Drones are a real estate game changer. There is no better, cheaper way to get stunning footage of properties. Showing potential buyers the size of an estate, home, and area of land from a bird’s eye perspective isn’t just attractive, it stresses the scale and feeling of empowerment that buying property engenders. Beyond just giving an accurate and interesting perspective, their smooth movement gives the viewer an thematic sense of grandiosity, wonder, and a sense that the property you are trying to sell is bigger-than-life.
The crazy part is that drones, also known as quadcopters, offer amazing images in a price range similar to DSLRs. Not only do they offer incomparable value for literally heavenly views, they’re also very fun, easy, and useful for a variety of purposes.
Here are the top five drones for real estate in order of highest to lowest price, followed by a sixth drone, the Yuneec Typhoon H. It is not in the top five drones, however, it is worth taking a look at for those who are curious why DJI dominates the market, and what some consider to be a great alternative. Also, keep a close eye out for the Editor’s Choice drone, number three on our list; this drone offers the best value to the most users, and will likely serve as the best drone for real estate in most use cases.
1. Inspire 2 for the High End Real Estate Sale
Who is it for?
Real estate agents or groups who don’t want to outsource their drone videography whose budget is under $10,000 and need a world class tool. Note that post-processing and deployment will cost additional time and resources, but ultimately, this drone records Hollywood quality footage.
The DJI Inspire 2 lives up to any expectation almost anyone could possibly have (perhaps not Jerry Bruckheimer). As a drone, it goes 67 mph, boasts redundant batteries and control system (it’s almost un-crashable). It has a bevy of features for the cinematically-inclined including dual-operator compatibility, a fully rotating gimbal, and it’s protected by a one year warranty.
That said, all of this is just mechanics, what really makes this drone a downright movie-making machine is its amazing camera. It has an array of capture options (CinemaDNG, ProRes) and in insane resolutions including 5.2K 30fps and 4k at 60fps. If any of that is Greek to you, then know only this: using the Inspire 2 is a bit cumbersome; it’s a professional tool at a professional price. Not only is the price high, one will have to purchase a slew of extras to use the very features that make it such a valuable tool to begin with including SSIDs and special hard drive bays. Realistically, the six grand price tag is just the beginning; all in this drone used to its max capability will be just under $10k. That seems thoroughly obscene until you realize that before DJI put this into the world, a comparable solution, a mounted Arri Alexa, would run upwards of $50k. Is it as good as an Arri? Some people say they’re indistinguishable. Certainly, it’s worth investigation if you’d like to lop a Toyota Camry off your drone budget.
- Top of the line drone with stabilized cinema-quality camera
- Shoots RAW cinema DNG for maximum post latitude and best quality images
- Rock solid stability, speed (60mph+), and reliability
- Footage compared to top of the line cinema cameras
- Dual operator control means one person can fly the drone, another can move the camera
- Shoots 5.2K at 30fps, and 4k at 60fps
- Post processing requires beastly computer
- Vastly overkill for anything but cinematic usage
- Extras are pricey and necessary to maximize features
2. Phantom 4 Pro+ for The Dynamite Outside View
Who is it for?
Real estate professionals looking for the best drone for real estate in terms of outdoor footage. If one doesn’t have anxiety about crashing a drone or is experienced, one can step down to the DJI Phantom 4 Pro ($1391, inferior radio, no collision detection) or DJI Phantom 4 ($833, inferior radio, no collision detection, and no device display). That said, if one doesn’t need the Pro+, I’d go with the Mavic.
The Phantom 4 Pro offers prosumer drone users the top of the line experience. It shoots stunning 4k at 60 fps and boasts a hodgepodge of features that make using the Phantom series easier than ever before. The footage looks great and capturing it is easier than ever with features like auto-tracking, obstacle sensing (meaning one can’t crash), and a robust app that lets one do things like set waypoints and follow people. This is as good as it gets for under $2,000– Users love everything about it. Some downsides include a large size compared to the Mavic Pro. It also has a longer setup time than the Mavic as connecting the controller can be time-consuming.
DJI has really upgraded one pernicious aspect of their previous drones: the low light quality. Low light on the Phantom 4 Pro looks great, however.
The Phantom 4 Pro+ is the best version of this drone, and one can almost half the price by stepping down to the basic model. That said, this will mean losing a few key aspects for real estate: solid reliability from its advanced radio system, and collision detection. Both of these features many will agree our key for a drone that’s used to take video or photos of buildings where interference of signals and crashing into objects are extremely undesirable.
- 20 megapixel sensor shoots great images and 4k at 60fps
- Senses obstacles making crashing difficult
- Widely considered to have best photo and video quality for drones of this price
- Remote controller has built-in screen
- Some users had issues with DJI customer support
- Software requires updating, can be buggy
- Overkill for some users
- Mavic has shorter setup time, better radio
- Mavic is much smaller and more portable
3. (Editor’s Choice) DJI Mavic Pro Bundle for the All Around Winner
Who is it for?
