on-demand drone photography companies are popping up to serve the luxury property industry. Many individual real estate agents are also adopting drones in their marketing efforts.
Drones in Realty
By 2016, it was reported that the real estate industry is among the most active ones to adopt drone technology. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 73% of homeowners say they are more likely to list with an agent that uses drone photography and video. The statistics from Multiple Listing Service (MLS) show that properties with aerial images are 68% more likely to sell than properties without aerial photography.
As drones become less expensive and more user-friendly, they are no longer upscale gadgets exclusively for enthusiasts. Rather than paying a fortune to a drone photography agency, realtors can take advantage of personal drones to prepare stunning portfolio photos for the properties they sell. In addition to the ability to capture traditional exterior and interior photos, many drones are also capable of shooting immersive 360-degree HD photos and videos.
If you are new to drone photography, it is a good idea to get a taste of it first. Before investing in a drone right away, you can hire an agency or an independent drone photographer. You can expect to pay about $30 to $50 for each raw image. The average price for a 1-5 minute drone video is around $500 to $1000.
Once you get more confident in operating a drone to take photos, you can then try buying one. We recommend that you first start by investing in an entry-level drone that is around $150 to $300. If you are up for fancy features or higher quality, you can look into high-end ones such as DJI Mavic 2 Zoom Drone or DJI Phantom 4 PRO Professional Drone. They can be as expensive as $6,000.
What are the Benefits?
Buying a home is a big event for most people. Making a purchase requires a thorough evaluation. The first step to buying a house is through the internet. Potential buyers use tools such as Zillow or Trulia to search for properties that meet their requirements. Unfortunately, people do judge a book by its cover. When hundreds of properties are shown in the search results, we are naturally drawn to the ones with well-presented high-quality pictures. Properties with 360 images or virtual tours quickly stand out and leave a good impression.
- Powerful aerial photos of the entire property and land: Traditional cameras can only take photos where the photographer can physically reach. Drones are operated by a pilot through remote controls. They can fly to different heights and angles to capture full images of the property and the land surrounding it. There are some desirable features of a property that cannot be expressed by traditional images. For example, if the property is in the dead-end corner, or it is near a beautiful river. Visual presentations of these highlights are much more compelling than texts in the often-overlooked descriptions.
- Interesting and engaging 360-degree images: To show a complete picture of the inside of a room, you need to take at least six pictures. A 360-degree photo gives the viewer a comprehensive picture of all dimensions of the place. In addition, it provides freedom for the viewer to rotate the picture however they want. If the potential buyer has a 360-degree headset, or if their phones are capable to view 360-degree pictures, they can even have an immersive experience of the property. On one hand, technologies like this generate more attention and interests, on the other hand, it helps screen out people who are not likely to be a potential buyer.
- Saving time by taking photos efficiently: Taking photos of real estate properties with a traditional camera requires a lot of physical work. You need to walk to every corner of the house or the backyard in order to cover the entire place. If you need to highlight some special features of the house, or if an image requires to be taken from a weird angle, you will be lucky if it can be done without assistance. With a drone, once you master the skill of piloting, taking photos from any angle at any height will be a piece of cake. You can take high-quality photos in a much shorter time. Therefore you can spend more time interacting with potential customers.
- Exciting virtual tours: Besides the ability to shoot videos of the interior and exterior of a property, what’s more impressive is that drones are capable of taking 360-degree videos. You can use the footage to make a virtual tour. A virtual tour is more engaging and feels more personal. On Zillow, properties with 3D home tours are labeled with a unique tag to help them stand out from standard listings. Who doesn’t want more exposure when it comes to marketing?
- Selling properties faster at a higher price: Good images are not only there to generate attention, but it also improves the potential buyers’ perception of the property. This, in turn, creates a sense of competition within the buyer. We all know that competition drives up the price. In addition, with detailed images and videos, you give the targeted audience the necessary information to screen it themselves. Therefore, you only deal with people who are most likely to be a buyer. This is especially important if the “hot season” for real estate transactions is short in the state you are in.
What are the Limitations?
- Upfront investment of buying a drone and accessories: If you are just starting out, investing in a cheaper drone that is under $300 may not make you broke. However, if you are planning to invest in a drone that is top of the line, it can cost you thousands of dollars. Similar to traditional cameras, there are a lot of useful accessories for drones. Extra batteries, cases, propeller blades, SD cards, carrying bags, etc. Investing in the equipment upfront can impose a financial burden.
