For as long as they've been around, I've always been pretty fascinated by drones.
Being a blogger and YouTuber in the real estate space – I knew this was something I'd have to explore eventually – so earlier this year, I decided to pull the trigger and buy the DJI Mavic Pro.
If you're a subscriber to my YouTube Channel, you may have noticed that earlier this year I started posting videos with this amazing little piece of gear (see below for some examples).
As far as drones go, I wouldn't say it's necessarily the best at everything, but I think as of mid-2017 (when this blog post was originally published) it's probably got the best combination of features, capabilities, and the best “cool factor”, with a price tag that's fairly high, without being ridiculous.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise for me was that it's pretty easy to fly. With just a little bit of practice (and learning how the basic controls work), I was able to get pretty comfortable with this thing on Day 1.
Here's a quick compilation of footage from my first week with it…
Remember, I'm not a pro at this. With a little bit of time and effort, the average person should be able to get shots just like this (and much better).
Why Buy a Drone?
If you've been following drone innovations for the past year or two, you probably know that this technology has come a LONG way very quickly.
Remember, these machines didn't exist outside of military control just a decade ago, and now that this technology is available to the public – the potential uses are evolving rapidly.
In the real estate industry specifically, most of the people who use drones have at least one of two objectives in mind…
- Shooting promotional videos that showcase the beauty and visual features of a property.
- Doing visual inspection on some of the harder-to-reach areas of a property – to identify features (and problems) that would otherwise be difficult to observe from a limited vantage point on the ground.
I'll be the first to tell you – drones are definitely NOT a necessity for every type of property and profession. Most people can get by just fine without one… but with the evolution of this technology in the real estate industry (now being used by realtors, investors, appraisers, environmental professionals, surveyors and more), I felt it was time to jump on the bandwagon and get a better understanding of what it takes to use one of these things, how to create stunning promotional videos for the purpose of selling real estate, and when it actually makes sense to put these things to work.
5 Things to Consider BEFORE Buying a Drone
When I started using my drone, there were a few important lessons I learned right out of the gate – things I was completely oblivious to before I bought it.
If YOU are thinking about getting a drone for your real estate business, hopefully, you'll learn a thing or two from my experience.
1. Remember to Register Your Drone
If you're flying your drone in the United States, it's important to register your drone with the FAA. If you're just using your drone for non-commercial purposes (things that don't generate revenue or sales in any way), then it's pretty inexpensive to get this done. When I was registering mine, the cost was $5… so it's not a big expense.
If you're planning to use your drone for commercial purposes, then the cost of registration will go up quite a bit (when I was registering mine, I believe the cost was $199). Also, keep in mind that commercial flyers need to be commercially licensed, and there may be additional state laws you'll need to abide by, depending on what state you're operating in.
When you tally up all the things you need to take care of when flying commercially, it's kind of big checklist (and it's also not free), so this is definitely something you'll want to consider when deciding whether or not it's worth the effort to use a drone for revenue-generating purposes.
2. Go Slow, Be Safe and Learn How Your Drone Works
It's easy to get carried away by the excitement of flying your drone for the first time, but don't forget that you're flying an actual aircraft.
These things are POWERFUL (regardless of size) and they can do real damage to people, animals, houses, cars and a lot more.
As newer drone models come out, the software and hardware is getting more and more sophisticated, and it really is getting easier to fly them – but they still require some basic knowledge and familiarity. Trust me, the last thing you want to do is cause some kind of “incident”, so go slow, be safe and learn how your drone works.
If nothing else, do a quick YouTube search to see what kind of tutorials are available for your drone (I found this one and relied on it pretty heavily when I was getting started with the DJI Mavic Pro).
3. Get an Alternative Tracking Method
Most drones come with some pretty good GPS tracking systems built into them – so in theory (as long as the drone is turned on and connected to your controller), you should always know approximately where it's located.
However, I've already had a couple of random instances where my phone inexplicably disconnected from the controller and I almost lost my drone. In instances like this, it's VERY helpful to have something like an RFID tracking sticker on your drone, so if the worst case scenario ever happens, you'll have some alternative means to track it down.
It also helps to only fly your drone where you can see it with your naked eye (and this is actually a federal requirement you should be adhering to anyway). This way, you should be able to clearly see if it becomes disconnected from your phone and/or if it goes down before you bring it home.
Note: I haven't put an RFID sticker on my drone yet – so I can't say how well this actually works, or which one works best… but given how cheap they are, it's probably worth doing – because something is better than nothing.
4. Get the Right Accessories for Your Drone
Whatever kind of drone you get, chances are – there are going to be at least a few helpful accessories that can add significant new capabilities to your drone. Things like…
- Camera Protectors
- Extra Batteries
- Backup Propellers
- Carrying Cases
- Propeller Guards
I wouldn't say you need to buy EVERY accessory, but at least take some time to understand what's out there and how it can improve the overall flying experience. Sometimes these things are a bit gimmicky, but sometimes they really can make a difference.
5. Know Your Limits
Something you'll have to agree to when you register your drone are some of the limitations on where you can fly. For example, these are the boxes you need to check when registering your drone:
As you can see, these are all pretty reasonable rules and regulations to abide by – but it's still important to be aware of them (because what you don't know CAN hurt you).
Also, keep in mind – drones have their limits. In the same way that an ultralight aircraft can't fly very well through a hurricane, every drone has certain conditions they shouldn't be flying in. Be aware of what your drone's limits are and don't test those boundaries.
Is It Worth It?
I'll be honest – for the vast majority of people in the real estate business, it's probably not worth the time and money to buy a drone (coming purely from a dollars and cents standpoint).
When you consider what it costs to buy a good one, the time and effort required to get the proper commercial licensing, the time and energy to figure out how it works AND earning enough revenue to justify all the costs… I honestly don't think the equation makes sense for the average real estate professional. There are plenty of ways to sell and inspect properties that don't require drones.
Can drones help? Of course… aside from the costs, using one isn't going to hurt your business – but I also think it falls squarely into the “nice to have” category, and I wouldn't bend over backward just to add this nice little pizzaz to your real estate pictures and videos.
On the other hand, if you intend to shoot drone footage of every property you sell or run a full-blown business creating stunning real estate videos for other agents and investors – then YES, this could absolutely be a worthwhile pursuit.
In the end, you just have to run the numbers and use your common sense to decide whether or not it the ends will justify the means.
And of course, if you've got money to burn and you just want one to play with for fun – then do it. These things will provide you with HOURS of great entertainment! 🙂