When people view online home listings to find their dream home, the overhead shots they see aren’t taken by a person, but rather, a drone. As a real estate drone pilot, you too could photograph properties for sale and inspire people to schedule a showing.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about drone jobs in real estate, from the job responsibilities to potential earnings, training, and hardware and software requirements. If you’re thinking of turning your hobby into a career, you’re not going to want to miss this!
What Types of Work Do Real Estate Drone Pilots Do?
As a real estate drone pilot, it’s your job to visit different sites, set up your drone, and take shots of a home or building for sale. You can fulfill this role on a freelance basis, or you might be hired as a more permanent addition to a real estate firm.
In addition to capturing photographs of a property for sale, your drone might take short videos as well. For instance, your drone can provide a 360 view of the outside of a property to capture the imagination of potential buyers.
Your job responsibilities might sometimes require you to make an orthomosaic or 3D map of a property. The map would be available to homebuyers, who could use its data to further influence their purchasing decisions.
If you work as a drone pilot in commercial real estate, then your specialty will be commercial buildings and lots for sale. Such properties will run the gamut from hotels to golf courses, office parks, shopping centers, malls and other retail spaces, and the like.
You could also work in residential real estate, in which case you’d use your drone to photograph or take videos of homes, condos, apartments, and community centers.
What Training Do I Need to Get a Drone Job in Real Estate?
Before you apply to any real estate drone pilot jobs, you must ensure you’re properly trained and certified.
Here’s what you need to do.
Get your Part 107 License
To start, you must have a Part 107 license as issued through the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA (link). We just wrote a great post about online Part 107 training courses that can help you pass the exam and earn your license.
Once you do, you must retake the test every 24 months to ensure your knowledge is up to date.
Learn your drone inside and out
Whether you’re part of a real estate team or you work freelance, your boss or client is going to expect you to know how to use your drone. After you buy your drone, practice with it until you’re comfortable using it and familiar with every part of how it works.
Every feature, every button on the remote, every issue that can arise with the drone, you need to be knowledgeable in.
Build a website and portfolio
As you use your drone more and more, you’ll begin building a collection of photos and videos. Work on developing your aerial photography and videography skills and portfolio. This media might not be exclusively buildings, but that’s okay. What you’re doing in your portfolio is showing the breadth of your work.
If you don’t already have a website, you can create a basic one in a couple of hours. Many website-building services are free. We recommend saving up some extra cash towards a more professional website though, to lend credibility to your new business.
The nicer your website is, the more hits it should get. Those hits could translate to more clients if you’re a freelance drone pilot.
Build your skills and knowledge base
To have a successful drone real estate business, you need to build both your photography and videography skills, as well as your business management skills, especially if you’re doing this as a freelance operation. If you’re not sure where to start, there are lots of helpful courses out there to get you started in knowing how to run and operate a drone real estate business.
Check out our recommended courses to find some help getting started with a business in drone real estate photography. A little bit of investment in educating yourself can have a huge payoff within just a year or two!
How Much Does It Cost to Get Started Flying a Drone for Real Estate?
Sometimes, you have to spend money to make money. That’s the case when striving to become a real estate drone pilot. Exactly how much cash are you going to have to shell out?
Well, let’s take it one area at a time.
The Cost of the Drone
First, you need to buy a drone. The DJI Mavic Mini 2 starts at $450. DJI recommends accessories for your Mavic Mini 2 such as a 128-gig microSD card ($30), DJI propeller guards ($19), a carrying bag ($39), and DJI’s Intelligent Flight Battery ($55). That would be $555 for everything.
The DJI Mavic Air 2 starts at $799, and the EXO Blackhawk costs $899.
So let’s say for simplicity’s sake that your drone costs $700.
Then you have to register for the FAA Part 107 exam. Testing isn’t free, as you’ll pay the FAA testing center $175. If you fail the test, you’d have to pay that fee again. That’s also true every two years when you retest.
We’ll say that you pass the test the first time, so now your fees are $875.
If you decide to enroll in an FAA Part 107 online crash course, the fees vary between $65 and $350. Let’s assume you take a course that costs $200. That means you’ve spent around $1,075 so far.
What if you do a lot of drone photography and videography editing? Then you’ll need editing software. Although you can use lots of free photo and video editing tools, you’ll want quality stuff for your job. The price for high-end editing software is anywhere from $75 to $500. If you go for the high-end software costing around $500, you’re now spending $1,575.
If you’re paying for your website like we recommended in the last section, you might shell out $200 initially for the site design. That’s a low-ball estimate, FYI. Then you have to pay to keep your site online, which might cost you around $50 per month.
All that to say, you could easily end up spending $2,000 or more to get your drone operations up and running, and there will obviously be ongoing business costs as well.
|FAA testing fee||$175|
|Part 107 test prep course||$200|
|Photo editing software||$500|
|Website hosting fees (per year)||$600|
Top 3 Recommended Drones for Real Estate
If you’re looking to break into the exciting field of real estate drone photography and videography, you must have the right drone for the job. Even if you’re hired by a real estate firm, you’ll likely be asked to provide your own drone.
The drone must have an impressive battery life, a high-quality camera, and an intuitive remote. If your drone can stream live video feeds and use follow-me mode and other automation, those features are an extremely helpful addition.
Here are three drones we recommend for real estate drone pilots.
DJI Mavic Mini 2
Handheld, portable, and powerful, the DJI Mavic Mini 2 is a fantastic first drone to begin your career in real estate drone videography and photography. When not in use, the Mavic Mini 2 folds down so you can carry it in a shoulder bag on your way to your next destination for the day.
