Specialty Drones: Best Drones for Real Estate and Construction

Introduction

Real estate businesses and construction companies are turning to drones to improve surveying, streamline inspections and boost marketing campaigns. The intense competition in the real estate sector means businesses have to come up with new ways to generate leads and attract potential customers. That’s where drones can play an important role because they:

  • Provide a unique perspective of properties and construction sites, help make proposals more attractive
  • Help monitor sites in real-time and streamline inspections
  • Are a cost-effective tool for surveying, mapping sites, and integrity management
  • Make it easier to carry out homebuyers’ inspections, provide a more comprehensive view
  • Are a non-intrusive way of collecting data and surveying, minimize safety issues usually related to doing the same things manually
  • Help boost marketing campaigns by allowing customers to view properties from different angles
  • Can reach and photograph places that are otherwise hard to access
  • Make it easier to create virtual tours, interactive maps, and videos
  • Help create more realistic presentations
  • Have become more affordable than ever and are now within reach of small businesses
  • Help businesses establish brand authority and demonstrate that they are willing to embrace new technologies and trends
  • Can be operated by almost anyone (after some practice and getting FAA certification)

Because of these reasons, it’s no surprise that drones are gaining popularity in the real estate and construction sector. Advancements in drone sensor technologies, cameras, and data transmission has led to more feature-packed, yet cost-effective drones.

Key manufacturers such as DJI have started to focus on the commercial market instead of enthusiasts and hobbyists. As the cost of acquiring drones becomes less and prices fall, businesses are realizing the importance of using drones to streamline operations.

Use of Drones in the Real Estate Sector

Marketing effectively has become a major challenge in the real estate sector where the competition is brutal. With a growing number of people beginning their search online, businesses have to present properties in a way that differentiates them from the crowd. Drones make it possible to differentiate property listings through aerial photography and videos.

Dramatic photography and video tours, scenic landscape shots and fly-arounds of beautiful home exteriors help boost marketing campaigns. That’s why a professional drone is such as wise investment in both the short and long run. However, drones are not suitable for certain types of photography and videos including:

  • Fixed-position focused photography
  • Small spaces such as apartments
  • Tree-shrouded homes and buildings
  • Street-level shots, which look better when shot within a traditional way

Use of Drones in the Construction Business

Drones can be used for a variety of tasks in the construction business, including surveying, data capturing, data analysis, progress management, job site monitoring, structure inspection and maintaining safety records. Some of the major benefits of using a quadcopter in the construction sector include:

  • Provide the bigger picture of construction sites
  • Minimize leg-work, make scouting easier
  • Make data capturing easier
  • Faster surveying and map building
  • Minimizes use of heavy machinery and human resources required to produce complex data
  • Can reach tightly-squeezed/high-risk areas without putting people at risk
  • Save clients from having to visit construction sites over and over again. Drones help teams show clients the progress, inspection, renovation, etc. in an interactive way
  • Provide a unique visual standpoint from above, which is not possible on the ground
  • Make it easier to manage and monitor multiple job sites
  • Improve productivity and help meet safety standards
  • More accurate structure analysis for investors
  • Put information at the fingertips of project managers and help them keep track of progress and spending
  • Help identify issues at an earlier stage
  • Land erosion monitoring
  • Master planning
  • Property lines documentation
  • Damage documentation (e.g. damage caused by hurricanes and fires)

Drone Buying and Shooting Tips

Most of the technical stuff one should look for in a professional drone is almost common knowledge, including long battery life, extended range and sturdy built. In addition to these, real estate and construction businesses need a quality camera for capturing images and recording videos with the maximum possible amount of detail. That’s because they need to capture a lot of detail and a 720p resolution cannot do justice to large properties and construction sites.

Get the Right Camera and Gimbal

The right camera and gimbal are among the most important factors to consider when buying a drone for photography and data capturing. High-end drones such as DJI Phantom 4 Pro do come with cameras that are up to the job, but you also need to ensure that they can handle indoor shooting and light exposure.

