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Using drones to help you design your home

We recently hired a drone company to take some aerial video footage to help us in designing our new home. Why?

You may have previously read about our exciting project where we are subdividing a parcel of land and planning to build 2 new homes. Being located on a slight slope with a lovely outlook, one of the first questions we had was how do we maximize any potential views that these homes would have?

This has been part of our discussions from day one and very much part of planning the right design and choosing a builder for the project. So, just to make it clear – at this stage, we have not nailed down a specific design or chosen a builder. What we have done is spoken to a handful of selected building companies we identified as a potentially good fit and asked them lots of questions.

The key themes have been around:

  1. What do they suggest is the best design given the size and location of the land?
  2. How can we optimise any potential views and make the most out of “bringing the outside into the living areas”?
  3. Given that we are building 2 houses side by side, how do we make sure both not only complement but also don’t take away from the other’s line of sight and views.

Almost every builder suggested that we engage a drone company to “send up a bird” and see what the views were at different heights and from different points across the property. Remember the old viewing platforms we used to see on multi-story building sites? Well, drones are a far better, more cost-effective and comprehensive way of getting all your facts right from the get-go.


Drone surveys – Fast, flexible and fabulously enlightening.


Drones are being used more and more in commercial and industrial applications and are no longer considered a toy or the exclusive domain of tech geeks. It has been fascinating to watch how drones are being adapted to the construction and building industry, but have you ever considered how they can help you with designing your dream home?


Let’s start at the beginning – what is a drone?

In simple terms, a drone is an unmanned aircraft – a flying robot that can be remotely controlled or fly autonomously. Some are quite basic and are controlled by a drone operator, whilst more sophisticated ones can include software-controlled flight plans that work in conjunction with onboard sensors and GPS (a global positioning system) just like in your car or smartphone.
How can a drone help you design your extension or new home?

We found a local drone operating company that did a lot of work in the building industry and had them prepare a “drone survey” for us. In simple terms this means that using our survey plan for the property, we asked them to record video footage for us from 8 different points and heights across the property.

Different positions on the land itself will show you different vantage points and perspectives. It will also provide your architect or builder with vital information as to lines of sight they will have to take into consideration.

If your bedroom is planned 2 meters forward, back or to the right, what difference will it make? Where should you place your windows, and what perspectives will provide you with the biggest WOW factor?

Different heights are important as they provide incredible insight as to the impact floor heights can have on livability, privacy, and views. We had footage recorded in ½ meter increments eg 4m off the ground vs 4.5m, 7m vs 7.5m. It is amazing how much difference 50cm can make!

How high you go will depend on council rules and regulations, so knowing the maximum building height is a great way to start.

What do I get and how much does it cost?

We ended up with one folder containing 8 short videos, each referencing a specific spot from which the footage was taken relative to our parcel of land. Each file includes a panoramic 360-degree sweep allowing us to imagine standing in one spot, rotating in a circle and “seeing” the potential view from our future home.

Prices will vary across Australia and depend on what you ask for. Expect to pay ~$100 per hour for still photographs; drone footage is somewhere between $300-$500. If you want the footage edited (like in those fancy real estate videos) it will cost you more.

In our case we simply wanted the footage for our own use and to help with the design, so we paid $380 for the entire job.


Drones are changing the way we look at property.


Can I simply do it myself?

Whether you are building a new home or planning an extension, arranging for some drone footage can be a smart and quick way to understand your options. If you happen to have your own drone, well, you simply can do the job yourself and have some fun along the way! Just make sure you know how to fly your drone, check that there are no restrictions in flying a drone on your property and know the maximum flight heights!

Remember, commercial drone companies hold special drone licenses and are certified and authorised to do this type of work. They also hold insurances and are trained professionals.

Hot final tips!

Something to look out for is checking with the drone operator to make sure that you have all the rights to use the footage for your own personal use. You want to be able to use and show the footage to anyone you chose to.

Also, know that some builders may want to have their own footage taken if you decide to go with them, so you may well end up paying twice for very similar work. Their logic is that they will have specific angles and heights they want to know about. In this case, the question for you to ask is what additional value or information more footage would add, especially if nothing much has changed about the land or property since the last footage was taken.

Overall, this has been an incredibly valuable way to help us with designing our future home and we now understand where the best vantage points are on our block. Armed with this information we can focus on getting the design right and making the most of our block.