- You will need to learn how to pilot a drone: Flying a drone can seem easy, but if you are a first timer, expect a learning curve. If reading the manuals and instructions of the equipment hasn’t completely drained your mental energy, you can dive into some Youtube videos to get a jump start. Once you get a hang of it, it will be exciting to learn some advanced tricks such as hovering and rotating mid-air.
- You will need to register your drone and may need to get a license: One thing we got asked a lot is “Do I need a license to fly a drone?” “Do I need to register my drone?” Effective on December 21, 2015, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) requires all UAS between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds to be registered. The cost is $5 for 3 years. As to the license, it depends on which state you live at. You can look for specific regulations by each state.
- FAA rules and regulations: Apart from registering your drone, the FAA has certain guidelines on where and how you can fly. For example, you should not fly a drone over groups of people or in a public event. You cannot fly a drone near an airport. The FAA has a B4UFLY mobile app that shows you where you can and cannot fly with interactive maps.
- Privacy concerns: When you are taking a photo or video using a drone, it is inevitable that you may get some other people in the footage. Always remember to plan ahead and limit the area you are shooting the photos or videos for. If you accidentally get other people in the photos, ask for their consent before publishing the photos. You can always process the video to remove unwanted objects using editing tools such as Photoshop or Adobe Premiere Pro.
- Not ideal for small condos or apartments: If you are trying to showcase a condo or apartment unless it is a luxury one with lots of features and highlights, chances are a traditional camera might be easier. Regular condos or apartments are straight-forward. They usually only have a few bedrooms and bathrooms. You don’t need to shoot pictures for any exterior or surrounding land. Therefore, just take out your traditional camera and snap some good photos. It doesn’t add too much value to use a drone.
What to Consider When Buying Drones for Real Estate Photos?
Selecting the right drone is the first step. Make sure that you thoroughly evaluate a drone before making the purchase. There is no one-size-fits-all guidance on which drone to buy. It all depends on your needs and preference. We have listed the most important factors to consider when buying a drone for real estate photo purposes. Once you have a good understanding of what to watch out for, you can make the best selection that suits your own style.
Support of Cameras
The biggest mistake many first-time buyers make is that they assume all drones come with a camera. Nope, not really! There are four types of drones in terms of its support of cameras:
- Drones with non-detachable built-in cameras: This type of drones is simple to set up and requires little technical know-how. If you are a beginner and want to get some quick hands-on experience, go with this type. The downside is that you get no flexibility of what camera to use. Therefore, consider an entry-level drone with decent cameras, such as the Holy Stone HS720.
- Drones with detachable built-in cameras: This is the most ideal type of drones when it comes to cameras. They come with a camera but you are not stuck with it. For example, the Holy Stone HS700D comes with a 2k camera but is compatible with Go Pros. If the camera goes faulty, or you want to experiment with different lenses, you have the freedom to replace it. The downside is that you need some technical knowledge to replace the cameras. Most such drones are compatible with GoPros. However, they don’t necessarily support all GoPro versions. Be sure to check what version of the GoPro they are compatible with.
- Drones without a camera but supports a camera attachment or mount: These drones don’t come with a camera but you can mount your own. They are usually less expensive. For example, the Altair Aerial Blackhawk drone allows you to mount GoPro Hero 4. If you already own a compatible GoPro and want to save some money, go with a less expensive drone like this.
- Drones without a camera and does not support a camera attachment: These drones are not meant to shoot photos or videos, nor can you attach your own. They are purely for recreational purposes. You can though buy a phone mount to use your phone as a camera. It is not an ideal solution for shooting professional-looking photos.
Camera Related Specifications
Drones cameras are not normal point and shoot cameras but they work similarly. Here are the camera-related things to consider in your evaluation.
- Optical sensor size: The sensor size has the most impact on image quality. The bigger the sensor, the more powerful the camera. Unfortunately, it also costs a lot more. The standard for the best camera drones today is a 1-inch sensor. The drone camera with the biggest optical sensor today is the DJI Zenmuse X7. It is the world’s first super 35mm full-frame digital camera designed specifically for aerial cinematography. However, for most of us, a 1-inch sensor is more than sufficient.
- Optical zoom: Most camera drones in the market today do not support optical zoom. If zooming is important to you, make sure that you select one that supports it. Most drones with zoom lenses are quite expensive. They can range from $1,000 to $6,000, such as the DJI Matrice 600 Pro Hexacopter. A cheaper alternative that is below $1,000 is Parrot PF728000 Anafi.
