The sole purpose of today’s post is to answer this question. We will be exploring the financial aspects of purchasing a drone and producing your own drone videos, and the typical costs of hiring a local drone service provider to produce the aerial drone photography and video. Before we dive into the cost-benefit analysis of purchasing a drone, I would like to ask you several other questions.
Are you proficient flying a drone, or are you willing to put in the time to become proficient?
Most people shooting drone videos for real estate are using quadcopters. These are much easier to fly than fixed-wing aircraft, but they still require a degree of skill to master. You don’t want to buy a fancy new quadcopter, only for it to be a pile of smoldering rubble after the first flight. Once you no longer fear that you are going to crash your drone each time you fly it, you will have to start fine-tuning your skills to develop the types of shots that will make for a captivating aerial photo and video. A jerky drone video is not going to do anything to enhance your real estate marketing efforts. These videos require smooth transitions throughout the property you are showcasing. This degree of skill takes some time to develop. It’s impossible to pinpoint the number of hours that will be required for you to start producing real estate quality aerial shots, but it is definitely a skill that must be developed and maintained. Don’t expect to take your drone out once a month, and create breathtaking aerial video.
Do you understand all the legal aspects of operating a drone for commercial activities?
First and foremost, you must have either a Part 107 Remote Pilot certificate from the FAA, or either a Section 333 exemption. With each these, there is a given set of rules and regulations that must be followed. I will not go deeply into the regulations in this post, as I discussed this in great detail in my previous post:
All I will say here is make sure you completely understand the latest regulations, both federal, state, and local, before you start using a drone for commercial purposes. I can guarantee you that any benefit you gain by capturing drone video will be far overshadowed if you ignore some regulation, and get into legal trouble with either the FAA or your local state or local governments. I highly recommend going the Part 107 certification route, as opposed to the Section 333 exemption. The process of studying for this test will give you a vast amount of aeronautical knowledge.
Does it make financial sense for you to produce your own drone videos?
To answer this question, I am going to do a very basic cost-benefit analysis for purchasing a drone to capture aerial photography for real estate purposes. Let’s start with the basic costs of the equipment required:
- Quadcopter outfitted with 4K camera – $1500
- This was about the price for my DJI Phantom 3 Professional setup. This included the drone, all chargers, several micro SD cards, and 2 extra batteries. I would note that the extra batteries are a must. You don’t want to drive all the way to a property, and have to rely on only 1 battery, which will give you about 15-20 minutes of quality flying time at best for these size models.
- Part 107 Remote Pilot Knowledge Test – $150
- This is the total cost of the test. I didn’t pay for any of the training courses for the Part 107 test. If you feel like you need additional help when studying, by all means do so.
- Drone Insurance – $1,350/year
- The link below suggests that you can obtain drone insurance for up to $1 million for this price. I would highly suggest getting drone insurance before you start creating your own videos. If you end up hiring a local service provider, I would also suggest that you verify that they are properly insured also.
- Drone Registration – $5/drone
- This cost has no impact on your decision, but it necessary to ensure legal commercial operations, and I wanted to highlight it as a reminder.
So our total is now up to $3,005/year. Note that this does not include any video editing software. There are a lot great free video editing software out there that I think is sufficient to produce real estate videos with. However, if you are doing luxury properties, you may want to invest in some higher end software. This should also be included in your analysis. It also does not include maintenance or replacement costs, or any other unforeseen costs. This is simply a good starting point for your determination of the potential benefit of doing it yourself.
Now let’s look at a couple of examples of determining your break-even point for your particular drone photography needs. For the purposes of this analysis, it will be assumed that for a given property, a single shoot with aerial photos costs $250, and a single shoot with aerial photos and video costs $500. These are prices that are not uncommon in my area, but you should tailor your analysis to actual costs in your area.
Your particular realty group does exclusively large commercial properties. You currently have a need for aerial video 10 times per year to showcase these large holdings.
Cost of doing it yourself – $3,005
Cost of hiring a local drone service provider – $500/property X 10 properties = $5,000
It can be seen in this example that the realtor would be better off financially producing the drone videos themselves.
You are a small operation showcasing mostly smaller residential properties, and you only need aerial photos 5 times per year to showcase your properties.
Cost of doing it yourself – $3,005
Cost of hiring a local drone video service provider – $250/property X 5 properties = $1,250
It can be seen in this example that the realtor would be better off financially hiring a local drone service provider.
These examples are very simplistic, but they do provide a first look at the type of things that the realtor must consider when deciding whether purchasing a drone is advantageous for their business, or if they are better off hiring a local drone service provider.
Today we have discussed some basic considerations that must be evaluating when you decide whether or not to purchase a drone for your business. Beyond the basic financial considerations, you must determine whether you have the time to invest in getting property certified, and developing the flying skills necessary to produce the quality aerial photos and videos that will be necessary to create something that will actually boost your marketing efforts.