Real Estate Deep Dive

Uncategorized Aug 20, 2022

Getting your Part 107 opens a whole new world of opportunities for you. There are so many options that you may not know where to start. 

You'll find no shortage of blogs and lists with all the career paths a commercial drone pilot can choose. The problem is that, besides providing a few sentences on how drones are used in a given sector, you are left to figure out the rest on your own.

How do you start working in the field? What equipment do you need? How do you find gigs? It can be a bit overwhelming. 

Before you start getting frustrated, we are here to help. Let's do a bit of a deep dive into one of the best gigs to begin your commercial drone pilot career in, real estate photography.

Why Real Estate?

First off, why is real estate a good place to start? When you are starting your own business, expenses are tight. In addition to your business's start-up costs, you will need to buy a drone and, most likely, a DSLR camera or equivalent. 

If you start your career in something like LiDAR mapping, your drone and payload will run in the tens of thousands of dollars range or even break into six-figure territory. This is not the case with real estate photography. With a little effort and used equipment, you could get started in the space for less than one thousand dollars.

Other benefits of starting in real estate include the following.

  • Real estate is selling in just about every location.
  • Properties using drone footage have a higher chance of selling (a great marketing point).
  • You don't need to be a professional photographer right away.
  • Marketing can be very inexpensive.

Selecting the Right Equipment

There are many drones, cameras, and accessories to choose from. Rather than give recommendations on specific models, we'll list a few basic specifications for you to consider.

For this section we’ll just focus on the drone and the DSLR camera.

  • Drone
    • Whatever drone you choose should have a few standard specifications. Personal preference plays a role, but here are some basic minimum characteristics. The drone should use a 3-axis gimbal, provide a stable platform in at least ten mph winds, have obstacle avoidance, and have a 20MP 4K camera. 
    • A note on the camera MP: You can probably get away with a 12MP camera, but it is our experience that most real estate agents like 20MP and will ask if you have that. Make your life easy, and just get a 20MP camera.
  • DSLR Camera or Equivalent
    • The camera should be full sensor with the ability to shoot manually. You should have both manual and auto focus with a standard lens (35mm) and a wide angle lens. 
    • Using a digital camera will give you a lot of options when it comes to editing. You should look for a camera that can shoot in RAW and JPEG.


A portfolio is one of the best tools to show off your skills as a photographer and drone pilot. Your portfolio should include images and videos of the type of properties you would like to shoot in the future. If you are looking to shoot luxury homes, for example, don't have a portfolio that is only made up of vacant land images.

If you are just starting, you may think you need to land gigs before you can build a portfolio. This is not the case. Many people (neighbors, friends, family) would enjoy free photos of their property in exchange for letting you practice flying and filming at their location. Some business locations may also let you do this.

Including a town reel in your portfolio is always a good idea. Check out Altitude University's YouTube video on this topic to learn more about town reels.

You'll be surprised how many gigs you'll land just because of a strong portfolio.


Deciding what you want to charge for your services comes down to two things. First, what do you think your time is worth? Second, what is the market willing to pay.

When looking at your time, remember this should include fuel costs, insurance, the wear and tear on your equipment, and other operating expenses. Don't shortchange yourself. You are a professional licensed commercial drone pilot and should be compensated as such.

You'll find some people asking for drone services at rates that do not reflect your skillset. Discuss it with the client if you feel the work you are being asked to do is more than what the pay reflects. Never do work where you think you are not getting fair compensation. Other jobs will come along.

The market, of course, will have a say in what is fair compensation. If you live in a location where many drone pilots are all trying to bid on the same gigs, the market will likely pay lower rates. Keep the supply and demand of commercial drone pilots in mind.

If you are unsure what to charge, contact a few real estate agents in the area and ask what they are willing to pay for quality drone photography.


Getting your name out there can be expensive, but it doesn't need to be. You can pay for SEO, print flyers, and promote your services with posters or mailers, but these methods are not cheap.

Think of starting your marketing efforts like a grassroots political campaign. Contacting real estate agents directly is one example of this method.

Most grocery stores still keep free handouts with local real estate listings near the entrance to their store. Grab these ads and contact the agents in them. You already know they are paying to market their listings, so they need drone photography.

You can look at SEO and other more costly marketing techniques as your business grows. Repeat customers and referral customers are always the best. You'll be surprised how many additional gigs you get from a satisfied customer and referrals.

Finding Work

There are many places to look for work in real estate photography. Two of the ones we like the most are direct contact with real estate agents and drone pilot networks.

  • Direct Contact
    • Real estate agents are everywhere. Even if you live in a rural area, you'll still have an agent nearby. Rarely does property sell without having photos taken of it. By some estimates, properties with drone footage are 68% more likely to sell than properties without.
    • Reaching out to your local agent or agents is a great way to gain them as clients. Have your portfolio ready and a list of services and prices. Consider setting up a time to meet them in person. 
    • Look at some of their listings ahead of time. You may even want to provide additional photos of properties they are already listing to show the added value of your services.
  • Pilot Networks
    • A lot of real estate agents post jobs on pilot networks. Most sites allow you to communicate with the agent and bid against other pilots for the work. 
    • When you sign up for these networks, ensure you have a complete profile, website, or another method to showcase your portfolio. 
    • Some networks are, DroneUp, DroneBase, and Globhe. There are many more.

Hopefully, you're a little more prepared to jump into real estate photography. If you are interested in learning more, check out our 14-Day Challenge course and join our Facebook community. Happy and safe flying!

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Article Written by David Daly


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