Quick Links for Our 4 Best Drones for Real Estate Photography

We strongly recommend you read in-detail down below why we recommend these specific products. But if you just want a quick summary and a link to purchase, we’ve provided these here.

The first DJI Mini with no major compromises, the DJI Mini 4 Pro is our recommendation for the best drone for real estate photography. We even recommend it over the mid-tier DJI Mavic Air 3 – unless you are in a particular-windy locale.

The Mini 3 is effectively a Mini 4 Pro without obstacle avoidance and “just” 4K@30fps. But the 3’s still camera performance is nearly identical to the 4 Pro’s, and at about half the price this is our solid budget recommendation.

The Mavic 3 series is overkill for most real estate needs, but its Pro variant is our agency’s drone of choice. The single Hasselblad lens Mavic 3 Classic will provide incredible stills and video, though it comes at a tough-to-justify premium.

The Autel EVO Lite+ is what you should choose if you specifically don’t want a DJI drone or want to avoid DJI’s migraine-inducing Geofence complications. Autel is our backup option on every shoot for that very reason.

Note on our “Fly More” links: Based on our own extensive experience with drones professionally, a single battery is inadequate for most use cases. Thus most of our recommended product variants are the “Fly More” editions (or equivalents) with discounted additional batteries bundled. However, the cheaper basic versions are typically a variant you can select as an alternative.

Affiliate Link Disclosure: Know that purchasing with our affiliate links helps support niche articles like this from us, and we appreciate your support.

Table of Contents

Why We Wrote this Article + Why Trust Our Take on Drones for Real Estate Photography

This article came about due to some of our real estate clients straight-up asking us which drones we use or we’d recommend, in case they needed to do some photography themselves, or for a DIY realtor-photographer, for example.

While we had strong opinions, we learned what many clients had found as drone recommendations online were suboptimal, lacking context for aerial real estate needs. We disagreed with many of those recommendations in-context. 

At Jack & Bean, our agency provides aerial real estate photography with drones on a near-daily basis, primarily in Arizona where we’re based. As subject matter experts, we felt we should contribute to this discourse, and hopefully do so more accurately than some of the cookie-cutter articles out there that seem eager to make a quick referral-buck or were just too general in their nature.

Indeed, a lot of the prominent recommendations on the web touted features that were either overkill or irrelevant for most typical real estate shoots, such as auto-tracking or low-light performance. You can easily overspend or get a drone with a less desirable feature set for the same budget, based on many sites’ recommendations. 

As a creative agency experienced in drone photography, including real estate, we decided it was time we put together our very-first product recommendation guide: the best drones specifically for aerial real estate photography

Whether you’re a creative professional, or a realtor looking to snag your own shots for properties you’re listing, below you’ll find plenty of contextual recommendations for why a particular drone’s features are important or not, through our agency’s specialty lens for aerial real estate photography.

Honorable Mentions

The following products didn’t quite win out in any specific category, but were worth mentioning briefly for their standout potential nonetheless.

DJI Mini 2 SE

dji mini 2 se budget drone real estate

Our previous budget pick remains relevant if you’re on a restrictive budget – as long as you can still find its Fly More combo, equipping it with 3 batteries and other useful accessories, for under/around $500.

Just remember that the Mini 2 SE will require well-lit and low-wind conditions for acceptable results and has no obstacle avoidance. You’re also restricted to 2.7K or 1080p for video.

Buy the Mini 2 SE on Amazon 


DJI Mavic Air 2S

dji mavic air 2s best drone real estate

Our former overall recommendation, the Mavic Air 2S has been discontinued and is being replaced by the Mavic Air 3 line. Its price has gone up as a result – if it can be found new at all. 

However, the single camera on the Mavic Air 2S is superior to the two smaller cameras on the Mavic Air 3, and thus we still recommend it for real estate photography where your single best camera is paramount – if it can be had at around or below the price of the Mini 4 Pro.

Buy the Mavic Air 2S on Amazon


DJI Mavic Air 3

dji mavic air 3 real estate drone

If you need a drone that is 3X heavier/larger and more powerful than the Mini 4 Pro due to frequent strong winds where you shoot (or you value the additional camera for some use case) the Mavic Air 3 could be considered over the Mini 4 Pro.

However, the gap between the Mini 4 Pro and the Mavic Air 3 is very small otherwise, and we think the Mini 4 Pro is the clear value winner – but the Mavic Air 3 is technically the next step up.

Buy the Mavic Air 3 on Amazon


DJI Mavic 3 Pro

dji mavic 3 pro premium drone real estate

We love the Mavic 3 Pro. It’s our primary workhorse in-house for us, here at Jack & Bean. But for real estate photography, it’s heavy overkill. The additional telephoto lenses will get minimal if any use for most real estate shoots, and it also gets slightly worse flight time (vs Mavic 3 Classic) due to its heavier weight.