The 4K-quality video will wow your boss or clients, and with 4x zoom, highlighting a home’s fine details becomes easy. You can also transmit live video at 10 kilometers using OcuSync 2.0 video transmission.
The Mavic Mini 2 promises 31 minutes of consecutive flight and Level 5 wind resistance at a top altitude of 4,000 meters so it can fly steady and sure even when the weather is neither.
QuickShots options such as Boomerang, Circle, Rocket, Helix, and Dronie as well as 180-degree panorama photography make getting professional-quality shots for real estate easy.
DJI Mavic Air 2
Another DJI drone to consider for your job in real estate is the Mavic Air 2. The camera included with this drone has a half-inch Quad Bayer sensor for 48MP photos and 4K-quality video at 60 frames per second.
The Mavic Air 2 has a 34-minute battery, giving you plenty of time to do a thorough photo shoot session, especially if you have a second battery on hand for backup. You can transmit video at 10 kilometers and 30 fps in 1080p quality thanks to the OcuSync 2.0 transmission system. This DJI drone also boasts APAS 3.0 obstacle avoidance so you can focus more on your photography and videography and less on the nitty-gritty of flight control.
As if all that wasn’t great enough, the Mavic Air 2 includes a multitude of features that are valuable to drone photographers and videographers. You can take panoramas, videos, and photos in HD quality.
FocusTrack is the Mavic Air 2’s follow-me mode, something that the Mini 2 lacks. SmartPhoto uses HDR and HyperLight to optimize the parameters of your camera depending on whether you’re photographing trees, grass, skies, or sunsets.
Although it’s not a DJI drone, the EXO Blackhawk (link) should still be on your shortlist of drones to consider for real estate drone piloting. The Blackhawk shoots in gorgeous 4K quality, including video. It has an F/2.0 professional lens and three-axis stabilization.
The Sony Ambarella half-inch sensor produces 16MP photos. Color grade optimization is included, as is HDVC codec for image data preservation. You can adjust the camera settings as you wish.
Like the Mavic Mini 2, the Blackhawk is foldable and portable. You can select from such cool modes as Hyperlapse for time lapses (even when in motion) and Slow Motion (for a 40-percent speed reduction).
Set waypoint paths or use Circle-Me mode for hands-off drone automation. The Blackhawk transmits photos up to eight kilometers. Oh, and did we mention its battery lasts for at least 43 minutes? By adding EXO’s kit, the Blackhawk can fly for up to 85 minutes!
How Much Does a Drone Pilot Make in the Real Estate Industry?
If you’re going to put up a fairly large investment to get started as a real estate drone pilot, you hope you’ll be able to recoup it quickly. But exactly how much money can you expect to make as a real estate drone pilot?
In general, a real estate drone pilot can earn around $50,000-$60,000 annually, although it could be much more than this. If you’re a freelance real estate drone photographer and you charge an average of $300 per client and can land 7 clients per week, you could feasibly earn six figures a year.
Is that feasible for you? Probably not, at least to start off with, and maybe not ever. As you build up your portfolio and your following, you’ll begin to obtain more clients. Then your income should increase. But your earnings will depend in large part on your location and many other factors.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS does not have a category for drone pilots yet, only commercial airline pilots. Instead we’ll use ZipRecruiter’s (link) numbers as a basis for what your yearly earnings could realistically be as a real estate drone pilot.
ZipRecruiter quotes the average nationwide drone pilot earnings at $58,280 a year, which is approximately $28 per hour.
You should keep in mind that on a state-by-state basis, your income might be lower or higher. You can also expect to earn more as your career advances and you gain skills and clients.
In these states, your annual earnings could be between $45,000 – $50,000 in the first few years of your career:
- New Mexico
You can easily make a nice living of $50,000 – $55,000 per year if you work as a drone pilot in one of these states:
- South Dakota
- North Carolina
- New Jersey
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
In these states, you can earn $55,000 – $60,000 per year as a drone pilot:
- New Hampshire
- South Carolina
Drone pilots in this handful of states expect to earn more than $60,000 a year:
- Virginia ($60,825)
- New York ($61,306)
- Nebraska ($61,634)
- Maryland ($62,920)
- Washington ($64,004)
How to Find a Job as a Drone Pilot in Real Estate
You’ve decided to seek work as a real estate drone pilot. How and where do you start? Here’s what we recommend.
Use Job Boards
General job boards such as Monster, Indeed, and even ZipRecruiter might not be the best resource for finding drone pilot jobs, but these sites will post niche industry jobs if and as they appear. We recommend searching daily and signing up for email alerts so you never miss a job when it goes live!
Find Drone Job Resources
In addition to using the above sites, you should also seek out drone job boards and websites. Here, you don’t have to filter through pages upon pages of job listings, as you know that every post will be relevant to what you want to do for a living.
Comb Through Social Media
Social media can be greatly beneficial in your quest to find a job as a real estate drone pilot. You can always post on your favorite platforms and ask anyone if they have leads (you never know!).
Polish up your LinkedIn profile, adding relevant experience to your drone background. On LinkedIn and other social media platforms, join drone groups, especially groups centered on finding jobs. These groups might have exclusive leads!
Working as a real estate drone pilot allows you to take photos and videos of homes (and sometimes buildings) that can inspire a sale. We hope the information in this guide helps you decide whether this career path is right for you!