The Drone Zone: What Good Real Estate Photography Looks Like Now

Nate Hoelzen
President, Arizona School of Real Estate & Businsess (ASREB)


Drones are one of the hottest topics in real estate today. That’s because unmanned aircraft systems offer an incredible opportunity to present a property as unique and desirable with dramatic, sweeping aerial videography and tours of the surrounding community. And, in an increasingly crowded online space, standing out is what it’s all about.

Among real estate professionals, the question is not whether drone photography is useful, but how to obtain it. Should you take the easier-but-ultimately-more-expensive route and hire a pro? And though it’s more complicated and requires an up-front cost, should you maybe invest in your own gear and learn to manage the equipment yourself?

According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), 3% of REALTORS® personally use drones, 11% hire professionals, and 12% have someone in their office who uses drones. There are plenty of arguments on both sides of the issue, and ultimately only you can decide what’s right for you and your business. Here are the pros and cons in a nutshell.

If you do decide to do your own drone photography, know that, while relatively affordable, gear starts at about $1,000. You will incur additional costs through training and licensure, plus you will need to keep your equipment in good repair and update or replace it as necessary. Also, learning to fly a drone isn’t easy and can present a rather steep learning curve (wind, obstacles, etc.). Still ready to DIY? Here are a few additional things you should know.


You might think the most difficult part of using a drone to capture photos and videos for your listings is learning how to fly the thing. Turns out, that’s only half the story.

The increasing prevalence of drone use for both hobby and professional purposes has impacted state and national laws concerning privacy, safety, aviation, and more.


In the United States, regulations for the operation of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) have evolved over the past few years. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there are two options for flying your drone legally: one for model aircraft used recreationally, and another for small drones used recreationally or commercially. As a real estate professional, you should be aware of the second option: the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (14 CFR part 107).

Complete details can be found at the FAA website (, but a quick overview of requirements includes:

  • Getting a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA
  • Registering your UAS as a “non-modeler”
  • Following all part 107 rules, which include things like permissible airspeed and altitude, acceptable hours of operation, and airspace restrictions


All states, of course, require commercial drone operators to follow FAA rules. Beyond that, the Arizona State Legislature ( enacted SB 1449 in August of 2016 that prohibits:

  • Interference with manned aircraft, law enforcement, or firefighters
  • Flying within 500 feet horizontally or 250 feet vertically of a “critical facility,” defined as oil & gas refineries, water treatment facilities, power plants, courthouses, military installations, and hospitals


Have more questions? The National Association of REALTORS® ( offers advice and political advocacy.