So for an equivalent premium pick, we recommend the cheaper single-lens Classic variant – and even that should be considered with caution due to diminishing returns for its premium price.

Buy the Mavic 3 Pro on Amazon

The first DJI Mini with no major compromises, the DJI Mini 4 Pro is our recommendation for the best drone for real estate photography. We even recommend it over the mid-tier DJI Mavic Air 3 – unless you are in a particular-windy locale.

We recommend the DJI Mini 4 Pro for most real estate photography needs. Although the Mini 4 Pro is also the most expensive Mini series drone to-date, it still represents an incredible value for its feature sets.

The Mini 4 Pro is exceptionally light and portable. Like all DJI Mini drones, its default configuration brings it in under 250g. This makes the Mini line about 3X lighter on-average compared to larger flagship drone models like the Mavic and Air series. This also means stowing it and carrying it around for real estate shoots is much easier to stomach, due to it being so small and lightweight.

The Mini 4 Pro has the fewest compromises of any Mini drone yet. In truth, other than its size and smaller (but still excellent) single camera, there is little to differentiate the Mini 4 Pro from its more expensive Air and Mavic siblings in most feature areas. It has all of DJI’s intelligent flight functions for smooth, professional-looking video clips as well as omnidirectional obstacle avoidance.

The Mini 4 Pro’s camera takes excellent stills for real estate photography. And with the ability to shoot in RAW format, you have the ability to handle any minor deficiencies in post. Yes, the Mavic 3 Classic’s camera will be slightly superior, but we caution it probably is not worth the heavy premium for that drone unless you need the absolute best. And we don’t feel the mid-tier Air 3 line provides much of a still photography difference whatsoever – nor does real estate photography benefit heavily from additional telephoto lenses like on the Air 3 or Mavic 3 Pro.

The Mini 4 Pro shoots 4K video at up to 100fps. Although video is the main area we’d recommend a drone with a more capable sensor like the Mavic 3 Classic, the quality of the footage produced with the Mini 4 Pro is still excellent. As long as lighting conditions aren’t suboptimal and you generally stick to well-planned daylight hours, your footage will turn out looking professional and more than satisfactory for real estate purposes. Plus, you have access to DJI’s QuickShots and MasterShots for professional, automated video clips.

The Mini 4 Pro has good battery life with 30 minutes on its standard battery, and the option for an extended 39 minutes on the “Plus” battery variant. We strongly recommend the Plus Fly More combo, as the larger batteries actually provide about 50% more usable flight time once you factor in low battery margins. The main thing to note if you opt for the larger “Plus” batteries is they will put the drone over 250g/0.55lb and thus be required to be registered with the FAA – though that’s not something we think you should be averse to doing.

The Mini 4 Pro is the first DJI Mini with true omnidirectional obstacle avoidance. This has long been the bane of the DJI Mini line, due to weight considerations to keep the Minis under 250g. But as tech has progressed and DJI has gotten more capable of cramming additional tech into that same weight profile, they have finally managed to fit a full omnidirectional set of sensors into the Mini 4 Pro. This means you can feel confident as you relocate for stills or take advanced video footage, knowing your drone won’t let you smack into that tree you didn’t see.

The Mini 4 Pro is small and prone to gusty conditions. The Mini 4 Pro is so solid otherwise, that this has become the only significant reason we can recommend considering skipping the Mini 4 Pro for a larger drone for basic real estate photography. Larger and more powerful drones resist windy conditions and gusts better, keeping photos clear and videos still. But if you live somewhere with reasonable wind averages and/or can plan around adverse weather, then this concern is mitigated.

The Mini 3 is effectively a Mini 4 Pro without obstacle avoidance and “just” 4K@30fps. But the 3’s still camera performance is nearly identical to the 4 Pro’s, and at about half the price this is our solid budget recommendation.

Despite its cheaper price tag, the tiny DJI Mini 3 sports a 12MP/4K camera, useful intelligent flight modes, and great battery life. It can still get the job done for real estate shots as well, especially in optimal lighting. Just avoid low light conditions. And just like the Mini 4 Pro, it’s compact and portable.

Did we mention the DJI Mini 3 is small? Nay, it’s tiny. When folded up in its compact state, this drone is about the size of an apple and easily fits in your hand. The Mini 3 weighs just 249g, and gets a perfect 10 for portability. It’s this same compact nature that enables many drone pilots, ourselves included, to bring a Mini series drone along whenever traveling or even just commuting. Other drones like our more capable but much larger Mavic series would prove too bulky to just have around just in case.

