Attack of the Real Estate Photo Drones?

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Photo courtesy SkyCam USA


Photo drone being used to take real estate photos

Just when you’ve mastered your smartphone to take listing photos, a new technology is springing up in MLSs across the country – flying photo drones (see more drone real estate photos here, scroll down after the jump). Unlike drones being used in the military, these are small GPS / radio controlled helicopter style drones, missiles not included.

Many come with specialized software to aide in photo taking “Our muticopters are GPS Enabled with position hold and fly to way point ability all viewable on a 3D map with preflight planning and mission simulation via Google Earth. With altitude, speed, distance and other relevant data,” says SkyCam USA, a leading real estate photo drone company.

The FAA and local police departments are taking notice. Privacy advocates are also up in arms. The LAPD recently released a statement warning real estate agents on the use of drones:

“We are just trying to inform the public to ensure that before hiring these companies to operate these aircraft in federal airspace, that they are abiding by the federal regulations to ensure safety,” said police Sgt. George Gonzalez.”

What do you think of aerial drone photos? Would they benefit Buyers and Sellers?


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  1. Robert Drummer

    Companies have been using helium balloons and/or aerial buckets for years. A UAV under the control of a skilled operator shouldn’t create a legal issue for anyone.

    Here’s an example of what the UAV videos look like: Would that help you get a high-end listing?

    That said, the oblique images offered by Google in the ARMLS area are much better and newer than the old Bing aerials and can give buyers a fairly good aerial view experience for free. Example:

    You can get right to the image from iMapp by clicking the “Google Maps” button in the left hand column of your property detail page.

    • ARMLS Social Media Team

      Robert, If you want to see what a property looks like from the air, Google Maps is useful. But, we don’t allow Subscribers to use copyrighted photos in the MLS, they must own the rights. Taking a photo from Google Maps or Earth and uploading them is a violation.

      • Robert Drummer

        Do you allow Subscribers to post links to images? That is fully supported by Google’s license agreement.

        Also, when I was REALTOR® I had a license for Keyhole (now Google Maps/Earth) which I used for screen caps and fly-throughs. If a Subscriber has a valid Google Maps for Business license that allows posting to sites, would that be allowed?

        • ARMLS Social Media Team

          No, we don’t have an area where Subscribers can post links out like that. On the other issue, it would depend, Subscribers should contact the Data Integrity department for more info:

  2. Stephen Garner

    drones are the next step in the quest to deliver content to consumers whether that be images or video. Obama cleared the way for using drones for commercial purposes including real estate photography and videography with the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Drones are expected to be cleared for use this year.

    But I wouldn’t be paranoid about real estate agents using drones, unlike a standard flip mino or iPhone the barrier to entry for a real estate agent to use a drone is rather high – the DJI Phantom (one of the least expensive drones) cost $1000 properly equipped and that can only carry a Go PRO. When you get into Quadcopters with are capable of carrying a Canon Mark II/III your talking $10,000+ and that doesn’t include the $5,000 camera. There are companies and individuals offering this service right here in Phoenix already. (has been for a while)

    I’ve been using video in my business for years, my next progression is to drones but I’m waiting to see that the rules look like first. Judging from what I/we have seen from sellers that see the videos we make to market their homes and the reaction from our real estate clients to our videos I would say drones shooting aerial images and video can only enhance that.

    It’s not coming, it’s already here.

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