Real Estate Drone Photography: How to Get In

By Hal Simmons •  Updated: 01/09/21 •  9 min read

If you’ve ever browsed a home listing online before, you may have stopped and wondered who took those aerial shots or the real estate drone photography of the property. These photos aren’t done by people, at least not anymore, but rather, drones used for real estate purposes. If you want to enter this career path yourself, read on to learn how.

What’s needed to pursue a career in real estate drone photography?

• Drone license
• Drone with a high-quality camera and long battery life
• Website and social media presence

In this post, we’ll tell you how to get started in the exciting career that is real estate drone photography. Since new homes go on the market all the time, you can trust that your job would be in-demand for a long time to come!

What Education is Needed to Learn Real Estate Drone Photography?

Okay, first thing’s first. Is there a degree in real estate drone photography you can earn or something?

No, not exactly. Like with any job these days, it’s ideal if you have at least a bachelor’s degree. If that degree happens to be in a related job area, such as photography, videography, technology, or real estate, then this will look better for you. If you have a bachelor’s degree in another field, that’s fine, it will still help you.

What will really land you the job isn’t so much the piece of paper that is your degree, but your experience in drone photography. If you haven’t already, you want to build a website with a portfolio of all your drone photography work. Not every photo will be an aerial shot, and that’s okay. The more breadth and variety to your work, the better.

What if you know your way around a drone but you’d like to strengthen your skills even further before pursuing real estate drone photography as a career path? You have plenty of options for finessing your photography skills.

You could sign up for a course or two at your local community college or nearby university. If you’d rather learn on your own time and schedule, then try online courses. Udemy, an instructional resource, offers dozens of drone photography courses.

Some are for specific drone models, so always read the course description carefully before you sign up. The average course price is around $40, but some classes cost upwards of $100.

You can also learn from the masters themselves at the DJI Photo Academy. Before the start of COVID-19, the Photo Academy toured across the country for live, in-person instruction. Now everything is online-based, but you can still glean plenty of information.

Which Drone Is Best for Real Estate Drone Photography?

The most important part of working in real estate drone photography–by far–is your drone. Since the UAV must be able to take high-quality images (and videos too), you can’t scrimp and buy a cheap one. Doing so only hurts your chances of getting a real estate-related job, which is not what you want.

Besides its top-of-the-line camera, your drone must also have long battery life. It won’t be very easy to do your job if your drone can only last 10 minutes in the sky. An average flight time of 30 minutes will let you take all the photos you need.

Drone Recommendations: Here are some models to choose from

DJI Mavic 2 Pro

The Mavic 2 Pro connects with the DJI GO 4 app so you can immediately unlock the wealth of features included with this drone. Its remote control lasts for 135 minutes on average and the drone itself can fly for more than 30 minutes. All photos you take are in stunning, crisp HDR quality, and the three-axis gimbal ensures that your photos come out steady and clean.

The Mavic 2 Pro can store eight gigabytes of files on its internal storage. If you’re having a particularly busy day at work and you need to take even more photos than that, insert an SD card for 128 additional gigs of storage.

Its camera is a Hasselblad L1D-20c that includes a one-inch 20MP CMOS sensor for rich, unadulterated color. The Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing Feature allows the Mavic 2 Pro to determine what might be coming its way and then avoid it so your drone can fly unobstructed. This DJI model is also designed to make less noise when in flight.

DJI Inspire 2

A second drone we’d encourage you to consider for your real estate photography career is the Inspire 2. The Zenmuse X7 camera included can shoot in two settings, Apple ProRes at 5.2k quality or CinemaDNG/RAW at 6k quality. Within five seconds, the Inspire 2 is up in the sky at a flight speed of 50 miles per hour. It can reach max speeds of 58 MPH.

The dual battery system built into the Inspire 2 allows it to fly continuously for 28 minutes. That’s only a few minutes less time than what you get with the Mavic 2 Pro. Also impressive about this DJI drone is its operating temperature range, which is between -4 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Intelligent Flight mode includes an obstacle-sensing range of zero to 16.4 feet so you can fly free and focus more on the quality of your real estate photos.