Just like with the Mini 4 Pro, the Mini 3’s compact weight is quite intentional, as DJI’s Mini series is purposely intended to fall under the US’s Exception for Limited Recreational Operations, which states that any UAV/drone under 250g/0.55lb is not legally required to be registered with the FAA. So at 249g, the DJI Mini 3 does not need to be registered with the FAA. A minor convenience, as registration takes only a few mins and costs $5/3yrs, but a convenience nonetheless.

The camera on the DJI Mini 3 is commendable, but it falls short of the ones on the Air and Mavic series drones, particularly during low-light shooting. However, in optimal lighting conditions that are bright and/or evenly lit, the DJI Mini 3 does quite well, and can produce footage good enough for professional use in the right hands.

The DJI Mini 3 shoots video at up to 4K@30fps and 2.7K/1080P@60fps. For such a compact and affordable drone, the inclusion of 4K video, even if it is just 30fps, is a tremendous boon. Just be aware that the lack of HEVC/H.265 encoding means your H.264 MP4 video file sizes will be much larger, and thus storage considerations may be larger both for individual shoots and long-term archiving.

The storage consideration is something to keep in mind, particularly for the budget-conscious. Luckily, storage is at an all-time low right now. For example, a Samsung EVO 512GB MicroSD card can be had for $30-40, at the time of writing. This is enough for several all-day shoots, even with the less-efficient (though highly-compatible) H.264 video codec.

The DJI Mini 3 has excellent battery life for a compact drone at 34 minutes, especially when equipped with the higher-capacity Intelligent Flight Battery Plus, which bumps it up to 47 minutes – slightly edging out the Mini 4 Pro’s 34/45m flight times. Though like the Mini 4 Pro, the higher capacity batteries do cause the Mini 3 to exceed the 250g weight limit though, meaning it legally should be registered with the FAA when utilizing them.

Despite its budget positioning, we’re happy to report that the DJI Mini 3 has all of the basic QuickShot video modes we consider crucial for easy, smooth, and dynamic aerial real estate video footage: Dronie, Rocket, Circle, Helix, Boomerang, and Asteroid. Refer to DJI’s always-up-to-date documentation on QuickShots for more information on what each shot type entails, which drones support which modes, their default distances, etc.

Understandably to save both cost and weight on additional sensors, the DJI Mini 3 lacks any obstacle avoidance, a crucial feature included on most other (albeit larger and more expensive) drones. You’ll need to be extra-mindful of your surroundings when shooting, especially for properties and locales with lots of trees, tall buildings or powerlines nearby. These little guys don’t typically handle collisions well.

Watch out for the wind! Due to their intentionally-smaller sizes, DJI’s Mini series of drones are more affected by high winds and unexpected gusts. With lower top speeds and being more easily jostled during shots, if you operate in an area that is consistently windy, you might want to opt for a heavier and more powerful drone.

The DJI Mini 3 is our recommendation if budget is a factor in your purchase decision. With all DJI Mini series options, you get exceptional value, you just need to identify how much you want to compromise from our main pick of the Mini 4 Pro if budget is a concern.

The Mavic 3 series is overkill for most real estate needs, but its Pro variant is our agency’s drone of choice. The single Hasselblad lens Mavic 3 Classic will provide incredible stills and video, though it comes at a tough-to-justify premium.

The DJI Mavic 3 Classic is a sizable upgrade – literally – over our main pick, the DJI Mini 4 Pro. It’s huge in relation, at 895g – nearly 4X the size of the Mini 4 Pro’s 249g. And the Mavic series comes packed with premium features – however, we caution spending more than double what the DJI Mini 4 Pro costs unless you’re certain you’ll see value from the upgrades, as we’ll explain in more detail.

It’s worth noting that the Mavic 3 Classic’s top-of-the-line features come at a steep price premium compared to the otherwise-similarly-equipped DJI Mini 4 Pro. We aren’t convinced this value will be realized by everyone just wanting a drone for real estate purposes primarily, which is why the Mavic 3 Classic is our premium pick for a real estate drone solution and not our overall top recommendation.

The Mavic 3 Classic comes with a stellar Hasselblad 20-megapixel camera that has incredible performance out of the box. We love the natural colors and dynamic range it provides and we often find our shots need minimal editing and color correction. This is the most noticeable feature at a glance we think most people will note on-paper between the Mavic 3 series over the Mavic Air and Mini series, as DJI loves to highlight the Hasselblad camera.

The Mavic 3 Classic shoots video at up to 5.1k@50fps and 4K@120fps. The 5.1K video proves helpful for cropping shots while retaining 4K+ resolution during post-production. The 30fps-50fps range (typically 30fps for compatibility) is normally sufficient for smooth real estate photography shots and their typical display mediums. However, you always have the option to retain buttery-smooth video with 4K@120fps.