Using a 3-axis gimble is a necessity you cannot ignore if you want to capture stable, blur-free images and flowing videos. Drones that integrate gimbals with flight/camera control systems provide more control over zooming, tilting, and panning.

Hire a Professional

Hiring a drone professional is a good idea, at least in the beginning. You need some practice and FAA certification as you need some time to master taking stunning photos during short flight times. You can learn a lot from a drone pilot just by watching and listening.

The good news is that it’s not that hard to fly a drone, while the procedure of becoming a certified drone pilot is also pretty straight forward. Taking photography courses such as the inexpensive 2-hour Udemy course can help you avoid rookie mistakes that can ruin professional-looking photos and videos.

You need to have realistic expectations as shooting high-quality images using drones usually cost more than standard photography, while aerial filming also takes more time than land-based videos. Although the change is not that drastic, you still need to be flexible enough when it comes to relative cost and time.

Here is a checklist of things to consider when hiring a drone pilot:

  • FAA certification/ FAA Part 107 UAV
  • Liability insurance coverage of at least $1 million
  • At least 3 client references/web links to work
  • Quality of interior videos
  • Should provide a pre-shoot checklist so you can understand how the operator works
  • How the operator bills, by the hour or on a fixed-price basis, it’s better to go for fixed price deliverables
  • Lead time and work in uncertain weather conditions
  • What is the rescheduling policy and how to proceed with cancellations/refunds?
  • A copy of contract template/blank contract so you can understand things like indemnifications, certifications well in advance

Take Long and Steady Shots

Most professional real-estate shoots are trimmed down versions of long clips. You need to take long and steady shots so you have a good amount of RAW footage to create great short footage. It’s better to shoot the most important footage 2-3 times so you get the best result if changes occur in lighting, movement or weather between flights.

Use Glide/Steadicam for Better Video Tours

Handheld gimbals such as the DJI Ronin allow you to mount your own camera/DSLR and take vibration-free and steady shots by orienting the shot with your hands. This enables you to take immersive and smooth ground-level shots and film walk-throughs and walk-ins/outs. You can also use both the methods (Steadicam + drone’s camera) to create seamless videos and capture both the interior and exterior in a single clip.

Avoid Flying Against the Wind

Drones/quadcopters are not designed for windy conditions and most are only suitable for less than 20-25 knots. Flying against the wind means shaky shots and more vibrations, while wind gusts are also more frequent at higher altitudes. Keep low (below the tree line) if you must fly a drone in windy conditions, but it’s better to fly with the wind instead of flying against it.

Stick to a Well-Defined Flight Plan

Most of the high-end drones allow you to define a certain path and camera angles. This helps you effortlessly capture the areas you want to cover. Advance automation features such as automatic trick shots and collision avoidance/object detection make the job a lot easier for photographers and can save quite some time.

Stay Clear of Wires, Trees, and People

These are the most common obstacles drone pilots have to face. Get professional training/certification before attempting to fly a drone, understand federal and local laws and respect no-fly zones. There are certain safety and legal risks related to flying drones with camera.

A drone weighing more than 0.5 lbs./250 grams must be registered with the FAA, while you are not permitted to fly a 55 lbs.+ drone without a special exemption. Failing to comply with these basic rules can cost you a fine of up to $25,000! You cannot fly a drone within a five-mile radius of an airplane terminal, over people (without permission), 400+ feet altitude and when you are unable to maintain eye contact with the drone.

Best Drones for Real Estate and Construction

Product
Visual
Where to Buy

DJI Phantom 4 (Complete Kit, One of the best multi-purpose drones)

Yuneec H520 Hexacopter (Multi-purpose Commercial Drone)

3DR Solo (Without Gimbal, Reasonably priced drone for surveying and mapping)

DJI Mavic Pro (Fly More Kit, Reasonably Priced Drone for Real Estate Photography)

DJI Mavic 2 Zoom (Good balance between price and features)

 

DJI Phantom 4 (Complete Kit, One of the best multi-purpose drones)

Designed for high-res aerial photography and filming, Phantom 4 is a multi-purpose and one of the most feature-packed camera drones in its price range. Real-time 3D vision and advanced obstacle avoidance system make it a breeze to fly the drone. The complete kit comes with everything you can think of including 3 batteries, hard-shell backpack, supercharger, 64 GB SD Card and card reader. The drone is ready to fly right out-of-the-box, allowing you to start capturing stunning images without wasting any time.

