Stowable 360 degree camera drone

Is this Drone a Realtor’s Worst Nightmare?

A new patent from Half Chrome outlines a real estate drone that will make virtual tours of homes better and much cheaper to produce. Your next home may be fully mapped and imaged, both inside and out, in a matter of minutes. With footage from a semi-autonomous drone, you may never again need to visit a house to get a complete tour. Is this drone a realtor’s worst nightmare?

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If you have looked for a house online you may have noticed a lot more aerial shots of homes. Professional drone pilots can fetch about $200 per job from realtors who are willing to pay for a birdseye view of a property. More and more homes are also getting 360-degree panoramic images of the rooms and some even have virtual tours similar to Google Street View. These virtual tours are very expensive to produce, requiring an expensive camera and hundreds of photos that are carefully sorted and mapped. The high cost of these services limits virtual tours to only the most expensive properties on the market. Those high-cost services are likely soon the be a lot less expensive thanks to this drone.

Stowable 360 degree camera drone
A 360° camera drone is outfitted with sensors to aid with semi-autonomous flight and obstacle avoidance.

The ultimate real estate drone has two key features that enable it to quickly take 360° images and video of the inside and outside of homes. The first enabling invention is an integral 360° camera and the second ingredient is a semi-autonomous guidance system.

semi-autonomous drone can follow markers
The drone can follow markers through a home, like breadcrumbs through a forest.

360° Camera Drone

360-degree cameras have yet to be implemented in a successful commercial drone but that capability is not far off. There are already some hints that DJI is working on one.

Is this the next Phantom from DJI

Most of the images in the patent show a centrally-mounted camera, while others show an array of cameras surrounding a central propulsion system. How do you control a drone with just centrally-mounted props? You need to shift the balance of the drone.

A triangular drone with 4+1 cameras
A 360° camera drone with 4 separate cameras and a novel central propulsion system. A 5th camera may help with FPV flight.

The patent describes how internal weights can be moved to control the roll and pitch of the drone. Yaw would be controlled by changing the relative speed of the two central props, which spin in opposite directions.

balance weights control roll and pitch
Three sliding weights control the roll and pitch of this drone.

Semi-Autonomous Flight

The second key feature is a semi-autonomous guidance system that is based on a series of identifying markers. The markers are placed throughout an interior space such as a home. The markers may include encoded information that tells the drone what to do, or they may simply act like a rail, keeping the drone on track and helping it avoid obstacles.

markers for a drone to follow
A sampling of markers that can easily be identified by the drone and by the pilot.

Putting a drone on rails is a key feature for indoor flight since GPS does not work where the drone can’t communicate with satellites. The drone that is shown in the patent includes proximity sensors to help keep the drone, and the property it is flying through, safe.

half chrome drone patent real estate
The autonomous drone can climb stairs without missing a step

What Does it Mean for Realty?

There are always winners and losers when there is a dramatic improvement in technology, and the fallout from the proliferation of this drone will be no exception to that rule. With less of a need to actually visit a home, one of the most time-consuming aspects of being a realtor will be significantly decreased. This will allow established realtors to handle a larger portfolio. That’s great news for realtors, right? It is great news for some realtors, not great news for others. With some realtors gaining larger portfolios, weaker agents will struggle to survive. Just as robots are replacing some factory workers drones, will ultimately displace some realtors.

Can’t Wait for a 360° Camera Drone?

There is no doubt that the most popular real estate drones today are the Phantom Series from DJI. We recommend you check the latest prices on the following three models, going from the most to the least expensive. There is no doubt that the Phantom 4 Pro has the best camera and obstacle avoidance, but the Phantom 4 Advanced and the Phantom SE perfectly suitable for most real estate work. The Mavic is also used by some professionals.


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Learn More…

If you want to learn more about taking great pictures or flying FPV then check out our comprehensive guides on those topics. Also take a look at our articles on how to choose the right drone for great aerial photos or for getting started flying race drones. Learn more about drones and how to get the most out of them in our Drone Academy. In the Academy we also detail some of the advanced testing we do, including our recent addition, drone thrust testing.

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2 thoughts on “Is this Drone a Realtor’s Worst Nightmare?”

  1. Pingback: Been designing some drones. Just filed a patent. Check it out. –

  2. Pingback: 360° Camera Drones Are Coming! - Half Chrome Drones

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