The Mavic 3 Classic has a consumer-drone-leading 46 minute battery life – one of the longest currently on the market. We find this incredibly valuable to not have to land as often to swap batteries. There are a few drones with a bit more, but they’re some combination of niche, more expensive and more difficult to purchase.

The Mavic 3 Classic is stellar in windy conditions. With its larger size and more powerful propulsion, the Mavic series has much stronger wind resistance than the DJI Mini series – both on paper, and in practical use. It doesn’t jostle around as much to maintain its position, and it is much less likely to have issues returning to home when the wind kicks up unexpectedly.

When recommending a drone for realtors and most generic real estate needs, we aren’t convinced it’s worth it to spend the extra money to get a Mavic 3 series drone over our main choice, the DJI Mini 4 Pro. You need to value the increased quality of the single Hasselblad camera on the Classic to consider it instead.

The Autel EVO Lite+ is what you should choose if you specifically don’t want a DJI drone or want to avoid DJI’s migraine-inducing Geofence complications. Autel is our backup option on every shoot for that very reason.

The Autel EVO Lite+ trades blows with our main pick, the DJI Mini 4 Pro. The drone that’s best for you completely depends on which specific features you value and their current price differential. They’re otherwise well-matched in just about every area (except weight). But if you want to avoid the headache of airspace complications—something DJI is notorious for—then this is likely the drone for you.

As with all Autel drones, the EVO Lite+ will not refuse to fly in controlled airspace. Autel leaves this legal responsibility up to you, the pilot. The drone will warn you about being in controlled airspace, but it will not impede flight. This is irrefutably the top reason to consider an Autel drone over a DJI drone, in our opinion. 

DJI’s drones can require extra steps to operate at all in controlled airspace. They will slam to a halt as if hitting an invisible wall or even refuse takeoff when they encounter controlled airspace if you don’t have approval to fly in it. And we’re not talking approval from the FAA and local ATC. Annoyingly, you also need separate approval from DJI at times, and the airspace they require authorization for often differs from FAA airspace maps, providing extra frustration and confusion. 

Autel drones like the EVO Lite+ will happily avoid all of this annoyance for you. Our agency always sends a backup Autel drone out on shoots alongside our main DJI drone due to potential airspace complications.

The 20-megapixel camera on the EVO Lite+ beats out that of the DJI Mini 4 Pro, our main pick—that is to say, it’s impressive. They both produce great quality photos that are consistently excellent, in optimal light. But in most cases the EVO will edge out the DJI Mini 4 Pro, especially in low-light situations – though that should largely be avoided for most real estate photography.

The EVO Lite+ shoots video at up to 6K@30fps and 4K@60fps. This is an area where Autel drones shine, as the company has consumer drones that can even shoot in native 8K. The EVO Lite+ is no exception, although that 6K resolution will likely be wasted on almost all playback devices in the near future, and is mostly just useful for cropping in post-production, in our opinion.

The battery life on the EVO Lite+ is superb for a drone its size, at 40 minutes. What is more impressive to us is that it meets or exceeds that battery life claim consistently. Paired with longer flight time percentages (see below), the EVO Lite+ mops the floor with the DJI Mini 4 Pro when it comes to battery life and related flight time.

Don’t be fooled by the “Lite” moniker. We don’t know what Autel was thinking by naming it such, but it is anything but light. We think it’s worth noting that the EVO Lite+ is 235% heavier than the DJI Mini 4 Pro. But with its long flight times and heavyweight performance, we think it’s worth looking past this unfortunate naming scheme.

Although it has some intelligent flight modes, the Autel EVO Lite+ has fewer equivalents to DJI’s QuickShots that are useful for aerial real estate videography. We recommend factoring this in if you plan to rely heavily on those for smooth shots of your properties. 

That being said, it still has an orbit mode that allows for altitude adjustment. The EVO Lite+’s object tracking is good enough that you can manually create dynamic shots that are somewhat equivalent to the automated DJI QuickShot variants like Helix and Boomerang, which we regularly make use of for our aerial real estate videography.

Autel drones can stay up a longer before wanting to RTH (return to home) due to low battery as well. This can be considered a good or bad thing depending on your point-of-view, but Autel allows for their low and critical battery levels to be adjusted reasonably. This allows Autel drones to stay in the air longer and avoid annoyingly early forced RTHs. 

DJI does not allow their drones’ battery warnings to be adjusted, they’re auto-calculated. We thus find our DJI drones want to return to home with 15-20% or more battery life, which feels a bit wasteful, and we haven’t found a way to override this to utilize more of the battery. We understand it’s intended for our own good, but we’re professionals and sometimes want the full flight time we paid for. 

