Real Estate Drone Video Tip #2 – Shooting Video in Tight Residential Neighborhoods

There was a comment on the site several weeks ago asking how to shoot drone videos in closely packed residential neighborhoods versus properties out in the country. This is a very good question, as shooting drone video in suburban neighborhoods present several unique problems that must be addressed:


How do I only focus on the property I am interested in?


I found this to be the most difficult problem. With houses packed so close together, it is almost impossible to not get other houses in your shot. However, you should make sure that you remove other properties as much as possible, as they are not your subject of interest, and will only detract from the property you are trying to showcase. Here are some general tips that will help you:


  1. Plan your shoot before you get there. Check out the home on Google Maps before you get there. See just how close the surrounding properties are. This will help you determine your video sequence before you get there, saving yourself time during the actual shoot.


  • Does the property have a large backyard? If it does, this could provide you with a lot of real estate (pun intended) for you to do flyovers of the house and not fly over nearby properties.
  • Is there a long driveway to the house? If so, this could provide with a nice shot leading up to the house, which can give a potential buyer a sense of what driving up to the home would look like.


What camera settings/video settings should I use?


I am not going to dive into this too much, since your actual settings will be very specific to the day of your shoot, but the 2 recommendations I have are this:


  1. ALWAYS use RAW format. This allows you to edit the video later in your post-processing and adjust colors as necessary.
  2. I always set the white balance to AUTO. This automatically adjusts if it is sunny, cloudy, etc.




What privacy concerns must be addressed for surrounding properties?


When you are shooting videos in rural areas, you do not have to concern yourself with surrounding properties. You can shoot your video, and not capture any other homes in the process. However, when you are in suburban areas, you will find great difficulty with not capturing other homes. There are 2 main things you can do to only capture your subject property in your videos:


  1. Plan your video sequence to capture as few properties as possible – This is easier said than done, but you don’t have to worry about editing out other properties during your post-processing if you don’t capture them in the first place. Try to maximize the number of video sequences that only focus on your subject property.
  2. Edit out other homes in your post-processing – This is probably going to be a necessity whenever shooting videos in suburban areas. The density is such that you will capture other homes during your shoot. When I am editing my videos, I do my best to crop out other properties.




Example Video


I did the video below for one of my neighbors. Below are some details from the flight:


Drone type:                     DJI Phantom 3 Professional

Total flight time:            15 minutes (1 battery)

White Balance:               AUTO

Video format:                  RAW

Video quality:                  4K at 24 fps

Video Editing Software: iMovie


On the Phantom Pilots forum, people often ask what is the best shot sequence for real estate video. Here is what I used for this video. It is by no means the only way to do it, just what I used for this one.


  1. Forward flyover
  2. Upward spiral directly over house
  3. Flyover from rear of property
  4. Clockwise rotation around house
  5. Counterclockwise rotation around house
  6. 2nd forward flyover
  7. Ending shot with drone settling in front of house


A mistake I used to make in my videos is making individual clips too long. It is helpful to start your video with a flyover with some distance from the actual house, but don’t make it too long. Now, I generally try to keep my individual clips between 8-10 seconds.


Okay, here is my actual video. Feel free to leave comments on the video, and give suggestions on how to improve the video. See you next time!



Essential Part 107 Preflight Checklist

For today’s post, I will be providing a sample Part 107 preflight checklist, and explaining what information should be captured in it. In my dealings with the FAA (admittedly only manned aircraft), they really like to see that procedures are followed. What better way to do that than go through the process of collecting a specific set of data before each flight? Is it a hassle sometimes, yes? But remember, if you are operating commercially, you are held to a set of standards just like manned aircraft pilots. It is in everybody’s best interest to be as safe as possible. This checklist is meant to be not for any one type of small UAS. It covers mainly the regulatory aspects of the flight. You should develop your own maintenance checklist for your aircraft that you can follow before each flight.


Here are the three main areas that the checklist contains:

  1. Flight Information
  • Flight Type – What is the purpose of the flight?
  • Crew information – This is just meant to record the official crew members of the flight. It is also important for the Remote PIC to have his or her license available during each flight when operating in a commercial capacity.

It should be noted that other than takeoff and landing times, all of this information can be recorded before the flight commences, thereby saving time once you arrive at the site.

2.  Weather and NOTAMS

  • Proximity to nearest important – This is very important. It makes you aware of the nearest concentration of aircraft to your job site, as well as letting you identify what airfield to check for your METAR information and NOTAMS
  • Airspace class – I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to check the airspace class of your proposed site of operation. Before you even get in your vehicle to drive to the site, you must make sure that you are operating in CLASS G AIRSPACE ONLY. Otherwise, you are operating illegally, unless you have received an airspace waiver from the FAA for the operation.

