The right questions to ask when hiring a drone pilot for real estate marketing

As a real estate agent, you work extremely hard for your clients who've placed their trust in you to sell their home or property. To be competitive you need to stand out. To sell fast and first, your phone becomes an appendage as details and deals continue to flow at all hours of the day, or night, or dinner, or rec league soccer game, or dance lesson… you get the point because you live it.

But you do this because you want to be available for your clients and you will do whatever it takes to make their home stand out from the crowd of listings vying for eyeballs before a click or swipe deletes their dream from a “Saved Homes” list. 

Enter aerial photography and video, the drone-based Renaissance in real estate marketing. 

Now every home can be photographed and filmed from above as if part of the latest blockbuster set location. Slow pans, tilts and reveals can showcase a home and it’s surroundings in ways rarely accessible before now.   

On August 29th, 2016, new rules initiated by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (more commonly known as Drones) changed the realm of real estate marketing forever. Currently, drone-based aerial photography and video is one of the best ways for a real estate property to stand out above the rest. To lure eyeballs to your listing thumbnail, you’ve decided to hire a drone pilot - to add value to your listing in an effort to sell a home faster, and quite possibly for more money. 

Many hobbyists already fly drones, including real estate agents, yet that doesn’t mean you can just go out and start filming properties from the air. The FAA has strict rules about the use of drones for commercial purposes and they explain commercial use in connection with a business as: 

  • Selling photos or videos taken from a UAS
  • Using UAS to provide contract services, such as industrial equipment or factory inspection
  • Using UAS to provide professional services, such as security or telecommunications
  • Using UAS to monitor the progress of work your company is performing

Simply put, a person who isn’t FAA certified and provides you with aerial photographs or video is breaking the law.

So, with the weight of compliance on your shoulders, you’ve decided to hire a drone pilot to enhance your real estate listings. Here are the right questions to ask:

  1. Are you FAA Certified?
    This is the easy one. If they say “No” or try to convince you isn’t necessary, the conversation is over and you can walk away. If they say “Yes”, ask to see a copy of their certificate or at least their Remote Pilot ID card. Everybody gets one after they pass the certification exam. If the pilot has recently passed, they may not have their card yet but they still should have a printed temporary certificate they can provide.

    There are legal and safety risks attributed with flying a drone which can present real and significant liabilities regarding life and property. The FAA certification process assures that a remote pilot understands the standards of operating an aircraft within the national airspace. Along with an understanding of airspace classifications, restrictions and limitations, hazards, weather conditions, etc.… the list goes on and on. A certification is your proof that the pilot understands all of those conditions. 
  2. Are you Insured?
    This is another easy one. If they say no, why would you take the risk of hiring them without it? If they do have liability insurance, it should be at least a $1 million and cover bodily injury and property damage. Even to the most skilled remote pilot, there are many factors that can contribute to the loss of control of a drone including; a hardware of software malfunction, signal interference (some common items such as security systems or wifi routers can be strong enough to interfere with control of the drone), or simply a sudden bout of inclement weather.
  3. Do you have a pre-flight checklist?
    If you don’t ask and there is an incident of property damage or bodily injury worthy of an FAA investigation, you can bet that the FAA will ask the remote pilot this question and even follow through on validating the information indicated on the checklist. Items on this checklist may include questions the remote pilot should have asked to confirm specific information or actions such as asking you to turn off a home’s security system during the time of flight operations.

    Also, having a pre-flight checklist instills a greater sense of trust between you and the drone pilot. It indicates forethought and meticulous planning on their part and is a good indicator of the level of professionalism you can expect throughout the business relationship.

These are the top 3 questions to ask before hiring a drone pilot. If the answer to any individual question is a “No”, then it’s an easy decision to walk away and find a certified drone pilot who can give you the 3 “Yes” responses you seek.

There are many additional questions you can ask before hiring a drone pilot and the weight put on these answers can vary with each individual. None of the following questions possess the “deal-breaker” weight of the safety and risk mitigating issues above. But they are still important and can provide insight in your decision of which drone pilot to hire for your aerial photography and video needs.

Here are some additional questions to ask a drone pilot - in no particular order of relevance:

Are there samples of your work I can view online? 
What are your prices?
Do you offer packages?
Do you provide interior photography?
Do you provide interior stabilized video?
How long is your turnaround for deliverables?
How do you provide deliverables for review?
Are there any fees for cancellations or rescheduling?
Do you require a deposit?
Do you require a contract? if so, can a see a copy of a blank contract beforehand?
Do you offer bulk discounts?

There are no wrong questions to ask. The important thing is that you feel comfortable with the drone pilot you want to hire, that they will perform the task in a safe and skillful manner, and ultimately provide you with a finished product of aerial photographs or an aerial video that makes your listing get the attention it deserves in order to stand out from the crowd and get noticed.

If you want to differentiate your property with dramatic aerial photography and video tours that highlight it's unique aspects, contact Sky G Aerial Imaging.

Safe flying!