DJI Air 3 for Real Estate Photography (All You Need to Know) – Droneblog

Released in the summer of 2023, the DJI Air 3 has proven to be a reliable, well-rounded drone, perfect for those looking for a mid-level drone with great specs.

DJI Air 3 for Real Estate Photography (All You Need to Know)DJI Air 3 for Real Estate Photography (All You Need to Know)
Image Credit: Dan Bayne/Droneblog

Like its predecessor, the Air 2S, the DJI Air 3 has an excellent cost-to-feature ratio, enabling the Air 3 to be accessible to a wide range of drone owners. From beginners to content creators, to enthusiasts alike, the Air 3 has something for everyone.

We’ll look at many of the features of the DJI Air 3 that make it a viable option for Real Estate photography, as well as some sample images from Real Estate shoots since its release.


Image Credit: Dan Bayne/Droneblog

As mentioned, the DJI Air 3 was released in July 2023 and is the successor of the ever-popular DJI Air 2S, released in 2021.

One thing that helped make the almost three-year-old Air 2S a well-received drone was its 1-inch CMOS Sony sensor camera. That camera was perfect for varying types of commercial work, including Real Estate. Honestly, until 2023, the Air 2S was my real estate work-horse, with many flight miles on it.

» MORE: DJI Air 3 Review – Is This the Drone for You?

Yes, the Air 3 does have smaller main and secondary cameras than the DJI Air 2S’ main 1-inch” CMOS sensor camera. However, the newer technology in both of the Air 3’s cameras has aided the Air 3 in taking excellent photos, in both bright sunlight and in low-light conditions.

Because of the Air 3’s newer imaging technology, although technically only 12 MP photos (more on this shortly), the photos taken are detailed and work well for real estate, whether capturing structures or the surrounding environment.

Required Certifications

Image Credit: Dan Bayne/Droneblog

Taking photographs and videos of homes for sale with the Air 3 falls under commercial purposes, or the furtherance of business.

In the United States, you must fly your drone under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107) to be legally recognized as a commercial drone pilot.

Because of this, if desiring to do drone Real Estate photography, in the United States, a Part 107 Certification is required.

For more information on the Part 107 Certification process, starting your own drone business, or registering your DJI Air 3, please see the following articles:

Background on Moving to the Air 3 for Real Estate

Image Credit: Dan Bayne/AISCF Photography

I’ve been shooting Real Estate photos and videos for clients since 2018. I used a DJI drone with a 1-inch sensor when initially starting out. In this case, the Phantom 4 Pro.

Back then, 1-inch sensors and shooting 20 MP photos were the absolute industry standard and a basic requirement for real estate professionals.

As a small company, we added a few smaller-sensored Autel foldable drones to the fleet as backups. We also used them periodically when the DJI drones were grounded due to unlockable geofenced areas.

We didn’t like the original Evo’s 12 MP image quality back then, but we kept them around just the same.

Fast forward to 2021, and we retired our multiple Phantom 4 Pro workhorses in favor of the smaller footprint and 1-inch sensor of the Air 2S. The Air 2S would be our primary workhorse for years.

For our higher-end homes over $500,000, we used the Mavic 3 Pro regularly for a time, as its 4/3 Hasselblad camera is unbeatable.

However, the larger, vastly more expensive Mavic 3 Pro would prove to be overkill for the more average-sized and average-priced homes we regularly began getting booked for in 2023.

This is where the Air 3 comes in.

Camera technology has gotten so good over the past 2 years or so that it has become evident that the 1/1.3″ sensor camera on the Air 3 would do just fine for real estate over the smaller sensor 12 MP cameras on the drones of yesteryear.

In our area, many home buyers are viewing real estate pictures on smartphones and tablets. Thus, extremely high-resolution photos taken on large sensor drone cameras are not a necessity for our clients in most cases.

For those clients specifically requesting content from the higher priced and spec’d Mavic 3 Pro, it is available.

The Air 3’s combination of size, weight, flight performance, and image quality makes the Air 3 the ideal drone for our real estate purposes and is used regularly.

» MORE: Real Estate Drone Photography: A Comprehensive Guide (Insider Tips)

Air 3 Features for Real Estate Photography

Image Credit: Dan Bayne/AISCF Photography

One of the reasons the Air 3 is such a robust and well-rounded drone is the fact that DJI has crammed a lot of the best features from other DJI drones into the Air 3.

The Air 3, while an affordable advanced consumer drone, shares many of the higher-end features of the much more expensive and professional-level Mavic 3 series.