- Video resolution: The most common video resolutions for drone cameras are 480p SD, 720p HD, 1080p Full HD, 2K and 4K. For amazing videos, 4K resolution makes the most consistent videos. It is also the most common video resolution in medium to high-end camera drones.
- Continuous shooting speed: This measures how many frames the camera can capture in each second. The most common drone cameras have a continuous shooting speed of 20 to 30 frames per second (FPS).
- Image and video stabilization: Unlike traditional cameras held by hand or fixed on a tripod, a drone camera shoots photos and videos mid-air while flying. Many factors affect the stability of the drone: the pilot’s skill, the wind, the drone’s weight, etc. Having image and video stabilization is very important. Make sure that the drone you buy supports this feature.
Read More: Best Point and Shoot Camera Under $150
Ready-to-Fly (RTF) or Almost-Ready-to-Fly (ATF)
Don’t get nervous by these seemingly technical terms. They are nothing but the necessity to purchase extra parts. A drone that is ready-to-fly has all the necessary parts in the box. All you need to do is some simple setup such as attaching the propeller and calibration. Drones that are almost-ready-to-fly usually require some extra parts that are purchased separately. It might be a battery, a controller, a receiver, etc. The setup is also more complicated. For beginners who don’t want to invest too much money and time, go with a Ready-to-Fly.
Battery Capacity, Changeability, and Charging Time
The battery capacity determines how much power the battery can hold. It directly affects the flight time. If you need to shoot lots of photos and videos of a big property or you need to take photos of multiple properties at once, you may want to use a drone with longer flight time or a detachable battery. Camera drones available in the market today have a battery range from about 500 mAh to 4000 mAh.
The average flight time of most consumer drones today is between 10 to 30 minutes. While the charging time ranges from 1 hour to 3 hours. Of course, a battery with greater capacity is heavier, it adds to the weight of the drone. If you prefer a lighter drone, then consider one that has a replaceable battery or shorter charging time.
Transmitter Operation Range
The flying range specifies how far a drone can fly from the location of its controller, basically where you are. Though a longer range is more desirable, the price also climbs up as the range increases. For example, the Holy Stone HS170G costs less than $30 but can only fly about 30 to 50 meters. While the Autel Robotics EVO has a whopping 4.3 miles (6920 meters) flying range. If you are shooting photos and videos for a big piece of land or the entire neighborhood, look for one that can fly at least 1000 meters. Always remember to follow the FAA’s rules and regulations, especially if you are using a long-range drone.
Weight and Size
The size of a drone has many impacts on its capability when it comes to photo shootings. Is it safe to fly indoors? Can it shoot photos at certain angles? What detachable parts can it support? How portable is it? Though a small drone may be more portable and easier to carry around, a large drone is more stable for cameras.
Common Accessories for Camera Drones
Accessories expand the capacity of a drone. Though a Ready-To-Fly drone doesn’t require any extra parts, many of them do provide the flexibility for attachments. Listed below are the most common accessories to consider.
- Charging Station: Like a power bank, a charging station or charging hub allows you to charge your drone while on the go. Given the short flight time of the majority of drones, investing in a charging station can save you a lot of time.
- Propeller: Propellers are attached to the motor to help the drone ascend and descend.
- Propeller Guard: A propeller guard can be installed under the propeller to protect the propeller from breaking or crashing.
- Storage Card: A storage SD card helps expand the storage of the drone. It also makes it easier to transmit digital assets to your computer.
- Landing Pad: A landing pad helps keep the drone camera lens clean during take-off and landing. This is very important if you are flying your drone off of tall grass or pebble strikes.
- Goggles: Drone goggles give the pilot a First Person View (FPV) of where the drone flies. It helps guide your piloting and provides a more immersive experience.
- Phone Mount: If the drone you use doesn’t come with a camera, you can get a compatible phone mount as a walk around.
- Carrying Bag: A carrying bag or organize bag helps you pack all drone equipment and accessories in one place. It also helps protect your drone from damage during transportation.
Showing off the properties you sell using stunning high-quality images and interactive 360 virtual tours make you stand out amongst other competitors. Especially in an overly crowded real estate market and the changing taste of today’s buyers. Leveraging technology can increase the turnaround time and the selling price, hence increase your bottom line. Select a drone that works for your skill level and budget. Though there is a learning curve, you will enjoy the tremendous payoff later for a much longer time.