So you want to have some aerial photographs or video taken of your new listing? Below, I’m going to explain what steps to take in order to research and hire a reputable company for your needs.

With todays growing popularity of drone photography and videography, especially in the Real Estate market, it’s tough to know who to hire, how much to pay and what to expect for the money. I’m going to simplify things for those thinking about hiring an aerial specialist. I’m also going to explain that purchasing an $800 drone and learning to fly it is NOT the best solution to your aerial real estate needs, nor is it legal.

STEP 1 – Determine if Aerial Services are even required

Don’t get caught up in the hype of aerial photography for real estate. The first thing to consider is does your subject justify aerial photography to begin with?

Ask yourself the questions; Will aerial photography add anything to the listing presentation? Is the proximity of the home to the city important to show? Is it a large property that can only be seen or appreciated from the air? Are there numerous things going on, on the property that can only be seen from the air and lastly, are the commissions enough that the extra cost is justified?.

If it’s a standard house in a standard neighbourhood, then aerial photography probably isn’t going to do much but show people a view of the home they will never see in their lifetime. In this case perhaps elevated pole photography would be enough with much less risk and costs associated.

If you’ve determined you’re listing requires aerial services, please proceed to step 2.

STEP 2 – Research and Inquire

Before you hire an Aerial specialist to take photos or video of your listing MAKE SURE THE COMPANY YOU HIRE IS CERTIFIED WITH TRANSPORT CANADA and has Third Party UAV Liability Insurance for at least 1 Million Dollars of coverage.

If you have a friend who happens to have a drone film a property for you it immediately becomes a commercial venture and therefore they will be flying illegally without an SFOC (special flight operations certificate). If your friend tells you not to worry about it because they are flying as a recreational user and they fall under the exemptions, they are misinformed and you could pay the price for this. ANY REAL ESTATE FLIGHTS ARE COMMERCIAL and MUST have an SFOC in order to perform this type of operation.

Ask the companies you contact if they’re willing to provide proof of insurance and proof of certification through Transport Canada. If they’re not, it’s because they’re flying illegally so beware.

Also ask if they are photographers as well as drone operators as this will greatly increase the quality you’re going to receive and the composition of the shots. Remember, just because you operate a drone does not automatically make you a photographer. Flying a drone is only half the job.

If you want aerial video too, then make sure the aerial company you hire provides those services as well, otherwise you might just get 20 large video files of redundant flight paths with shaky footage all on a memory stick. If you’re not a video editor, then this is completely useless to you so make sure if they provide video which includes processing, editing and outputting a useable complete video with professional music and graphics such as branding info and callouts.

STEP 3 – Get Quotes

So you’ve determined your listing will greatly benefit from having aerial services, and you’ve found a few companies that have insurance and are certified with Transport Canada, so what’s next?

Once you’ve found a few reputable companies look at their work online or ask for samples of recent work. This will greatly help you understand what they’re going to provide you with. Also ask them which drone they use and do 10 minutes research on what they use. If they are good companies they will likely all use similar drones. The DJI Inspire 1 and 2 are some of the best in the business as of today’s date (November 2016). Even the entry level cameras on these drones take great photos but if larger print size is what you’re after, make sure they can offer what you need.

Ask them for a quote for what you require. Be very specific about your needs and let them know exactly what you want and don’t assume anything and most importantly get everything in writing. Most companies will have different packages to choose from which is great especially if they specialize in Real Estate. You don’t want to hire an aerial company that specializes in plotting farmers fields to do your real estate shoot. You are going to need someone who is familiar with what’s desired from the buyers market and someone that is also a very good photographer and video editor.

STEP 4 – Final Decision

Let’s say you’ve narrowed your search between two or three certified, insured companies and they all claim to offer the same service but their pricing is completely different, what do you do?