These features all lead to a better real estate photo experience, such as:

  • Dual cameras, with focal lengths equal to 24 mm and 70 mm, respectively
  • Omnidirectional obstacle avoidance
  • Night Mode, resulting in excellent evening and nighttime photos

Additionally, the Air 3 benefits from even newer DJI proprietary technology over the Mavic 3 series, specifically:

  • OccuSync 4.0 video transmission system

We’ll be discussing these features in-depth throughout this article.

» MORE: DJI Mini 2 SE for Real Estate Photography (All You Need to Know) 

Air 3 Camera

Image Credit: Dan Bayne/AISCF Photography

One of the things that makes the Air 3 so versatile is the dual cameras. Similar to the original Mavic 3’s setup, the cameras on the Air 3 are a bit smaller at 1/1.3″ sensors, as opposed to the Mavic 3’s 4/3″ main camera.

» MORE: Best Camera Settings for DJI Air 3 (Photo & Video)

The main camera on the Air 3 is equivalent to 24mm with an f/1.7 aperture, and the tele lens camera is equivalent to 70mm with an f/2.8 aperture. Both of these cameras take the same resolution photos, which is ideal for real estate photography.

The new 70mm camera is perfect for zooming in on particular areas of interest within a property or area amenities while maintaining distance from your subject.

70 mm – Image Credit: Dan Bayne/AISCF Photography

In the above image, the pool-goers were alerted ahead of time of the shoot. At the end of the location session, they all mentioned they didn’t hear or even notice the Air 3.

In some neighborhoods, being as inconspicuous as possible is necessary, and depending on the situation, the Air 3 at times provides this.

Camera DJI Air 3
Wide-Angle Camera: 1/1.3-inch CMOS, Effective Pixels: 48 MP
Photography resolution: 8064x6048px
FOV: 82°
Format Equivalent: 24 mm
Aperture: f/1.7
Medium Tele Camera: 1/1.3-inch CMOS, Effective Pixels: 48 MP
Photography resolution: 8064x6048px
FOV: 35°
Format Equivalent: 70 mm
Aperture: f/2.8

Photo Formats & Photo Modes

As is expected of all of DJI’s newer drones, including the Mini series, the Air 3 is capable of shooting JPEG or RAW (DNG).

For professional photographers, the option to shoot RAW files oftentimes is a must, depending on their editing style. This isn’t to say you cannot be a professional real estate photographer while shooting JPEG, as many do prefer shooting JPEG because of the file sizes, and the photos are still amazing.

The Air 3 RAW (DNG) files are large, uncompressed, and unprocessed files. Like ground cameras such as Sony, Canon, and Nikon, these files retain all of the data and information in a photo. They can then be manipulated in any way using your real estate photo editing software of choice.

In addition to a slew of photo modes, the Air 3 offers the following still photography modes a real estate photographer should find useful:

  • Single Shot: 12 MP and 48 MP
  • Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB): 12 MP, 3/5 frames; 48 MP, 3/5 frames at 0.7 EV step

Single-shot real estate photos taken with the Air 3 look great. When exposed properly, it is hard to make a distinction between the Air 2S 1-inch sensor and the Air 3’s 1/1.3″ sensor, even at the lower 12 MP option.

12 MP Single Shot – Image Credit: Dan Bayne/AISCF Photography

Aside from the standard single-shot mode, which I personally use 50/50 when shooting properties, the AEB (automatic exposure bracketing) mode is excellent.

AEB on the Air 3 works exactly like it does for ground cameras, giving you the ability to grab 3 or 5 frames at 0.7 exposure value steps between each captured image.

» MORE: DJI Air 3 for Photography

The Air 3 is very stable when flying, even in breezy conditions. When merging the AEB frames together, the resulting photographs look great, even with the movement of the Air 3, as can be seen in the example below.

12 MP | 3 Image AEB (HDR) | 24mm | Image Credit: Dan Bayne/Droneblog

Low-Light & Nighttime Capabilities

Image Credit: Dan Bayne/Droneblog

When doing real estate photography, there may be times when it is necessary to get twilight shots. There may even be times when nighttime shots are needed, perhaps when shooting property in downtown areas.

Thankfully, the Air 3 takes excellent lowlight and nighttime photographs, either using Night Mode or fine-tuning the manual settings yourself in Pro Mode.

Minutes before Sunset – Image Credit: Dan Bayne/Droneblog

Much of this is due to the Air 3’s main 24 mm camera having a very wide f/1.7 aperture which lets in a lot of light.

