Agents/Brokers, Would you hire a drone to take aerial video/photos of a listing?

13 Replies

Hey BP Fam, 

I was curious if anybody has ever hired a drone (mini RC helicopter) to take aerial video or photo's of a listing? I found an good deal on a very nice drone, and the guy said he used it several times for agents on their new listings. He said the average price was $100-150 per home. 

I think it would be really cool to have a drone, but I'm all about investing my money so I cant justify making the purchase without any practical use. 

So, my question to you experienced agents and brokers is: Would you, or have you ever hire a drone operator to take aerial footage of your property? 

I would also be doing the video editing, I can put some text throughout, and a voice over if desired. 

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated! Cheers! 

@Blake Woodham ,

Hey there.  Yeah definitely!  There's a local lender in my area that offers this service, I think free of charge.  I haven't done it but I know one agent did it on a couple million dollar home sand I think it looks great.  I'll try and find them.  Here they are. 

This one is listed at $3,290,000

He did two shots on this one.  Listed at $2,549,900 - $2,379,900.  I think all of these came out super nice.  

Oh wow! Those look amazing!! I think this would be pretty useful on the coast of Florida! Now I just have to talk myself into spending the $1500 to get a nice setup! 

This would also help get some listings or at least help out some fellow agents! 

I would definitely do it, but I've heard it's illegal for someone to charge to take pictures with a drone.  There was a guy doing it in my area, but he's no longer doing it... I believe because of my statement above.

If it's a smaller house no, I wouldn't do it, but the big houses definitely!  We had a 30 acre property with two houses, lake, woods, cleared out land, etc.  It was like your very own park!  It would have been great to have a drone for that property.

Do you know why it is illegal to charge for it? Seems like it would just be an additional option for listing photos...

Well, old Bill knows why it's illegal, LOL

Because that is a commercial aviation venture defined by FAA Regulations and drones have not yet been cleared for commercial use yet. I dread the day they are and have to watch pizza flying over me on some delivery!

Besides, the GKs are getting drones from old Santa, you can buy one as a toy, it flies okay in calm winds, stay under 500 feet, they come with a camera that you down load, at under $300 they don't transmit pics but take them.

Now, if you're a HAM technician (FCC) you can operate a more powerful drone and put a video transmitter on to transmit pics, guessing that might be about a grand if you fabricate your own camera and transmitter on the drone.

Either way, you can own your own for less than a few jobs from that guy.....who is probably in violation as well.

Now, IMO, your photo would not have been used in commerce, what you do with it or how you use it I don't think would be a concern to the FAA! :)

In the US, drone regulations are still being held up the FAA.  And, if some of the stuff I've read is correct, pilots associations.  There is some push that in order to operate a drone you must have a pilot's license.  I read a story yesterday where an FAA exec acknowledged they have been moving slowly and would try to move more quickly.   Lots of companies working in the area who are being hamstrung by regulations (sound familiar?) and who are now saying they're going to move their research and development overseas because they have no other choice.

As a business, I think this has limited prospects.  Not because the photos aren't useful.  Rather because the barrier to entry is so low.  If the regulatory barriers are removed, the cost of setting up a business taking these pictures or video is so low that there will be plenty of players.

Agree with Jon... what's the competitive advantage?

That said, there are still plenty of photographers out there working when all you need is a few hundred dollars for a great digital SLR and they seem to be able to charge $80 - 100/hr... soooooo...??

It may be a first movers business... get the reputation and the referrals and you might be able to dominate the area simply based on that.

Bill and Jon took care of the answer!

Oh, a few weeks ago I was strolling around town, about to cross the street, when a drone came flying by.  Stopped, the camera went in circles, then it took off again.  About 20 feet later it hit the traffic pole and came crashing down about 5 feet from two girls.

Then, about a minute later, some guy with the control started running to pick it up!

Could you imagine if that hit the girls, or went right into traffic?  Obviously... this guy would have been in a crap load of trouble.

@Jon Holdman  

As a licensed pilot, I know from experience that piloting skills do not always translate well to drone flight. The 2 destroyed drones sitting in my living room are proof lol.