Instead of choosing based on the cheapest price, we recommend to choose based on the quality of their work for both Photography and Videography, What type of drone, gimbal and camera is used, The Companies Reputation, Ease of Communication, Booking and Turn around Time, then lastly…Price. Ask around the office if anyone knows of a reputable company as other agents may have used them. Again always start with STEP 1 regardless of recommendations as not everyone is doing this by the book.

Ultimately the decision is yours and your personal taste is what’s most important. You may end up trying a few companies, however depending on where you live, there may not be that many choices of companies that are all of the above. Expect to pay anywhere from $250-400 for aerial photographs of your listing and for a completed aerial video anywhere from $400-900. Of course remember that each company is different and there are business only guys and there are creative artists, so know the difference before you hire someone and determine if their cost is justified.


If you’re a Realtor and a jack-of-all-trades considering getting your own drone and saving some money by doing your own photos, be very careful. If you fly for real estate it’s automatically considered COMMERCIAL and requires an SFOC to do so. If you don’t have an SFOC and get caught, you are subject to fines upwards of $25,000. It’s comparable to renting a bulldozer and starting to dig without knowing what you’re doing.

The road to becoming certified and compliant with Transport Canada is a long, confusing, frustrating and expensive one.

First there is purchasing the right drone. The drone we use with case, dual remotes, camera and extra accessories cost $7,500 and that doesn’t include the iPads used to control it (add another $1600) or the cost of your ground crew on each shoot.

Then there’s a UAV ground school that you’ll want to take. Its not expensive in the big picture ($300) but time consuming with many hours of videos and reading material plus studying for the multiple exams throughout the course. Expect to spend roughly 100-150 hours learning everything.

Then you need to learn how to fly the drone safely. You will want to join a local hobbyist flying club which allows beginners to fly their UAV’s without an SFOC. This is a safe place to practice and learn and possibly take a course offered by a local company.

Next it’s time to buy insurance ($2000+ per year combined CGL and UAV Insurance with 1 million liability)

Then you must create an operations manual with all operating procedures based on the safe practices manual and which meets all criteria outlined by Transport Canada. Ours is 46 pages long.

Then there’s your drone manual with all information about your drone, fail safe procedures, maintenance schedules etc. Ours is 11 pages long and no you cannot use the one that comes with the drone.

Once you have all this in place, you can start applying for single SFOC’s which can take up to 21 days to process and believe me if your manuals aren’t to spec, don’t expect to get accepted. The guys at Transport Canada are very thorough and will not let second rate documentation pass over their desk.

If you are choosing to go for a standing SFOC which won’t require applying each time you fly, you will need to do a flight in controlled airspace which requires communication with NavCanada as well and calling the local Flight service station prior to and commencing any flights. In our case it’s Kelowna tower and believe me you will do this a lot as almost all of Kelowna falls under Class D controlled airspace.

You will also need to study for and take an exam for your radio communications certificate and purchase an aviation hand held radio $300 and register it with Industry Canada.

Then after about 6 individual SFOC’s you are ready to apply for a Standing SFOC and with a safe record you may get it and can finally start to make back some of the money and time spent. Now you should ask yourself as a Realtor, do you have this kind of time and money to be spending to save a few bucks?


There you have it, the breakdown on what’s required to fly safely while complying with Transport Canada rules and how to research the best company for the job.

Remember, hiring an aerial specialist for photography or videography is not much different than hiring a photographer to photograph your listing from the ground with regards to quality of work.

As you know there are many choices available, however some are better than others. Some photographers run a business based on quantity rather than quality but these guys aren’t true photographers and therefore usually produce a low quality product and charge low prices accordingly. A true professional will be passionate about their services and stand behind their prices as they will provide a superb quality product which ultimately gives your listing the best chance at reaching the right buyer. These same rules apply to aerial specialists as they not only know how to fly the drone, but they know how to work the camera and capture the best possibly imagery from the air. So by hiring the right company you’re getting two services in one.

Please contact us through our contact form if you have any unanswered questions or would like a quote on our aerial, ground based or a combination of the two services.

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