At long last, the FAA outlined rules for using drones and issued 500 permits for commercial use, with real estate businesses winning the lion’s share of them — more than 30 percent — the most popular application being aerial videos that showcase homes. You might be asking yourself if using drones in your real estate business is viable — even necessary — to stay competitive or if it’s just a flash in the pan. Whatever you decide, drones are shaping up to be the next evolution in real estate marketing.
Here are a few things to think about if you’re considering drones for your real estate photography.
Drones have more uses than you realize
Drones — also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) — are typically associated with military applications. For real estate agents, however, drone photography can show potential buyers a variety of things, including:
- Encompassing aerial views of the entire property and land
- What the drive home or the kids’ walk to school looks like
- The neighborhood and surrounding area, including the home’s proximity to amenities
- Civic developments or local improvement districts (LIDs) that the buyer’s property taxes might contribute to
- Property maps and surveys
Drones make elevated imagery affordable
Many real estate agents obtain elevated photography using airplanes and helicopters, which can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per flight and limit the number of properties you can afford to shoot. Drones can significantly cut the cost of shooting elevated imagery — viable models start at a few hundred dollars, and camera attachments are similarly moderately priced — and enable you to use their aerial footage on many more listings, regardless of price range.
Depending on your equipment setup, drones can shoot stills, video or both. You can edit and share the video using a number of tools and without extensive experience or expertise. Drone operation mostly requires a steady hand and a cool head — no need to hire a professional pilot. And even if you do choose to outsource your drone photography, it might still be less expensive than hiring an airplane or helicopter.
Chances are you’ll need a piece of paper to fly
The idea of drones buzzing around your head or taking illicit footage of you through your window is disturbing and not lost on the FAA. Their proposal this year allows drones up to 55 pounds to fly within sight of their pilot — who must be 17 or older and certified by the TSA — and only during daylight. The drones can’t go higher than 500 feet or fly faster than 100 mph. Further guidelines should address additional concerns regarding:
- Privacy: Even though the seller grants you permission to obtain drone footage of their home for your marketing purposes, will the neighbors feel under the microscope as well?
- Safety: What happens if a home you need photography for is located near an airport — typically an FAA no-drone space with heavy fines for violation?
- Noise: How will drone operation be governed so that their noise doesn’t interfere with life at ground level?
Drones are here to stay
Drones are already in the sky — being used for a variety of applications, including law enforcement, telecommunications, weather monitoring and more — and they’re going to stay there. The FAA is currently issuing permits at a rate of approximately 250 per month and is using summary grants to speed up exemption approvals — with photography being 50 percent of the usage requests — and estimates that around 7,500 commercial small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) will be in operation within five years after commercial use is approved. A studyby the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) estimates that integrating drones into the national airspace will generate more than $13.6 billion and create more than 70,000 new jobs in the first three years of integration. AUVSI also projects that tax revenues to states will exceed $482 million in the first 11 years of integration, and that states with flourishing aerospace industries will benefit the most from drone integration.
Using drones for real estate photography will become increasingly common as agents ask the FAA to issue more permits and hash out the guidelines for commercial use. No matter what rules are in place, using drones will spark some degree of controversy, but there’s no rebottling that genie. Once federal, state and industrial organizations agree on the major points, drone adoption and operation will quickly escalate. If you’re considering using drones for real estate photography, be ready for it: You might be the first in your area to offer clients that service, making you stand out from the competition in addition to adding a serious wow factor to your marketing.