In contrast, we find we can squeeze a few more shots out of Autel drone flights this way, without them being interrupted by unnecessarily early RTH threats—and it’s never been an issue returning to home with 10% battery left.

The Rise of Drone Photography in Real Estate

Every realtor wants to make their listings stand apart from the crowd and draw in more potential buyers. The more eyes you have on a client’s home, the more likely it will sell quickly. While this is a common goal, many realtors struggle to really make their homes shine and stand out as well as they’d like.

One increasingly popular way to make a home stand out is through aerial drone photography. Using drones to capture high-quality images and even videos of your clients’ homes is a great way to make your listings pop. 

Instead of the eye level picture of a house from the driveway, you’ll have more dynamic shots from the air with a drone. If you have a pool or other great yard features, drone shots are also a great way to showcase those assets of your properties.

drone aerial real estate shot vs ground photography scaled

Don’t just take our word for it though. A recent study showed listings that feature aerial photography are 68% more likely to sell than properties without them – and that number is only increasing. That statistic is pretty clear, and makes sense if you think about it. What better way to show off an amazing home, yard, pool, or impressive lot size than with an aerial shot?

What to Look For in a Real Estate Drone

What we’ve found is not so clear is where to start if you’re looking to buy a drone for real estate photography purposes. Drones have risen in popularity over the last decade, creating a lot of options on the market, and although most will do a commendable job, there are some standout choices to maximize your budget and results. 

We’ll review what factors we consider when researching and selecting drones below. Much of this is based on our real-world experience. You’ll also note that these factors are either reviewed in-detail in our recommendations above, and in some cases just assumed to be a given.

Use A Reliable Drone Brand

We are by no means shills for any particular manufacturer, but you may notice from our internal anecdotes that we do stick to DJI and Autel exclusively, and for a host of factors.

DJI is the industry leader for consumer drones for a reason. Their drones produce reliable, quality footage and are packed with the feature-rich bells and whistles for their price ranges that is typically leading the competition.

Autel has risen to be our preferred secondary brand to DJI for their competitive alternatives to DJI’s offerings. They do their best to match (if not exceed) specs and features of their DJI counterparts. Competition is great for us as consumers. And of course, Autel is the way to go if you want to avoid the geofencing issues that DJI is firm on enforcing with their own additional geofence barriers and related hurdles.

Both DJI and Autel offer 1st-party accidental damage protection for some of their drone models. You can purchase additional coverage for a range of mishaps. If one occurs, there’s a small deductible based on your drone’s value, and you can exchange your old drone for a new one! We carry accidental damage protection on all of our drones. If you shoot regularly and it’s offered, we recommend you consider it as well.

Both DJI and Autel products are also popular and thus highly reviewed online, so it’s always easy to do in-depth drone research before any purchase. We use both, and we’re confident if you stick to DJI or Autel, you’ll have a durable drone that provides a consistent flying experience and produces quality footage for your aerial real estate photography needs.

Prioritize a Drone’s Main Camera

The most important feature of your drone is its primary camera, particularly for aerial real estate photography. Look for a camera with a large sensor, as that will correlate most-strongly with image quality. A bigger sensor allows for more dynamic range and low-light performance, capturing more information in each shot. Large 1” and 4/3” sensors are available in modern consumer drones, including some of our recommendations.

primary camera dji mavic 3 classic hasselblad

Megapixels aren’t everything, but as a rule, look for a drone that has at least 12MP of resolution for you to work with in post-production. More pixels is typically more-better, and will tend to correlate with sensor size as well.

More cameras is not always more-better. Many higher-end and newer drones might have additional cameras. While these offer creative flexibility, we’ve found at times more cameras have come at the cost of a better single main camera, such as in the case of the dual-camera 2023 DJI Mavic Air 3 vs its single-camera predecessor, the 2021 DJI Mavic Air 2S.

Even in cases where additional cameras are separate upgrades to a main camera, such as on the DJI Mavic 3 Pro, for real estate photography where a single capable camera is typically all that’s needed, an upgrade simply for more cameras is not typically worth the extra cash.

If at all in doubt, don’t hesitate to look at your prospective drones’ reviews and find sample images, particularly if you can find reviews targeting two drones you’re torn between. Such comparison reviews are surprisingly plentiful and can be instrumental in helping you determine which camera is more to your liking, style, and lighting preferences.

Drone Video Should be 4K minimum

As evidenced in all of our recommendations, producing 4K drone video is a firm minimum across all industry and shoot types.. Lower resolution 1080p/FHD (or less common 1400p/QHD) footage as a final product is often just fine, but we still recommend your raw footage be 4K for flexibility. You can always scale video quality down, but scaling it up, even with current AI capabilities, is much less acceptable for quality-oriented footage.

