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Emerging Trends... Aerial Photography for Real Estate

Emerging Trends... Aerial Photography for Real Estate

Whether you're listing commercial or residential real estate, or even just listing vacant lots, you're going to be at a disadvantage if you're not including aerial photography in your marketing of the property.

At a recent real estate convention in Cleveland, OH, OAR (held by the Ohio Association of Realtors®), the excitement around an aerial photography booth was palpable. The question asked most frequently by real estate agents was, “How does this work?”

How Does Aerial Photography Work for Real Estate?

Well, if you've grown up around technology, you know that it's really a rather simple process – as long as you go with a pro. Basically, you consult with the aerial photographer on what you would like captured, give the address, and select your package. Don't get us wrong – capturing the images from the sky is not simple, but the process for the real estate agent should be. A reputable professional will be able to provide you with a reasonably priced package, so shop around; be comfortable with whom you choose, so that you'll be happy with the shots you get and the overall experience.

If you have a few reservations, be assured that the drone and the pilot are unobtrusive; they'll do the shoot on site, parking their vehicle away from the listing home, never in the driveway; the mobile command center (the drone-flying equipment) is confined to the listing property, and the images take just a short amount of time to capture. The pilot will consult with you in advance, making sure that your property will be shot in the best light, at the angle you want, capturing just the perspective that you have in mind. And... don't worry if you're not sure how best to capture the location; your aerial photography pro will be able to give you guidance on that during your consultation.

What Can I Expect to Pay for Aerial Images of My Listing?

Most aerial photography companies will have several options for you. You can expect packages in the Midwest to start as low as $125 for standard quality photographs. Expect to pay a bit more on the East and West coasts. As your needs increase (higher quality photographs, special shooting situations, extra quantities of photographs, etc.), your cost will increase incrementally. Video packages can start as low as $225, and both packages should include branded and unbranded versions of your photography.

What Type of “Finished Product” do I Get from an Aerial Photographer?

Your final format will be digital, so in addition to using it for print, you'll also be able to use it for email, web posting and social media. A branded video image will include an agent's contact information (email, phone) and head shot, as well as the broker's name and company logo. A professional real estate aerial photography company should include unbranded versions as part of the package they offer (typically 10 images in a standard package), so you'll have those for use in your MLS listings. For non-MLS use, you may also add branding to your still images – most providers can offer you this option, as well. 

What Price Range Property Is Best Suited for Aerial Photography?

You may think that aerial photography should be reserved for multi-million dollar properties. Actually, the price of the property is rarely the determining factor for when it is best to employ a drone for aerial images of your listing. Think about the specifics of the real estate you're trying to show. Aerial images are perfect for vacant land. They're great to show water-front properties. Properties with sprawl, those that extend into wooded areas, or those that abut water, are great ones to capture from the sky. If the property has unusual lines, special back yards, built-in pools, or multi-level decks – unique features like these may be best captured from above, as well.

What about Licenses or Permits? Do I have to Worry about That?

The short answer is no. As long as you go with a professional aerial photography company, they'll most likely have either their Section 333 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization for the commercial use of drones, or they'll have their part 107 Unmanned Aircraft Rule authorization. The Section 333 is still good (it's a 2-year authorization), and it will be replaced by the part 107 in the coming years. With either authorization, FAA requirements – the operational limitations, pilot certification and responsibilities, as well as aircraft requirements – must be followed strictly. The professional aerial photography company you select should willingly share with you exactly what authorizations it has been granted. Don't be shy about asking for it.

Your aerial photography pro can give you good ideas and guidance on how best to photograph your listing. All this can be covered in your consult prior to the shoot. There are many qualified, licensed, professional aerial photography companies for you to discover. Speak with one today to learn how this emerging trend can put you on top with your customers.

About the author

Barbara Barclay is the marketing arm of Aerial Agents, a Cleveland, Ohio-based FAA Approved, commercial drone aerial photography & videography media production company. In the birthplace of aviation, Aerial Agents is established as the foremost experienced, professional and licensed expert in UAS (unmanned aerial systems) or "drone" piloting. Drone aerial imagery has multiple applications in a wide variety of areas including sales, marketing, real estate, education, travel, entertainment, hospitality, information, instruction, insurance, news, court cases and more.