Obviously, you cannot check weather and NOTAMS too far in advance of the flight, but you can verify your airspace far in advance of the flight.

3.  Small UAS Information

  • Aircraft information – This simply describes the type of sUAS that you are operating. It should be noted that your FAA registration number must be displayed somewhere on your aircraft that is easily visible.
  • Insurance policy – Some states are requiring that a drone operator must have proof of insurance before commencing operations. Probably a good idea to keep it on hand.


Okay, that’s all I have for today. The checklist is attached below. If you have any ideas of anything that needs to be changed, please let me know and I will update it. See you next time!


Part 107 Preflight Checklist



Real Estate Drone Video Tip #1 – Spiraling Staircase Maneuver

Real Estate Video Tip #1 – Spiraling Staircase Maneuver


This post and video will be the first part in a series giving tips on different maneuvers and shots that make up a great real estate drone video. Your videos need to be more than just flying around a property for a few minutes, it really needs to provide captivating footage that will capture the buyer’s attention, and make the property real estate listing stand out from others.



I am pretty active on the Phantom Pilots drone forum. If you are not a part of this forum, I highly recommend it. There is a lot of great information on the latest rules and regulations, as well as information on how to fly and troubleshoot all Phantom drones. There is also a great section that discuss how to get into and operate in the various industries that are finding uses for commercial drones. I was responding to a thread on this site, and I mentioned that when I am circling around properties or sites, I like to sometimes ascend while circling to add a nice touch to the shot. I got several questions about how to do this, so I decided to make it a post and video. Here is the basic sequence to follow when accomplishing this shot:



  1. Stabilize over the property– This is a crucial step. You want to make sure that you are stabilized at your desired altitude. There is no set altitude for this, but for real estate, I like to use 50-125 feet AGL. You don’t want to go too high, or the prominent features of the home will already be nearly out of view. The second crucial part of this step is make sure that the camera is rotated to the appropriate angle over the property. On my Phantom 3 Pro, the camera can rotate from -90 degrees (looking straight down) to +30 degrees (slightly above horizontal). For these shots, I recommend having the camera rotated to look down at a slightly oblique angle. If it is looking nearly horizontal, 2 undesirable things will happen: you will catch the propellers in the shot, which will require you to edit them out in post-processing, and the property will go out of view quickly as you are ascending. If you are looking slightly down at the property, it will remain in view while you are circling.
  2. Start circling the property – This is accomplished by moving at a diagonal around the property, and rotating the drone at the same time. For a counter-clockwise circling pattern, you will move forward and right on the right stick, and rotate left with the left stick. You must exercise caution with the left stick and only rotate during this step. You DO NOT want to change the altitude at this point. You must be stabilized on your circling pattern first. While I am doing this, I like to hold both sticks with both my index finger and thumb. This is generally good to do during any maneuver that requires fine motor skills. Once you have found the right combination of rotational and translational movement around your property, you can begin to ascend.
  3. Ascend while circling – This step will be the last and shortest part. You have stabilized in your circling pattern, and now you can ascend. Hold the same rotational and translational movements, and slowly move the left stick up to begin a slight ascend. Once the ascent starts, you will likely have to make some fine-tuning adjustments to maintain the circular pattern. This is especially true if there is any wind while flying. Once you have as much footage as you want, terminate the maneuver, and move on to your next shot.



Here is a video I put together giving an example of how to execute the spiraling staircase maneuver. I executed the maneuver around a water fountain in my neighborhood. The round-about gave me a nice frame of reference while circling. It was a little more windy than I would have liked (10-15 mph). It usually takes me a few times around to get a good shot.





Well, there you have it. I hope this provides you with a new maneuver to perform with your drone to provide good footage for your real estate videos. It definitely takes some practice to perfect. If you have a better way to execute this maneuver, leave a comment below. The best way for us to learn is for us to learn together. See you next time!



Should I Create Aerial Drone Videos Myself or Hire a Drone Service Provider?

Should I Create Aerial Drone Videos Myself or Hire a Drone Service Provider?


The sole purpose of today’s post is to answer this question. We will be exploring the financial aspects of purchasing a drone and producing your own drone videos, and the typical costs of hiring a local drone service provider to produce the aerial drone photography and video. Before we dive into the cost-benefit analysis of purchasing a drone, I would like to ask you several other questions.


Are you proficient flying a drone, or are you willing to put in the time to become proficient?