If you’ve covered your bases on the camera for your drone, it will likely produce excellent 4K footage anyway. Thus, in addition to the resolution, we recommend paying careful attention to the video “bells and whistles” too, such as fps at 4K and higher and any HDR capabilities. 

Higher fps will not only net you smoother shots, but also allow you flexibility to slow shots down to half speed from 60fps or even quarter speed from 120fps  while still maintaining an acceptably smooth, standard 30fps shot. 

High dynamic range (HDR) will allow you to capture more detail across a wider range of lighting conditions, especially in extremely bright and dark areas, allowing for more overall detail in your shots. This often leads to a feeling of footage having a natural “pop” to it.

We’re often asked if 5-6K or even 8K drones are worth spending more for the video capabilities. Our answer is no, 4K is fine—with a few asterisks. With current drones, you often have to choose between 4K at a higher framerate, such as 60fps or 120fps, or a higher resolution, like maybe 6k, but at a lower framerate, such as 30fps. 

If your shot is likely to be framed as intended and you won’t need to crop it, go for the 4K shot, and get the smoother/higher frame rate. This makes extreme resolution video beyond 4K being considered a niche feature that we rarely use internally.

But if you want some creative flexibility in post-production, having more video resolution beyond 4K/2160p can allow you to crop and zoom more readily. Similarly, also keep in mind that even 4K footage can utilize cropping and zooming in the same way for a quality 1080p end-product that looks magnificent.

That was somewhat-convoluted, so in summary, don’t get too caught up on video resolution beyond 4K right now, but we recommend making sure you have it as a minimum.

Drone Flight Time / Battery Life isn’t Crucial

Don’t get us wrong. Battery life measured in flight time is always an important metric when selecting a drone. But for localized aerial real estate photography, we consider extended flight time more of a want than a need.

dji mavic air 3 drone battery charging hub

For localized single-property photography, you can easily recall your nearby drone for a battery swap, as opposed to other types of shoots where your drone might be off on longer waypoint-based traverses. Is landing to swap batteries inconvenient? Yes. Will it affect the final product though like other considerations here? No.

Yet, it’s always a boon to not have to land your drone as often. Depending on your shot list and typical shoot, a longer flight time might mean the difference between getting an entire property on a single battery and having to make that “pit stop” for additional juice. We just recommend weighing flight time a bit lower than factors like camera and video quality.

Wind Risks for Lighter Drones

As we cautioned when discussing small drones like DJI’s Mini series, watch out for strong winds! Lighter, less-powerful drones are more affected by wind and unexpected gusts, which can affect the smoothness and clarity of shots. 

You can even find yourself in a situation where the wind becomes so strong that your drone cannot make it back to your location to be recovered, and is lost in a scenario referred to as a “fly away”. If you operate in an area that is consistently windy, you might want to opt for a heavier and more powerful drone for this reason alone.

As of the time of writing, 3-axis gimbals have largely become the standard, while additional 4-axis and 5-axis gimbals are not yet mainstream on consumer drones. Thus we don’t typically address this as a point of note on our reviews typically, but avoid drones that don’t have at least a 3-axis gimbal for clear, smooth and stable shots. This will ensure windy or gusty conditions won’t adversely affect the outcome of your footage.

Intelligent Flight Functions are Important

Although it’s important to be able to competently fly your drone manually, there is no shame in relying on smart flight modes to create dynamic shots. These are often virtually impossible to take manually at the level of smoothness the drone’s processing can manage, due to the many points of adjustment required to smoothly transition while keeping targets in focus ranges.

DJI’s QuickShots are one of the best reasons to consider their drones for aerial real estate videography. These QuickShots can be found on most of their latest drones across their lineup. These allow for a range of shots from simple “dronies” and “rockets” to more complex “helixes” and “boomerangs”. 

Some DJI drones even a full-featured “MasterShot” mode that will take multiple dynamic shots and stitch them together into a video with transitions. Though we don’t typically use MasterShots for real estate videography, we do use the more simple QuickShots a few times on virtually every shoot.

Basic tracking functions are crucial features, though these will assuredly be included in some form on any modern drone. Examples include DJI’s Spotlight and POI modes, which keep a target (such as a property) centered and focused while you move around it, providing additional inputs. However, most of these types of maneuvers are a bit less complex to perform manually, and we use them less often as accomplished drone pilots.

Drone Controller Comfort and Tips

Hands and drone controllers both come in a variety of sizes and shapes.   If you’ll be doing lots of shooting, it’s worth finding out as early as possible if the controller your drone comes paired with is a good fit for your hands or grip style and that you find it usable. There’s nothing worse than your hands cramping mid-way through a shot you traveled a long way to capture.

