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Five Things Realtors Should Think About Before Using A Drone

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

If you’re a Realtor thinking of hiring a drone pilot to photograph your listing, here are a few tips to help you decide how to spend your money.

As a Realtor and a pilot, I will give it to you straight.


The first thing you need to consider is: why? Why do you need a drone at all.

Frankly, many listings would do just as well without a drone. Yet, I see colleagues shelling out hundreds of dollars for drone pictures that probably won’t help the property sell faster or for more.

I see this most in cookie cutter neighborhoods with small lots and nothing stimulating about the surroundings. Unfortunately, the drone shots are reduced to 1 or 2 stills and 15-20 seconds of video.

Conversely, you can use a drone shot to help bring a somewhat ordinary property to life. But you really should have a clear idea of how you’re going to do that with the drone and convey that to the pilot. Otherwise, you might just get vanilla from the air.

Some properties practically demand drone shots. If the drone can convey how close the property is to the beach or nearby amenities, that’s a good reason to launch. Likewise, if the real property is large, that’s also a great reason for a drone.

Got a creek, waterfall, pond or canyon on the property? Then, you’ve got a winning reason to fly the property.


You want to make sure the drone (and pilot) shoots quality images. Drones are by no means equal. Some drones are at just a couple of hundred dollars and shoot compressed video with lower quality resolution. Others cost from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars and can be outfitted with large still or video cameras.

Chances are, you need something in between. Some of the best professional drones are modestly priced and shoot 4k video. They also have a relatively high megapixel count for the still camera.

Another sign of a good drone/pilot combination is smooth movement. More advanced drones lock on to an image and help the pilot prevent jerky and distracting movements while flying. You definitely want the silkiest video you can get.


It’s really important for a Realtor to have an idea about the area they want photographed. Maui has several “controlled” airspaces and at least one “restricted” area. This means that it’s going to be illegal for your pilot to fly there without an “authorization” or “waiver” from the FAA.

The process to get FAA clearance can take up to 90 days.

Accordingly, the best thing to do is to start planning early. The more notice you can give the pilot, the better. If you are going to ask your pilot to try to get a waiver, expect to pay a little bit for the pilot or its company to apply with the government.


In the good old days, you could fly your drone around a listing, get great photos and sell the property. But the good old days didn’t last long. Now, any pilot working for a Realtor must be licensed with the FAA under CFR part 107.

The government is serious about this requirement. It can impose civil and criminal penalties for unlicensed drone operations. Those fines start at $32,000 per incident.

But you’re just the Realtor, right? Technically, it doesn’t matter. If you knowingly hire an unlicensed drone pilot, you subject yourself to possible criminal liability as well as professional sanctions.


Finally, I think its smart to make sure the pilot is insured for your job. This will help protect you if that 15 pound piece of plastic and carbon fiber falls out of the sky onto your client’s Lexus—or worse her 3-year-old.

A good practice is to just ask the pilot to affirm that he/she is insured in the quote. A $1 million dollar liability limit seems to be the industry standard.


Paul Aker is the owner/operator of AKER MEDIA and Blond Baron Drone Photography. Paul is a licensed drone pilot, Realtor and news publisher. Paul's background includes 25 years in broadcast news, civil litigation as an attorney in Ohio and current publisher of Maui Alert News. Calls us 808 436-7021.


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