Key Features and specifications

  • 12.4 MP CMOS sensor (1/2.3”), 94-degrees Field of View
  • 4K video recording @24/25 fps, FHS recording up to 120fps
  • 3-axis gimbal
  • Up to 28 minutes of flight time
  • GPS and GLONASS
  • Up to 3.1 miles / 5 KM transmission distance
  • The omnidirectional obstacle avoidance system
  • Advanced flight modes including follow me, GPS Waypoints, Gesture, POI and Course lock
  • ActiveTrack for automatic tracking of fast-moving objects
  • TapFly, tap a location in the live view and the drone will fly there
  • Ready-to-shoot right out-of-the-box
  • Easy-to-use DLI Pilot App for Android and iOS
  • FCC approved controller for effortless operation

Yuneec H520 Hexacopter (Multi-purpose Commercial Drone)

Key features and specifications

  • Designed keeping needs of the inspection industry in mind
  • E90 20 MP sensor (1-inch), 4K @ 60fps, up to 8X digital zoom
  • 3-axis gimbal
  • Up to 28 minutes of flight time
  • Also available with thermal imaging and low-light cameras
  • Six-rotor systems for precise and stable flight
  • The built-in flight planning system
  • Under 4.5 lbs./2KG takeoff weight
  • DataPilot software for creating 3D scans, ortho maps, and cinematic movement
  • Collision avoidance system
  • Wind-resistant airframe
  • Real-time Kinematics technology
  • Hot-swap capable payload system
  • ST16S AIO Ground Station, Android-based 7-inch display
  • Real-time flight footage
  • Team-mode controlling via two remotes
  • SDK (Sofware Development Kit) for power users
  • GPS, Galileo, and GLONASS

3DR Solo (Without Gimbal, Reasonably priced drone for surveying and mapping)

Key features and specifications

  • Designed for surveying, construction monitoring, and map creation
  • Video-style, easy-to-use controller
  • Powered by twin-computers (1GHz)
  • Fully-featured Android and iOS apps
  • GoPro Hero 3, 3 Plus and 4 compatible (Sold separately)
  • Computer-assisted shooting
  • Live video streaming to mobile phones
  • Multiple modes including follow-me, cable cam, selfie and orbit
  • Max altitude 400 feet
  • Easy repairable, spare parts are readily available at a reasonable price
  • Solo Gimbal (Sold Separately)
  • Operating range 0.5miles or 0.8 kilometers
  • Up to 25-minute flight time
  • Open-source plans for power users

DJI Mavic Pro (Fly More Kit, Reasonably Priced Drone for Real Estate Photography)

  • Key features and specifications
  • Works well for shooting indoor videos
  • A great option for small and medium-sized businesses
  • Extra Dual Intelligent batteries, each having up to 31-minute flight time
  • Car charger, battery charging hub, Battery-to-power-bank adapter
  • Low-noise propellers
  • Compact and portable
  • Up to 4.3 miles or 7 KM transmission range
  • 4K recording
  • Obstacle avoidance system
  • GPS and GLONASS
  • Weighs 1.64 lbs./743 grams

DJI Mavic 2 Zoom (Good balance between price and features)

Key Features and Specifications

  • 2X optical zoom, Dolly Zoom (warping effect), 4X lossless Zoom (1080p)
  • Helps maintain a safe distance from buildings while providing a closer view
  • 12 MP CMOS Sensor (1/2.3”), 24-48mm
  • Up to 5 miles / 8 KM video transmission (1080p)
  • Up to 31 minutes of flight time
  • Omnidirectional obstacle sensing
  • 3-axis gimbal
  • 4K recording @ H.265
  • Low noise propellers