Commercial drones are ready for takeoff

By Gary Shapiro

Gary Shapiro is chief executive of the Consumer Electronics Association.

Lightweight commercial drone aircraft are poised to transform industries from online retail to film and photography to farming and even Internet signal delivery. But delays in federal rule-making mean that U.S. businesses are stuck in limbo, unable to move forward with this exciting technology. While the rest of the world is putting these robots-on-wings to work in life-altering ways, U.S. policymakers continue to stifle innovation and economic growth by equivocating on the merits of drones.

In 2007, the Federal Aviation Administration banned commercial drone use under the same rules that govern the use of model aircraft. Recently, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the intelligence committee, called for hefty regulation of drones. While the FAA has approved drones for use by hobbyists, as well as for one company to use them in remote parts of Alaska, it’s now time for the agency to consider whether more businesses should be allowed to fly them, given concerns about privacy and safety. Such issues have a real place in this debate, but continuing to keep commercial drones grounded is not the right answer.

The issue of safety is of course of paramount concern, but other nations have been able to responsibly address the risks without shutting down all progress. The FAA has already investigated ways to integrate drones into U.S. airspace. It released a report on guidelines for small commercial drones — of less than 55 pounds — in 2009, but those guidelines were never transformed into final rules. The agency is now working toward an August statutory deadline — a deadline it isn’t likely to meet.

As the FAA continues to hold commercial drones in abeyance, it may not have much of a legal leg to stand on. For one thing, the rules are inconsistent. The agency goes only after operators who make money from drone use, which is why individual hobbyists can fly them without repercussions.

Parrot product manager Francois Callou holds a Parrot Bebop drone during a Parrot event in San Francisco, Thursday, May 8, 2014. The Parrot Bebop drone, which has a 14-megapixel fish-eye camera lens and battery life of about 12 minutes flying time, is scheduled to be released later this year. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Then there are questions about whether the 2007 ban is enforceable. In March, a federal judge threw out a $10,000 fine the FAA imposed on a Swiss drone operator who used a drone to shoot a promotional video at the University of Virginia in 2011, on the grounds that the FAA failed to follow proper rule-making procedures. The agency has appealed the ruling to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Sadly, there are plenty of examples of the FAA squelching drone use rather than developing a needed policy framework. The Washington Nationals are facing potential fines for using a drone to take promotional pictures during spring training. And a Minnesota brewing company was recently forced to stop drone deliveries to ice fishers.

Meanwhile, much of the rest of the world is adopting drones. Sales of drones — both military and commercial — are expected to reach $89 billion globally over the next decade, according to the aerospace-
research company Teal Group. The industry is developing rapidly, and other countries are reaping the benefits. In Japan, drones have been used to spray crops for two decades. In Britain, drones are used to check the undersides of oil platforms, and real estate agents use them for promotional pictures. Germany, Australia and the United Arab Emirates are developing uses for the technology, from recording sporting events to delivering goods and documents.

With its history of aggressive innovation, the United States should be a leader, not a laggard, in adopting new technology. This should be especially true with drones, which have so much potential in such diverse fields as moviemaking, newsgathering, agriculture, defense and public safety. Just consider how great U.S. companies such as FedEx, UPS, Dominos and Amazon have changed how we get products. If drones are to be a part of breakthroughs in distribution, shouldn’t we want that innovation to occur here? We need the spin-off jobs, industries and benefits that drones will provide.

We cannot wait years for Congress and the FAA to approve regulations governing drones in our airspace. If we do, other nations will leapfrog us as innovators. Prolonged delay in the face of rapid technological change also means that rules risk being outmoded the day they’re issued. What is needed as soon as possible is a clear and straightforward policy framework that fosters innovation in this emerging industry.

In November, the FAA issued a road map laying the groundwork for integrating drones into commercial aviation. This is an encouraging sign, but it is not enough. Drones will transform the way we live. They can boost the economy and create thousands of jobs. All it will take is for the government to get out of the way and allow innovators to do what they do best.