Are you looking for a real estate drone? Aerial real estate photography is becoming more popular all the time. In some markets, it is almost a requirement that a listing has photographs, and often video, taken from the air. Professional pilots today can earn fees starting at $200 for a 30-minute job. So what is the best drone for the job? And what do you need to know before you fly? We are here to help.
Before you buy your real estate photography drone
If you want to make money flying drones in the United States then you will need to have a commercial license issued by the FAA. Not only does a license allow you to fly legally, but it will also give you a lot more freedom on where you can fly. The part 107 commercial drone exam covers a lot more than just the basic drone rules. If you are traveling or if you live in another country then make sure you follow the laws there as well.
We’ve taken and passed the part 107 exam, so we know what to expect. We would recommend taking a class if you aren’t already a pilot or someone familiar with aviation maps and laws. There are two really solid programs that we would recommend you look into. The Drone Pilot Ground School that is offered by UAV Coach, is an extensive online course with a one time fee of $299. There also is the highly-regarded Drone U program. It is a more affordable subscription-based program that starts at just $47.
Limit Your Liability
Once you’ve passed your part 107 you will want to create your own corporation. There are a lot of crazies out there and the best way to protect yourself and your family might be to incorporate. You will want to do some research but we’d recommend going with an S-Corp or LLC.
Insure Your Assets
You’ll want to get some insurance. Yes, there are some pay-per-flight insurance companies, but getting an annual policy will likely save you money and is likely your best bet. Some countries require insurance so make sure you know your local laws. Depending on your policy, insurance can not only protect your drone in the case of a crash but can also cover any accidental damage you may cause. For a great way to protect your DJI drone, you should take a look at DJI Care.
Register Your Real Estate Drone
You will want to make sure you know the local laws, but in the US you will have to register your drone if it is over 0.55 lbs and under 55 lbs. That means pretty much everything that is going to be able to take decent pictures and videos. It is only $5 to register with the FAA. Don’t get scammed. Go directly to the FAA’s website.
What Should I Look For In A Real Estate Drone Drone?
The most important thing when choosing your drone is the camera. A lot of people think that you need a 4K drone, but really that might not be your best option. It is rare that clients want 4K video for a real estate job and for most applications 1080p is the preferred choice. Why is 1080 the right choice? It is good enough and it uses just 25% of the memory that 4K video does. We happen to know the owner of one of the largest real estate video production companies in the US, CAVU, and they rarely shoot in 4K.
There are only a few companies that produce cameras with the quality you need. DJI, Yuneec, and Autel are the only ones we would recommend. After those three you don’t want to gamble with anything else. DJI is the clear leader but that does not mean they are your only option. Take your time and find what you think is best for you. Sometimes you can get a steal on an Autel Evo or a Yuneec Typhoon.
Gimbals vs EIS
You need a three-axis gimbal like the one on the Mavic 2 Zoom
Don’t be fooled by drones claiming they can smooth out video electronically. The Parrot Bebop does do some excellent EIS (electronic image stabilization) but all EIS relies on cropping the original image and quality does suffer. Make sure you are filming with a physical gimbal. We recommend a three-axis gimbal. EIS just won’t cut it for a good real estate drone.
You will want a drone with a minimum flight time of 20 minutes. Sure, you could make do with less, but getting the job done on one battery is ideal. You will definitely want to make sure you carry plenty of spare batteries in any case, but flight time is important especially for large jobs.
Range (Signal Strength)
While we think that range might just be the most overrated spec on drones, it is definitely important. A range of 4 miles is certainly ridiculous since you are required by law to keep the drone in sight at all times. What range specifications actually give you a good feeling for is signal strength. Typically drones with long ranges have good signal strength. You want to be able to control your drone with buildings, trees and other obstacles that might be between you and it. The better the range, the better the signal strength, and the happier you will be.
Avoid drones that rely on WiFi for the video feed like the Phantom 3 Standard or Spark since they can pick up interference in areas with a lot of WiFi interference, like the neighborhoods where you will be doing most of your filming.
The Mavic 2 series has built-in sensors to help with obstacle avoidance.
Obstacle avoidance is not a necessary feature for your real estate drone but it can certainly come in handy. Typically drones will have it on the front but side and rear obstacle avoidance are a lot more valuable. It is rare that you will fly forward into an obstacle, but judging side distance or rear distance is a lot more difficult. The Phantom 4 Pro or the Mavic 2 are your best options if you are looking for obstacle avoidance on all sides and from below.
Real Estate Drone Prices Can Vary
Before you go and spend your entire budget on one drone think about getting two. A true professional should have a backup drone just in case something happens to his or her main bird. If your Phantom 4 Pro ($1899) is out of commission for a week what are you going to fly? A Phantom 4 Advanced ($1495) can use the same batteries and accessories and would be a solid backup. It has the same exact camera.
Don’t forget about the Original Mavic Pro($875). It is a great portable drone. Heck, even the Autel Evo is a great option and now right around $1000. We have even done some real estate work with our $389 DJI Spark. It isn’t ideal, but you will want to have a plan B just in case.
The Best Real Estate Drone is…
The best option and the most trusted drone for real estate professionals is the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom ($1249). This may be a shock as most people will tell you the Phantom 4 has the best camera, or the color grading from the Mavic 2 Pro ($1499) is the best out there. Both of those statements might actually be true, but the zoom lens on the Mavic 2 Zoom makes it a better choice for this particular application. But I don’t believe that you need the absolute best camera on the market to take pictures of real estate. The Mavic 2 Zoom camera is spectacular and the zoom feature comes in handy.
The ability to zoom in can help the videographer get a great shot at a distance to avoid obstacles like trees or powerlines. The portability of the Mavic series may not seem like a big deal until you are lugging it from house to house. Yes, we love the DJI Inspire 2, but its large size and hefty price tag ($3000 without a camera) make it a hard drone to recommend. The smaller and quieter Mavic 2 will allow you to get in and out of your shoot quickly and relatively quietly without drawing a lot of attention your way. The Phantom and Inspire drones are big and loud and can draw a crowd.
Any of the Phantom 4 series drones are also great options, as it the Mavic 2 Pro and even the Autel Evo. However, for most real estate agents, I would recommend the Mavic 2 Zoom because if its portability and versatility. It really is the best option. Now you have to decide if you want to pick up a DJI Smart Controller with it…
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