Most people shooting drone videos for real estate are using quadcopters. These are much easier to fly than fixed-wing aircraft, but they still require a degree of skill to master. You don’t want to buy a fancy new quadcopter, only for it to be a pile of smoldering rubble after the first flight. Once you no longer fear that you are going to crash your drone each time you fly it, you will have to start fine-tuning your skills to develop the types of shots that will make for a captivating aerial photo and video. A jerky drone video is not going to do anything to enhance your real estate marketing efforts. These videos require smooth transitions throughout the property you are showcasing. This degree of skill takes some time to develop. It’s impossible to pinpoint the number of hours that will be required for you to start producing real estate quality aerial shots, but it is definitely a skill that must be developed and maintained. Don’t expect to take your drone out once a month, and create breathtaking aerial video.


Do you understand all the legal aspects of operating a drone for commercial activities?


First and foremost, you must have either a Part 107 Remote Pilot certificate from the FAA, or either a Section 333 exemption. With each these, there is a given set of rules and regulations that must be followed. I will not go deeply into the regulations in this post, as I discussed this in great detail in my previous post:


All I will say here is make sure you completely understand the latest regulations, both federal, state, and local, before you start using a drone for commercial purposes. I can guarantee you that any benefit you gain by capturing drone video will be far overshadowed if you ignore some regulation, and get into legal trouble with either the FAA or your local state or local governments. I highly recommend going the Part 107 certification route, as opposed to the Section 333 exemption. The process of studying for this test will give you a vast amount of aeronautical knowledge.


Does it make financial sense for you to produce your own drone videos?


To answer this question, I am going to do a very basic cost-benefit analysis for purchasing a drone to capture aerial photography for real estate purposes. Let’s start with the basic costs of the equipment required:


  • Quadcopter outfitted with 4K camera – $1500
  • This was about the price for my DJI Phantom 3 Professional setup. This included the drone, all chargers, several micro SD cards, and 2 extra batteries. I would note that the extra batteries are a must. You don’t want to drive all the way to a property, and have to rely on only 1 battery, which will give you about 15-20 minutes of quality flying time at best for these size models.


  • Part 107 Remote Pilot Knowledge Test – $150
  • This is the total cost of the test. I didn’t pay for any of the training courses for the Part 107 test. If you feel like you need additional help when studying, by all means do so.


  • Drone Insurance – $1,350/year
  • The link below suggests that you can obtain drone insurance for up to $1 million for this price. I would highly suggest getting drone insurance before you start creating your own videos. If you end up hiring a local service provider, I would also suggest that you verify that they are properly insured also.

  • Drone Registration – $5/drone
  • This cost has no impact on your decision, but it necessary to ensure legal commercial operations, and I wanted to highlight it as a reminder.



So our total is now up to $3,005/year. Note that this does not include any video editing software. There are a lot great free video editing software out there that I think is sufficient to produce real estate videos with. However, if you are doing luxury properties, you may want to invest in some higher end software. This should also be included in your analysis. It also does not include maintenance or replacement costs, or any other unforeseen costs. This is simply a good starting point for your determination of the potential benefit of doing it yourself.


Now let’s look at a couple of examples of determining your break-even point for your particular drone photography needs. For the purposes of this analysis, it will be assumed that for a given property, a single shoot with aerial photos costs $250, and a single shoot with aerial photos and video costs $500. These are prices that are not uncommon in my area, but you should tailor your analysis to actual costs in your area.


Example 1:


Your particular realty group does exclusively large commercial properties. You currently have a need for aerial video 10 times per year to showcase these large holdings.



Cost of doing it yourself – $3,005

Cost of hiring a local drone service provider – $500/property X 10 properties = $5,000


It can be seen in this example that the realtor would be better off financially producing the drone videos themselves.


Example 2:


You are a small operation showcasing mostly smaller residential properties, and you only need aerial photos 5 times per year to showcase your properties.


Cost of doing it yourself – $3,005

Cost of hiring a local drone service provider – $250/property X 5 properties = $1,250


It can be seen in this example that the realtor would be better off financially hiring a local drone service provider.



These examples are very simplistic, but they do provide a first look at the type of things that the realtor must consider when deciding whether purchasing a drone is advantageous for their business, or if they are better off hiring a local drone service provider.



Today we have discussed some basic considerations that must be evaluating when you decide whether or not to purchase a drone for your business. Beyond the basic financial considerations, you must determine whether you have the time to invest in getting property certified, and developing the flying skills necessary to produce the quality aerial photos and videos that will be necessary to create something that will actually boost your marketing efforts. Finally, I leave you with a handy infographic below that I created about making this decision.