DJI in particular has a variety of controller options, and their drones are trending towards increased compatibility with these varieties. These range from a simple console-style controller that requires an attached phone, to their beefy and expensive pro controller lines, allowing for not only a range of features and price points, but also comfort considerations.

If you find your thumbs are cramping from precision tension, we have a few tips. First we recommend trying a two-fingered grip with your same hand’s thumb and forefinger simultaneously gripping the joystick. This can improve precision and can help eliminate fatigue and discomfort from thumb-only joystick use. You can also try adjusting the sensitivity of your joysticks in your drone controller’s software to help reduce the amount of tension you need to hold in your fingers during your shots.

If your controller is comfortable, but feels foreign or hard-to-use at first, and you’re using a DJI or Autel drone we’ve recommended, we would encourage you to stick with it. Practice piloting often. You’ll find that after many hours, the drone will become an extension of yourself, and you’ll be able to fly it where and how you want almost without having to think about it.

Get a Full-Featured Drone Controller

For real estate photography, it’s a firm requirement to be able to see your shots in real-time while flying, no question. A drone controller with a screen built into it can be incredibly handy and is included or offered as an upgraded product variant for most of our recommendations.

dji rc pro controller drone mavic

As a rule, we aren’t a fan of controllers that require a phone or other device for a screen. Not having to strap your phone or another device to your controller while piloting makes for a lighter and more seamless piloting experience. A separate device is also one more point of failure, such as the separate app crashing or battery running low. It saves you time as well when setting up and moving from property to property.

However, we also caution against controllers with screens that are feature-limited compared to an attached phone. For example, older Autel drones such as their first EVO came with a controller with a screen, but the drone’s more processor-intensive, complex flight modes were unavailable unless you utilized a capable phone or tablet device to compute the shots. This limited you to basic, manual flight modes without an attached phone. 

In these cases, the phone was effectively a requirement anyway, and so opting for a potentially-cheaper controller might be the wiser choice. Luckily, drone hardware is improving and this is becoming less of a point of confusion with time.

So to summarize, a full-featured controller with a screen that can perform all of your drone’s advanced functions is optimal, such as DJI’s Android-powered controllers. Barring that, a controller without a screen that utilizes a phone for a screen and its advanced features is second-best. Avoid overpaying for a drone controller that requires a phone anyway for full features.

Drone Portability

We don’t consider portability to be of huge importance for us as drone professionals. Our shoots are intentional and we haul our hefty premium drones and related gear along happily. But for real estate photography, particularly for realtors who might decide spontaneously to photograph a house they end up at during an unpredictable work day, the portability of a drone could mean the difference between having it in your car or leaving it at home.

This is one of the huge strengths of the Mavic Mini series. At under 250g, DJI Minis are much easier to have tucked in your cab or trunk somewhere than something like a Mavic series, which weigh almost 4X as much and take up equivalently more space.

Drone Transport and Protection

Whatever size and model you chose, we highly recommend that you invest in a quality  carrying case for your drone. We love the sturdiness and thoughtful layouts of Nanuk cases, and rely on them to protect all of our DJI drones between shoots. Look for a case or pack that considers space for additional batteries, your controller, extra propellers, cables, and other accessories you’ll have along for your shoots.

You can also look into propeller guards, which are available for most popular drone models. Propeller guards are very lightweight and can help save your drone and its components from damage if your sensors fail to avoid a collision (or your drone simply doesn’t have obstacle avoidance/sensors at all).

And as we have mentioned above and discuss more later on, accidental damage protection is always a smart consideration, especially when you’re starting out.

Airspace Complications: DJI vs Autel

phoenix arizona map restricted airspace

We’ve harped on this many times at this point in this article, but in case you’re somehow reading this for the first time, DJI drones will refuse to fly in certain controlled airspace without DJI’s authorization. Their drones will require separate approval from the FAA to fly in airspace they consider requiring authorization. 

DJI’s airspace boundary is almost always different from that of the FAA’s, adding further inconvenience and confusion to ensure you have all the clearance you need to fly. You’re also required to submit your LAANC documentation or other FAA clearance to DJI and then wait for manual approval by the latter. This can be debilitating if you’re on a shoot and didn’t anticipate such a hurdle, as ideal light slips away and you curse your DJI drone for refusing to fly where you need it to. 

You have to then download that authorization to your controller, which syncs it to your drone—something that can be impossible if you don’t have access to WiFi. So yeah… TL;DR: DJI drones can be a huge pain in controlled airspace.

Unlike DJI, Autel drones have no airspace limitations. The drones will usually warn you of airspace complications and conditions, but they will leave the final decision to fly up to you and will not intervene in your ability to pilot your drone where you determine it is safe to do so. 

