drone photographyIf you have spent much time looking at real estate listings recently you likely have seen aerial photos, captured by drone photography equipment, being used for marketing. Drone photos can provide much more than just a ‘cool’ look to a property.  From roof inspections to showcasing area amenities there are many use cases for those who invest in real estate.

Professional photographers often offer aerial photography as an add-on to the normal photoshoot.  If you have been curious about how to utilize drone photography for your management business, you might be asking the following questions:


  • Should I use my photographer or hire a drone specialist?  
  • When should I use the service and when should I pass on it?  
  • How do I get the most bang for my buck out of my aerial shoot?  

Here’s a look at the answers to these questions and more tips for property managers and landlords about using drones for aerial photography.

Aerial Photography and Landlords

Professional aerial photos or “aerials” can have great value to landlords if used properly.  Rental units often have outdoor amenities or are located near key attractions.  You can showcase this easily with a drone.  

However, inexperienced drone operators will often lack the Photoshop skills to easily show the relative locations. Consider asking a drone pilot for a portfolio of work to verify competency before hiring them.

Ariel real estate photography

Aerials combined with photo editing tools can be an effective way show the location of properties relative to local attractions. (Photos: soldbyair.com)

Drones for roofing

If you manage a number of properties, knowing someone with a drone may come in handy.  Insurance companies are switching to drones when inspecting roof damage.  It’s much cheaper and quicker than it is to send someone up on a ladder.  Have a leaking roof or some damage from a tree?  A drone may be able to help to scope out the situation ahead of time.  

It’s important to note if you bring in a drone pilot for roof damage they likely will not be able to give you an official assessment on site.  Drone operators who work with insurance companies are often instructed specifically to avoid offering advice or assessment on the damage itself.  They are there simply to take photos for the insurance companies.  

Ask about the license

If you are using aerial photos for marketing be sure to ask about the license that comes with those photos.  Some photographers or drone pilots give you the photos and don’t really care what you do with them.  Others will put very aggressive restrictions on them.  

For rental properties verify that any license for the photos allows you to reuse the photos when you need to find new tenants.  Be careful however, if you are listing properties on a MLS, many will not allow you to use the same photos more than once.

FAA Requirements

The FAA requires anyone flying drones for profit to be certified.  Drones are easy to fly, and also easy to crash.  Hiring a noncertified pilot increases your liability should something go wrong.  The FAA provides a free website to verify if a pilot is certified or not.  

There are many rules and regulations drone pilots must understand.  For example, if there is a medium to large airport nearby there is a good chance the drone photographer is going to need specific FAA authorization to fly.  The FAA is currently rolling out a new tool to speed up authorization.  However, only a handful of airports are supported and it will take time to fully roll out.  Until then if your property is close to a busy airport getting a drone to fly there legally will require plenty of lead time.

Photographer or Drone Specialist?

There are drone pilots who only do aerial photography.  There are normal photographers who use it as an add-on service.  Who should you go with?  

If you choose your regular photographer be sure to verify certification.  The specialized drone pilot will often have a better drone while the photographer will usually have better Photoshop skills.  The key is to find the best of both worlds.  Your best bet is to ask for a portfolio of work to verify their skillset.

Drone photography soldbyair

Be sure to ask for a portfolio to verify the skill level of the drone operator. (Photo: soldbyair.com)

Doing it yourself

Let’s be honest, if you are reading this blog you likely have the entrepreneurial spirit.  So why not buy a drone and do it yourself?  

There are many websites to help guide those looking to start a drone business.  If you wish to explore this option my best advice is to find someone with a drone, ask them to fly it and see if you like it.  If you do enjoy it, the FAA test to become certified is not overly difficult and there are online courses that can help you learn the material.

Have you used aerial photography before?  Do you plan to in the future?  Please let us know in the comments below.

This article was originally published in Nov 2017 and has since been updated

Josh Boughner SoldByAir

About the Author

Josh Boughner is the founder of SoldByAir.  His company provides real estate drone photography nationwide.  Through soldbyair.com they have created a suite of tools for running an aerial photography business.  With hundreds of drone pilots in their user base, they are the largest aerial photography network focused entirely on real estate.


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