Drones & Real Estate: Using Drones for Real Estate Photography & Production

October 24, 2016

If you’ve browsed the websites of apartments or hotels recently, you’ve probably seen some stunning aerial photography and videos of the property. These shots were likely taken by an unmanned aircraft system, commonly referred to as a drone.

Drone production companies are sprouting up left and right, offering more cost-effective options versus traditional aerial photography services, such as helicopter and hot air balloon services. It should come as no surprise they have quickly become a popular component of marketing in the real estate industry. From commercial skyscrapers to industrial parks, beachfront hotel resorts to luxury home sales, the uses for drones in marketing these properties seems endless.

Drone usage is so new in the marketing of these properties that many marketing departments are unsure what end result to expect from a drone production team. Oftentimes, the drone footage is merely an added touch to a marketing project, but does not make up the bulk of the project itself. In fact, companies tend to find the best results come by way of a consultative approach with a production studio. It’s important to fully vet the production team you’re using in order to avoid accidents and make the most of your investment.

Tips for Hiring a Drone Production Company

There are virtually no barriers to entry into the drone videography field, so be sure to consider the following when considering hiring a drone production team:

Work history and representative clients.

As mentioned, drone usage is new, and therefore, the barriers to entry into this field are low. If you don’t vet your production team carefully, it’s possible you can hire an inexperienced team or pilot. Doing so can waste valuable resources and produce a substandard product. Inexperience can also result in accidents, which can open the door to costly lawsuits for the building owner.

In-house pilots versus subcontracted work.

Another consideration your company must make is whether the production company you chose to work with employs its own in-house pilots or if it subcontracts this work. Because you may have contractual requirements with a production house, the subcontractor may or may not have the same contractual obligations, insurance requirements, or even carry enough insurance to protect you in the event of an allegation or accident. Be sure to determine this before hiring the firm and meet with your broker to discuss the insurance implications and risks involved with the decision you make.

Postproduction credentials.

If you don’t have experience working with production companies, you may overlook the importance of a postproduction plan. But without a good postproduction plan, your footage is just that — raw footage. Postproduction is what really brings the project to life. Before you hire a firm, be sure to discuss the postproduction plan thoroughly. Keep in mind most projects can be turned around in seven days from film to screen.

Insurance and certifications.

It’s imperative to consider what types of insurance and certifications the drone production company carries. Although the importance of this should be self-evident, there are special insurance policies written for drone usage in commercial situations. There are also Federal Aviation Administration rules and regulations that must be adhered to. For example, it’s illegal to fly a drone over a crowd. Most insurance policies exclude illegal activity, so coverage would not be available for this type of scenario should an accident occur. Be sure to meet with your insurance broker to discuss the types of insurance and certifications your production company should have before you hire it.

Using Drones for Your Commercial Real Estate Project

The use of drones in commercial real estate projects can be exciting, and therefore, it can be tempting to jump headfirst into this tech trend. However, before doing so, it’s crucial to fully vet the team you plan to work with and to take the time to educate yourself on the insurance and risk management implications of drone use. Be sure to meet with your insurance broker to learn more about this new tool.

Kevin D. Smith, CPCU, ARM
CPCU, ARM, Managing Director
The Graham Building
Philadelphia, PA, 19102




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