Autel understandably touts this convenience feature over their competitor, and it is definitely worth keeping in mind depending on the airspace complexity of the locales you shoot. As previously mentioned, Autel’s simplicity in controlled airspace is why we almost always have an Autel drone on-hand as a backup for our shoots in controlled airspace.

Tips on Using Drones for Real Estate Photography

Once you’ve purchased your drone of choice and are ready to begin capturing some great footage of your clients’ properties, there are some additional things to know.

Get FAA Commercial Drone Part-107 Certified

If you’re flying a drone for commercial purposes, you’re legally required to get your Remote Pilot Certificate (Part 107) from the Federal Aviation Administration. Without it, you could get in trouble with the FAA if you fly your drone for non-recreational purposes (making money). We don’t recommend skirting around this requirement, and we practice what we preach here – our pilots are all Part 107 certified.

You’ll also be able to request access to fly in restricted airspace, such as near airports, with this certification. After you pass the initial test, you’ll need to complete an online recurrent training for your remote pilot license every 24 months. Luckily, this renewal is easier and quicker than the initial exam.

Plan ahead for Restricted Airspace with LAANCs

If the houses you have on the market are in restricted airspace, you need to know this before you go out there and start taking drone photos and videos. With your Remote Pilot Certificate, you can legally fly in restricted airspace, but you need to gain prior approval to do it legally. And don’t forget, if you have a DJI drone, you might need to request to unlock an area from DJI in addition to obtaining LAANC from your local airport.

If you haven’t done it before, applying for LAANC is a pretty easy process and can take up to 24 hours for manual approval. There are several great Android and iOS apps that can streamline this as well. We’ve found that many airports allow for auto-approval instantly or within minutes as well. So just build this into your process before every shoot and your restricted airspace headaches will be minimized.

Get Accidental Damage Protection for Your Drone

The best drones and most competent pilots still can have issues. Sensors and systems can malfunction, gusts of wind can overwhelm your drone—the possibilities are extensive. We’ve experienced multiple accidents with our drones, most of which are not even our pilots’ fault, but the end result is the same. The drone is damaged, and needs repair/replacement.

dji care refresh drone coverage protection real estate

As we already discussed in a previous section above, we carry accidental coverage on all of our commercial-use drones, as accidents in this industry are almost a certainty. More of a when rather than an if, and there’s nothing worse than totaling a pricey drone without any coverage. 

Plus both DJI and Autel plans have very reasonable deductibles and allow for 2 replacements per year. Our most recent Mavic 3 Pro replacement was less than $200 for a drone that retails for $2,200 at the time of writing!

DJI in particular is awesome about covering accidents with their Care Refresh comprehensive protection plans. They even offer an express option to have a replacement drone shipped immediately, just requiring you to ship back the damaged drone within 2 weeks to remove a deposit from your CC on file. DJI also allows you to extend coverage for up to 3 years of coverage, and as of 2023 even includes flyaways for an additional fee/deductible (as they don’t get a drone to salvage).

Assemble a Drone Photography Shot List

Whether you plan to shoot just residential homes, just commercial buildings, or a combination of both, we strongly recommend a standard shot list. Adhering to a shot list ensures you get a minimum number of angles and perspectives for your properties, for a consistent result and an offering you can more concretely advertise.

Especially for residential properties, our agency sticks closely to a minimum selection of shots. We typically provide more than the minimum based on the features of any given property. Our shot list nevertheless allows our agency to guarantee a client/firm a minimum number of photos for their peace of mind. When they contract us for aerial drone photography, they know what they’re going to get as a standard, with maybe a few bonuses as well. It’s great for business.

We share an example real estate shot list on our drone real estate service page, broken up into a few main categories. We recommend you do some research and see what minimum angles the properties you tend to shoot require though, and mold your shot list to your specific needs.

Gain Experience: Go Practice Piloting Your Drone!

Drone piloting is not as easy as it looks. Even if you don’t have jobs booked yet, go practice. Shoot your own home, friends’ homes, nearby commercial buildings, and work on that shot list we just mentioned. Gain confidence in your angles and intuition. You’ll begin to work faster and smoother, with more consistency.

drone pilot arizona practice real estate aerial photography

A great drone is only half of the equation for aerial real estate photography. You need to be confident and competent to safely pilot your drone in order to take the photographs and videos you require for your clients.

Have a question or a tip you’d like to see us discuss in this article? Let us know! We’re passionate about our drone services and are constantly looking for ways to improve this article.

If you haven’t already, utilize our recommendations above to figure out what drone is right for you, purchase with our related affiliate link if you wouldn’t mind supporting us in that way.

Either way, get out there and start practicing your real estate shots with your new drone!

About the Author: David Raines

COO and co-founder @ Jack & Bean, heads up content marketing. Colloquially known to clients as "Bean", still prefers just "David".