Can I Use A Drone for My Real Estate Photography Business?

Photo by Brad Langford

Real Estate photography is a growing area for professional and semi-professional photographers. With the drastic rise in popularity and technology of drones, it is only a matter of time before they become an integral part of real estate photography.

Can I Use A Drone for My Real Estate Firm?

The following requirements must be met and properly maintained to use a Drone for your real estate business.

  • Must be 16 years of age
  • Fluent in the English Language
  • Pass the FAA Knowledge Test
  • Part 107 (USA) Advanced (Canada)
  • Remote Pilot Certification
  • Drone Registration (Over 250g)

Now that we know we CAN use a drone for real estate photography, let’s get into some of the specifics. Next, we’ll include how a drone may help your business and further exploration of the FAA requirements. We’ll even provide you details about a few of the most popular drones for real estate photography.


How a Drone Can Benefit Your Real Estate Photography Business

Real estate photography can be competitive. Implementing state of the art technology, such as drones, can help lift your business to new and exciting heights … pun completely intended!

Here are some of the benefits using a drone may have on your business:

Sets You Above the Competition

Take a quick look through your local real estate listings, how many of them include aerial shots, real videos of the home, or surrounding areas? Depending on your location, this can be zero, or even a few. However, even in the strongest markets using drones is still rare.

Stand out from the competition using drone imagery!

Virtual Tours

Gone are the days where people are satisfied to take a virtual tour that is either just a series of photos in a slide show or a computer-generated tour of an imaginary property. Give potential buyers a chance to experience a virtual tour using drone imagery truly.

Whether you are using a smaller drone to go for an indoor tour or covering the property from above, buyers will appreciate and remember the experience.

Aerial View

Capturing property from the air has not even been possible in recent years, with few exceptions. Drones can be used to capture a birds-eye view of the property, get a closer look at difficult to reach structures, like the roof, or even show how close the property is to neighbors or businesses.

Locate Property Lines

Anyone who has ever looked at a zoning map will know that it can be difficult at times to understand where that arbitrary line at the edge of a property sits. Utilizing a drone can allow sellers to show in detail the property limits and special features that may not translate well using just a list.

Show Off the Neighborhood

Buyers come in all types, and when selling, it is important to appeal to the largest audience. Using a drone for real estate photography can allow you to give a tour of the neighborhood surrounding the property, either from above (up to 400 feet*) or how they may see the neighborhood by walking or with a car.


Ideas to Consider

  • Common routes to important amenities (schools, churches, proximity to highways or businesses)
  • Any historical or developed sites
  • Natural features (parks, lakes, rivers)

Registration and Licensing Requirements

Now that we know the possibilities let’s look at the specific registration and licensing requirements.

FAA Guidelines for Drones

The FAA guidelines for drone safety include:

  • Registration of drones
  • Always maintaining sight of your drone
  • Flying below 400 feet
  • Respect for others’ privacy
  • Avoid flying near airports and other aircraft
  • Avoid groups of people, including public events, stadiums, and other large gatherings
  • Never fly near emergencies or emergency responders
  • Do not fly under the influence 

For more specifics on these guidelines, visit the Federal Aviation Association.

faa logo

Do I Need a Special License?

Operating a drone for commercial purposes (any business) requires that drone pilots follow a complete list of guidelines, pass a knowledge test that proves knowledge and understanding of the guidelines, and apply and be granted a Remote Pilot Certificate. Licensing can take up to 100 days to complete and validate; be sure to plan for the extra time.

 Do I Need to Register My Drone?

Part of the FAA requirements includes registering all drones. This applies to both recreational and commercial users. All drones that weigh more than .55 pounds must be registered under the current guidelines. Registration currently costs $5 and is valid for 3 years.

Register your drone either online or through the mail. Online registration and forms can be obtained from the FAA Drone Zone. You will be required to register for an account on the website.

In addition to your personal information, you will need the make and model of your drone. Your registration will assign you a number, and that must be placed on your drone where it can be easily seen. Some operators even have their registration number engraved to avoid it accidentally coming off.


Will I Need Special Insurance?

Insurance is not currently required in the US for drones, whether commercial or recreational. However, you may want to consider insurance, to cover your drone as well as liability insurance. Many countries, such as Canada already have insurance requirements in place for commercial drones.

Some businesses will not hire a drone photographer that does not have insurance. Check with potential real estate agencies in your area to learn their requirements.

Can I Use My Recreational Drone for The Job?

The term recreational drone refers to a drone that is not used for businesses purposes. Therefore, to be compliant with the Federal Aviation Associations guidelines you must register your drone as a commercial unmanned aircraft, which requires licensing.

If you are thinking of just taking a few shots of your home you may want to check out this new Drone from DJI. The Mavic Mini. I review it here

Getting the Best Shots: How to Choose a Drone

Drones are available in all sizes and shapes, with many different features. When using a drone for real estate you will want to look for a drone that has some specific features to provide you with the best shots to show off the property.

Some of these features include:

  • Gimbal – this refers to the mechanism that can move the camera along one or more axes. Look for a drone with a 3-axis gimbal to provide the smoothest videos.
  • Types of Videos – the cameras available on drones can range from simple point and shoot image capture to 4KHD video capture, some can take both still photography and video. Taking into consideration the types of video and still photography you plan to capture will help to determine the drone you need.
  • Storage capacity for images and videos are often stored on SD memory cards. Consider upgrading to a larger capacity card for high definition videos, or at least keep a backup on hand.
  • User Interface – How a drone is piloted can vary, some can even be linked and piloted from a smartphone app, or by connecting a smartphone to the remote control. Beginners may have difficulty learning to smoothly operate a drone with complicated controls.
  • Battery Life – Real estate photography may require you to be able to fly your drone for a significant amount of time around the perimeter of a property. Battery life is usually listed as part of the features of a drone before purchase, although remember they are usually best-case suggestions.

Some drones may even come with back up batteries, just must remember to keep them charged. If not, you can likely purchase additional batteries easily.


What are the Most Popular Drones Used in Real Estate Photography?

There are a couple I would recommend. Both offer excellent quality Drones, good product support and if you live in North America, these Chinese Companies have a regional office in NA

DJI produces a full line of drones that have become very popular with real estate photographers.  The other in Yuneec Drones, based in Hong Kong they have an office in L.A.

Here is a list of the most popular Drones.  All three have exceptional cameras and perfect for Aerial Photography. All have 4K video as well. Check our resource page for a detailed look at all three here.  No matter which drone you choose you will be getting a product backed by a leading manufacturer of drones with a proven track record of quality drones and excellent customer service.

Check the reviews on Amazon for the following

Using a Drone for Real Estate Photography

In addition to following the guidelines from the FAA, you will want to check for any laws and restrictions that may be in place for the location you are shooting. Since these laws can change, and often without notice, regularly checking should become a habit and part of your real estate photography business. 

The National Association of Realtors is dedicated to providing the most up-to-date information about drones and their use in real estate.

Whether you are a realtor adding drone photography as an option for your clients, or a real estate photographer, they are an amazing resource.

I wish you a safe flight. Stay off the roof!


I'm Rob, the founder of I’m a Marine Corps vet with a master’s degree in Information Systems and have been working in the technology field for over a decade.

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