Real Estate Drone Video Tip #1 – Spiraling Staircase Maneuver  

Real Estate Video Tip #1 – Spiraling Staircase Maneuver

This post and video will be the first part in a series giving tips on different maneuvers and shots that make up a great real estate drone video. Your videos need to be more than just flying around a property for a few minutes, it really needs to provide captivating footage that will capture the buyer’s attention, and make the property real estate listing stand out from others.

I am pretty active on the Phantom Pilots drone forum. If you are not a part of this forum, I highly recommend it. There is a lot of great information on the latest rules and regulations, as well as information on how to fly and troubleshoot all Phantom drones. There is also a great section that discuss how to get into and operate in the various industries that are finding uses for commercial drones. I was responding to a thread on this site, and I mentioned that when I am circling around properties or sites, I like to sometimes ascend while circling to add a nice touch to the shot. I got several questions about how to do this, so I decided to make it a post and video. Here is the basic sequence to follow when accomplishing this shot:

  1. Stabilize over the property– This is a crucial step. You want to make sure that you are stabilized at your desired altitude. There is no set altitude for this, but for real estate, I like to use 50-125 feet AGL. You don’t want to go too high, or the prominent features of the home will already be nearly out of view. The second crucial part of this step is make sure that the camera is rotated to the appropriate angle over the property. On my Phantom 3 Pro, the camera can rotate from -90 degrees (looking straight down) to +30 degrees (slightly above horizontal). For these shots, I recommend having the camera rotated to look down at a slightly oblique angle. If it is looking nearly horizontal, 2 undesirable things will happen: you will catch the propellers in the shot, which will require you to edit them out in post-processing, and the property will go out of view quickly as you are ascending. If you are looking slightly down at the property, it will remain in view while you are circling.
  2. Start circling the property – This is accomplished by moving at a diagonal around the property, and rotating the drone at the same time. For a counter-clockwise circling pattern, you will move forward and right on the right stick, and rotate left with the left stick. You must exercise caution with the left stick and only rotate during this step. You DO NOT want to change the altitude at this point. You must be stabilized on your circling pattern first. While I am doing this, I like to hold both sticks with both my index finger and thumb. This is generally good to do during any maneuver that requires fine motor skills. Once you have found the right combination of rotational and translational movement around your property, you can begin to ascend.
  3. Ascend while circling – This step will be the last and shortest part. You have stabilized in your circling pattern, and now you can ascend. Hold the same rotational and translational movements, and slowly move the left stick up to begin a slight ascend. Once the ascent starts, you will likely have to make some fine-tuning adjustments to maintain the circular pattern. This is especially true if there is any wind while flying. Once you have as much footage as you want, terminate the maneuver, and move on to your next shot.


Here is a video I put together giving an example of how to execute the spiraling staircase maneuver. I executed the maneuver around a water fountain in my neighborhood. The round-about gave me a nice frame of reference while circling. It was a little more windy than I would have liked (10-15 mph). It usually takes me a few times around to get a good shot.

Well, there you have it. I hope this provides you with a new maneuver to perform with your drone to provide good footage for your real estate videos. It definitely takes some practice to perfect. If you have a better way to execute this maneuver, leave a comment below. The best way for us to learn is for us to learn together. See you next time!