Business: Windermere flies high; drone pilot on staff videos aerial views to showcase listings

Marketing coordinator, Windermere Real Estate

842 E. Washington St., Sequim


If you’re in the real estate market as a buyer or a seller, you have many more options than a street shot and a handful of interior views. More and more sellers are relying on technology to put their best foot forward — and that means providing eagle-eye views of their properties taken by a drone with the capacity for 360-degree panoramas.

“We’re unique in having FAA certification in-house as a brokerage and that’s kind of neat,” said Melanie Arrington, the marketing consultant and drone pilot for Windermere offices in Sequim and Port Angeles.

For the past two years, Arrington’s duties have included taking still photographs and designing ads “to make the listing look as good as possible and to reach out to as many people as possible,” she said. “I’ll take professional photos for custom fliers and video tours.”

An artist herself and having had a career in graphic design, Arrington is especially suited to envision what will attract buyers for sellers.

Two years ago Windermere invested in a 3.5-pound Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K drone, purchasing it locally for $1,300 at at Remote Control Hobbies in Sequim. In October, Arrington earned her Federal Aviation Administration license, the testing for which emphasizes where and where not to fly a drone. She said the test is akin to a drivers license test. Her license is renewable every two years.

“It’s surprisingly easy to fly because the instructions are pretty straightforward. The local AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) club that we joined to use their practice field near Dungeness Valley Creamery is Sequim RC Aeronauts,” she said.

“We’re able to offer to our clients a video aerial tour — not every broker has a drone with an FAA-certified pilot — so I can capture features like ponds, mountain and water views,” Arrington said.

“To be able to show the front of the house and view beyond makes a dramatic first impression — people (buyers) often look online and the first photo needs to grab them. The last sunny day we had, I made four drone flights, but not every property is appropriate for a drone, for example, one with a lot of power lines overhead.”

Windermere’s drone has a transmitter/controller about the size of a small purse with a touch screen, left and right toggles to control the drone’s movements, an altimeter and a device that pings to satellites for GPS coordinates. An LED screen shot shows what the camera is seeing in real-time.

The drone can do a 30-minute flight on two charged batteries.

“Per the FAA, you have to stay below 400 feet and this one has a sensor that only lets it go to 300 feet,” Arrington said. “I’ve never pushed it that far. The FAA also states drone pilots cannot fly over any property or people that aren’t directly involved in the operation.”

Arrington noted that eagles, seagulls and dogs are very attracted to the drone, which when in flight, sounds like a huge swarm of very, very angry bees. Therefore, Windermere asks owners to keep their pets inside during the aerial video.

“We charge a nominal fee to our brokers but if you hire a professional photographer, it costs $200-$300 for a drone flight,” Arrington said, adding the agency receives about five drone requests a month. “We’re seeing sellers requesting the drone from the get-go — they want to stand out, so we’re getting more requests right off the bat.”

She noted the flight speed is 6.5 feet per second “and I like it slow — I don’t want to be zipping around.”

Once the seller’s package is complete — aerial views, videos and still photos — Windermere posts it to its two YouTube channels.

“The best part of flying the drone is watching the finished video,” Arrington said. “It’s like producing a mini-movie. And when it all comes together how I envisioned, it’s very satisfying. It’s also great to hear positive feedback from the brokers and homeowners.

“The worst part is the pressure not to screw up. It can be nerve wracking if a bunch of people are watching, but for the most part, I’m on my own when I’m with the drone.”

Call any Windermere office in Sequim or Port Angeles for more information about setting up a drone flight for your property.

These properties show an eagle-eye view from Windermere’s drone, piloted by Melanie Arrington. Photos courtesy of Windermere.

These properties show an eagle-eye view from Windermere’s drone, piloted by Melanie Arrington. Photos courtesy of Windermere.

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