Most real estate professionals who want the best drone for real estate for a variety of uses, including outdoors and even indoors. If 4k at 60fps isn’t a must and one doesn’t need the utmost in footage quality, the Mavic Pro offers a very robust solution, small size, and quick setup time. It has a better radio than the Phantom 4 Pro+ and is much easier to transport.
For most, the Mavic Pro offers an amazing, all-in-one solution. There are a few sacrifices and such huge benefits. This small, portable drone offers the best radio of any DJI drone besides the Inspire. Ocusync, its unique technology, is considered to be better than Lightbridge, the tech used on the Phantom 4 models. Ocusync allows for live transmission of 1080p footage (over Lightbridge’s 720p) and allows for a farther total distance of 4 miles.
The Mavic Pro is smaller, more portable, and can be used inside.
The Mavic is so small, it’s even practical to dismount its camera and gimbal for a handheld stabilizer
For $49.99 on Amazon, one can add this PolarPro Katana to their Mavic Pro rig. This will let you take advantage of your stabilized camera and drone, permitting one to get stabilized footage without flying the drone inside. That said, flying the drone inside while on the risky side, is more feasible with the Mavic Pro than other drones. Using propellor guards and the Mavic’s “tripod mode” one can carefully fly this drone inside, particularly in a large home.
Indoor flight of a Mavic in a small home
Another advantage that the Mavic Pro boasts over the Phantom 4 and Phantom 4 Pro, it has built-in collision sensors, meaning it’s difficult to crash. This feature is available to number two on our list, the Phantom 4 Pro+, but at a much higher price tag.
There are some minor trade-offs with the Phantom 4 models, but the fact that these are such minor downgrades shows how great of a deal the Mavic Pro is. The Phantom 4 models (Pro & Pro+) can shoot 4k at 60 fps; the Mavic Pro maxes out at 30fps. Another slight difference, the Mavic Pro has a slightly narrower field of view than the Phantom series, meaning it makes things seem slightly less larger than life, but this is hardly even noticeable (see footage comparison below).
The Mavic Pro is the editor’s choice because it does it all at a great price. It offers unique benefits with very few trade-offs and none that will impact a real estate agent’s goal in any significant way.
Price: $1,160 (All-in package)
Footage comparing Mavic Pro to Phantom 4+
- All-in package means the price includes everything one needs
- Shoots max 4k at 24fps
- Very portable drone, much smaller
- Ocusync technology slightly superior to LightBridge on Phantom 4
- Easier to fly indoors due to small size (but you’ll need propellor guards)
- Much noisier images in low light compared to Phantom 4
- Less flight time than Phantom 4
- Field of view is less wide than Phantom models meaning things look slightly less fish eye (and therefore less expansive)
- Certain conditions can lead to blue casts in pictures and videos
- Price and quality overkill for many users
4. DJI Phantom 3 Advanced for Great Outdoor Quality
Who is it for?
Real estate professionals who want a reliable drone for outdoor shooting. Some minor tradeoffs- less portable than a Mavic and pricier than the Phantom 3, but Lightbridge guarantees reliable connections and some advanced controller feature make this an overall better experience than the Phantom 3 below.
The Phantom 3 Advanced is a great budget pick for strictly outdoor shooting because it has great reliability, a more-than-good-enough 2.7k camera, and a robust control system. Sure, it’s not quite as portable or small as a Mavic, but if you’re hesitant to fly a drone inside (or have a Glidecam setup, like the Osmo Mobile), the Phantom 3 advanced offers a great deal.
The footage speaks for itself.
It’s more than good enough. Is it bleeding edge 4k? No, but it doesn’t need to be for the vast majority of users, even with a high-end purchase like a house. The fact remains that most people don’t have 4k screens. Most people will likely be watching you footage on a smart phone that isn’t even 1080p. The Phantom 3 Advanced has Lightbridge technology, meaning the connection is stable and one will almost always get the shots they wanted. Plus, it boasts a great, robust control system that you won’t see on the Phantom 3 Standard.
- For strictly outdoor shooting, best value
- 2.7K camera is more than adequate for most users
- Light-bridge technology ensures smooth connection
- Easy as new drones to fly
- Can be flown great distances from operator due to Lightbridge (note: flying out of line-of-sight is illegal in some states)
- Almost half the price of a Mavic, but certainly not half of the value
- Basically paying $300 extra dollars for controller functions and reliable connection compared to Phantom 3 standard
- Can’t be flown inside very easily (though people have done it)
- Complex sensors mean slightly less battery life than Phantom 3 standard
5. Phantom 3 Standard For a Solid Budget Option
Who is it for?