@Blake Woodham  

Back on topic, I agree that it doesn't look to be a very viable business opportunity, but they're great for taking pics of your own properties and fun as hell to fly! The latter being the biggest benefit of ownership :)

Director of the FAA was on a news show, discussing drone issues. One requirement is that the pilot must keep line of sight at all times while flying any remote aircraft. There are flight rules for remote control aircraft. When you buy a remote control A/C the rules are included and an application for licensing if and as applicable to that unit. Can't fly anything in an airport control zone without clearance, never could, but there are people playing with them at the ends of runways and several are being caught. 

Got two quad-copter camera drones for the GKs last week, mailed already, I flew one like them before I got them and they are not like the old R/C helicopters that require skill, these are very easy to fly, push a button to click the pic.

So, Jon's point of low barrier to entry was not exaggerated, less the $270, a 12 year old can fly it and take pics, so I'd say that's a pretty low barrier to a business. Later on, RE offices and Realtors will probably have something and may nor charge anything for advertising pics. Many already have drones.

If you want a business out of these, after commercial operations are opened up, I'd think you'd be better off getting a much larger version, with streaming video. Lots of industries need to do observations for maintenance, contaminated areas, tower inspections, oil & gas, marine uses, security areas, the list is endless, large companies will have their own but small ones or contractors that have limited uses may rent or hire an operator. It would be great to check fence rows remotely. A license will be required I'm sure for remote operations out of the line of sight.

General aviation pilots won't be liking this, drone airspace would need to be designated and pilots will need to fly through it and it will make flying nap of the earth or low altitude flying more concerning.

I think the push back on this is largely economic, clothed in safety concerns.   Drones can be used much more economically for a number of applications that currently require piloted aircraft.  Pipeline, power line, and other types of inspections.  Crop dusting.  Etc.  Folks with a vested interest in these existing industries feel threatened by being replaced by drones.  Rightly so.  So, as in MANY other cases, they're fighting back through legislation.

And, like in some of these other cases, they may have short term success with this approach.  But, IMHO, its only a matter of time before these barriers get knocked down and use of drones becomes routine.

Thank you all for the great info. As an active flyer in the Air Force, I completely understand the concerns of drones. I fly low-level (300 AGL) and I could only imagine sucking up a 25lb drone in in a engine. No bueno. 

I did some digging around and these are the only real "rules" that I can find on the topic. 

1. Commercial use of drones is illegal unless you have a COA from the FAA. (mostly movie companies, military, fire departments, etc. are the only current holders of COA's) 

2. Obama directed the FAA to open up the process of applying for a COA. (There wasn't a set process to apply for it; its still in the works).  

3. Model Aircraft (for recreational and hobby use) are limited to 400ft AGL. If they come within 5nm of an airport, they must notify the controlling agency. 

4. The aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;

5. Must stay in Line Of Sight of the operator. 

There are probably a lot of other rules, but these cover the basics. See the info-graph below. 

This case involved Raphael Pirker, who was fined $10,000 by the FAA for flying a drone over the University of Virginia to obtain promotional footage."

I have also read elsewhere that they are not really cracking down on Real Estate agents, but I see that changing as the regulations get tighter. 

For now, I guess I will just hold off on my drone adventure. I might just get one to fly around on the beach and try to spot fish in the ocean. The one I am looking at has the FPV, Gimbal, and all the other bells and whistles. Pretty sweet man-toy! 

Thank you all for the great replies! 

@Blake Woodham   Looks like you found the pertinent information. My son, Michael, actually has a drone, and we have taken pics of a parcel of land that we will be developing in Capistrano Beach, CA. We wanted to find out if there was any view to be had from the roof top deck, so we measured off some string, took the drone up and spun it around taking pics. However; it was our property, and the drone was always within the space of the lot. 

Michael also said that there's an attorney in New York that has now switched his practice to solely defending those fined by FAA or other agencies for their drone use. 

Alot of the issue is people flying to close to airports making it a hazard, and photographers buzzing over celebrities homes trying to get pictures. I can understand why they are trying to find a workable solution. 

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