DJI Phantom 4 Advanced

The DJI Phantom 4 Advanced should also be on your shortlist for real estate drone photography. This drone flies smoothly through the skies at 44 MPH, which works well for your job, as you don’t need your drone to go too fast. Its 30-minute flight time gives you a reliable amount of time in the sky.

The 20MP camera has a range of more than four miles, yet you can still take photographs and videos in 4k quality. Also augmenting your photography is the Active Track feature. This mode lets the Phantom 4 Advanced detect a variety of subjects, including animals, vehicles, and people. The drone then tracks these objects and doesn’t move them out of frame.

Other handy features included with the Phantom 4 Advanced are satellite positioning, an intelligent battery, obstacle avoidance, and a flight autonomy system that includes five different vision sensors.

How Do You Become a Real Estate Drone Photographer?
Next, let’s dive deeper into the steps we covered in the intro about how to find work as a real estate drone photographer.

Obtain Your License to Enter Real Estate Drone Photography Field

The Federal Aviation Administration or FAA is the organization that oversees aircraft of all kinds, including UAVs. If you want to do any legal drone flying outside of your backyard, then you must have a Part 107 license, also called a Remote Pilot Certificate.

The criteria for applying for this license include knowledge of English (writing, speaking, and reading the language) as well as being over 16 years of age and being mentally and physically sound.

Proceed by signing up on the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application or IACRA website, making a profile there. Upon the creation of your profile, you’ll receive an FAA Tracking Number or an FTN.

You’re then ready to schedule an appointment to take your exam at a Knowledge Testing Center. You’ll need a photo ID on test day, so make sure you have that. If you pass your exam, you need to log back into the IACRA website and fill out the FAA Form 8710-13 to get your certificate. Keep in mind your license is only good for two years, in which case you need to do everything again.

Buy Your Drone
You should have already completed this step, purchasing a drone based on our recommendations from the above section. Make sure your drone is out of its package, fully charged, and ready to go. We recommend familiarizing yourself with your new drone, learning it inside and out.

Promote Yourself Online

You may work with a real estate firm on a freelance basis or be hired on permanently. Either way, your website will be a valuable tool in getting you a job since it includes your portfolio as well as your contact information and an abridged version of your resume.

Don’t just stop at your website. Get on social media too. Make a new page for your business, since that’s what’s you’re starting here, a business. Ask those in your professional and personal networks if they have any job leads. You never know who someone else might know who can help you get your foot in the door!

Apply to Job Openings

You also want to look for a job the good, old-fashioned way, by browsing want ads online or even in your local newspaper. Make sure that you’re linking to your website and portfolio when applying to real estate drone photography gigs. In an industry like this, your resume and cover letter are not enough to get you an interview. The hiring manager needs to see what kind of work you do as well.

How Much Money Can You Earn in Real Estate Drone Photography

This is all very useful information, but you have one more question. How much money can you make as a real estate drone photographer? There are many factors that drive your income potential. If you’re a freelancer, you’re able to work with as many clients as possible to bring home an income that works for you. As a hired member of a real estate team, your pay will be the same hour to hour.

You will see stories online of drone photographers making six figures, such as this MarketWatch article. Is it possible to earn that much money taking pictures on your drone? Sure, but it’s not the norm.

Instead, the most current data from ZipRecruiter suggests that drone photographers earn $24 an hour, or $50,260 a year.


Real estate drone photography is a growing field with great earnings potential if you can develop your client base or land a well-paying role as part of a real estate team. The job stability is appealing, as is the freedom to fly your drone and make money doing it. Now that you know what it takes to work in this field, you just might decide to switch jobs!

Hal Simmons

When I first started flying drones I was always afraid of damaging my drone. I would always be thinking what if. I questioned myself often and as a result it made me question various aspects of flying drones. In the process I learned a lot. This is why I feel I have a lot of information that will be helpful to beginners and intermediate drone enthusiasts. Of course I still have a lot to learn so join me on this journey and I am sure you will enjoy the adventure ahead of us.