Real estate professionals who want a decent drone for outdoor shooting. The camera is as good as the Phantom 3 Advanced, but some users report issues with dropouts and connection problems. These can ruin key shots and lead to collisions or crashes. The controller has less options which means that getting the exact shot you need can be more challenging. Still, it’s a great drone and the 2.7k camera will be more than good enough for most users.
The Phantom 3 is a solid budget option, but there are some trade-offs that keep it from being the best value proposition. Sure, one does get to hold onto the more than adequate 2.7k footage resolution, but losing Lightbridge means shakier connections (which can lead to poor quality footage or drone destruction). On top of that, many of the refined aspects of the controller are lost on this model; the Phantom 3 advanced lets one control a broad swatch of things like exposure, tilt, and in general, has a much simpler, more powerful controller design.
Needless to say, if you’re not worried about having an occasionally spotty connection (for instance, having to do a second video of a client’s home is doable), then the Phantom 3 can be a mighty fine choice.
In theory, one could fly any drone inside, but with the bigger Phantoms it is difficult to make it smooth… or safe.
- Shoots 2.7k footage and 12 megapixel photos
- Flies up to 25 minutes, includes accessories (SD card and extra set of propellors)
- Crashing means losing $500 instead of much more
- Battery lasts longer than other Phantom 3 models due to less sensors and complexity
- Most affordable option that takes well over 1080p footage
- Reception can be spotty; lacks Lightbridge or Ocusync technology for even medium distance flights
- Users have had issues with bugs leading to erratic flight control
- Won’t necessarily impress clients as it’s the basic model of an old drone
Bonus: Yuneec Typhoon H For The DJI Alternative
Who is it for?
Users who demand a dual operator setup (you’ll need to buy a second remote). People who are scorned by DJI for bad customer service often turn to this drone, many swear by its increased stability and redundant propellor system. If you’re intent on helping out the little guy, the Typhoon H isn’t a bad choice.
The Typhoon H certainly looks interesting. Boasting six blades and some unique features, one may be inclined to think that DJI isn’t Google after all, perhaps DJI is Microsoft and it’s 1999, a time when Apple was brinking on bankruptcy.
Let’s start with the positives: the Typhoon has six blades meaning it can survive losing one mid-flight and still land successfully. Yuneec also claims that having additional blades makes it more stable. This is not evident in the footage (stability test of Phantom 4 vs Typhoon H). Another advantage that the Typhoon has is the ability to use a second controller so that a second operator can work the camera while someone else flies the drone. These are cool advantage, but they are highly mitigated by two facts: 1. DJI drones aren’t known for crashing or having propellor failures. The extra blade is therefore just an extraneous safety measure for most people. 2. Having a second operator is awesome, but it can’t save the Typhoon H from its inferior footage quality.
The appeal of a Typhoon H is obvious; it’s frustrating to watch DJI run roughshod over the market, especially for those (as a law of percentages) who have had bad experiences with them. Unfortunately, the numbers, reviews, and footage all make it clear that Typhoon H’s footage quality is not as good of a value as DJI products. DJI has its detractors with some who suggest that they’re unreliable, but when a working Typhoon H can hardly stack up to Phantom 3 footage quality (see video below), it’s a no-brainer: DJI is the way to go.
Price: $1199 (20 percent off MSRP)
- Has full 360 rotation allowing for swirling views
- No smart phone required; includes full display for flying
- Users praise Yuneec customer service
- Takes very stable footage
- Six blades means it’s theoretically more reliable and less prone to failure
- One can connect a second remote controller to have two operators one for flight control, another controlling the camera
- Field of view is wider than Phantom 4 leading to distortion and almost GoPro-esque look
- Batteries don’t indicate amount of power
- Radio takes 3-4 minutes of calibration pre-flight
- No obstacle avoidance (must upgrade to $1499 version)
- Battery takes a long time to charge
Using a drone for real estate can add a massive tactical advantage to selling homes. Giving people a bird’s eye view of their castle-to-be is downright futuristic. Drones makes properties and estates seem huge and sprawling. There are some who will choose to use an production company or producer to shoot their footage, but these people are essentially paying a premium price to avoid the fun and minor time investment of learning to fly a drone. Kids can and do fly these things.
Don’t be intimidated; flying drones is perhaps twice as complicated as playing “The Claw Game” at an arcade, or on par with a simple first person shooter. Let me say again, it’s also really fun. Since almost all real estate transactions involve large sums of money, it is absolutely worth the purchase for most, though for those ready to face risks or challenges that are slightly but detectably greater, you can definitely spend less and still get a mind-blowing drone.
If you’re wondering how the process might go, here’s some useful tips on shooting real estate drone videos. If you need any further help, feel free to email me (danny.vega at heavy dot com) and I’ll do my best to personally assist you.