This is an argument for those saying the low-light performance of the Air 3 cannot match the low-light performance of the Air 2S. The Air 2S, while having a larger sensor, does have a tighter f/2.8 aperture. Pictures speak a thousand words.

Although there may be some traces of noise in the images taken in low-light conditions with the Air 3, for the most part, this can be addressed in post-editing software and is not an issue whatsoever.

» MORE: Drone Photography Ultimate Guide

48 MP Concerns for Real Estate

Like the Mavic Air 2 and DJI Air 2S before it, the Air 3 can shoot 48 MP photos.

When shooting 48 MP, although the cameras are technically 12 MP, Quad Bayer technology is used. Quad Bayer technology quadruples each megapixel in the camera, resulting in sharper photos. 48 MP photos.

Currently, I am not using the 48 MP option for real estate, and all of our client photos (including the photos in this article) are delivered as 12 MP photos.

This all boils down to the recent degradation in the quality of 48 MP photos the Air 3 produces from either camera.

Upon its summer 2023 release, the Air 3 took great pictures in both 12 MP and 48 MP options. A few months later, however, a firmware update was put out by DJI that caused the 48 MP images to be slightly blurry, with a noticeable increase in chromatic aberration and abundant artifacts.

DJI was made aware of the issue and has since released a slew of subsequent firmware updates to address some of these issues.

Sadly, for my part, I do not feel the 48 MP images are as good as they originally were upon the Air 3’s original release. Because of this, I will continue to shoot 12 MP photos until this issue has been rectified.

» MORE: Camera Technology in Drones (Explained)

Chromatic Aberration

I mentioned that the Air 3 suffers from chromatic aberration when shooting 48 MP pictures. It likewise suffers some when shooting 12 MP photos.

What is chromatic aberration?

Chromatic aberration is when there are noticeable colored edges that appear around objects in high-contrast situations. These colors are normally purple, green, or magenta.

Chromatic aberration is caused by a camera’s lens, whether drone, mirrorless camera, or DSLR.

I really noticed an increase in chromatic aberration on bright, unedited photos, around the branches of trees and on the roof tiles.

In the example below, chromatic aberration was particularly noticeable in the treeline, where the sun was shining from the southeast. The shot was not used for the client.

Image Credit: Dan Bayne/AISCF Photography

Although still visible, to counter this, I had to use a heavy hand in Lightroom when using the defringe tool, along with pulling back the green, purple, and magenta saturation.

As the example highlights, this did not work well in this case, as the roof tiles were the same color as the majority of the chromatic aberration, and desaturating that color would destroy the look of the tiles.

This could be countered easily by taking the same picture later in the day when the sun had moved. This, however, was not a viable option that day as we had another three shoots lined up one after the other.

Thankfully, there are ways around the chromatic aberration that is sometimes found with the Air 3. This is either through the use of photo editing software, changing the position of the Air 3, or even taking some photos at another time of day.

» MORE: Can You Fly DJI Air 3 at Night (Explained)

Size & Flight Characteristics

Air 3 size vs. Air 2S – Image Credit: Dan Bayne/Droneblog

The DJI Air 3 is slightly longer, taller, and heavier than the Air 2S and almost three times the weight of the Mini Pro lines of DJI drones.

The Air 3 flight characteristics can be defined as controlled and well-refined. These are characteristics anyone taking real estate photos would want.

The Air 3 flies smoothly on all fronts, regardless of moving forward, in ascent, or in descent. Flying the Air 3 for any purpose is like driving a high-powered luxury sports car, with equal parts comfort and performance.

The Air 3 can really be described as a great flying drone.

When shooting real estate photos, it is quick to get up and go and is very easy to control. The Air 3 motors are powerful, but it does not feel like the Air 3 will be quick to get away from you in an uncontrolled manner.

Due to its controlled flight characteristics, the ascent and descent speeds of 22mph don’t feel as fast as they actually are. They do come in handy when trying to get in as many photo shoots as possible in one day.

With the Air 3 weighing 720 g, it handles wind very well. So well, in fact, that it is resistant to winds up to 26mph.

For our most recent real estate projects on the Gulf Coast of Florida, the Air 3 was flown in gusts between 15 and 20 mph. For the lower register of that range, it easily stayed in place for various shots.

In higher mph winds, I would have confidence the Air 3 would perform equally as well.

Battery Life

Image Credit: Dan Bayne/Droneblog

This is where the Air 3 really shines. But it’s not because it has the longest battery life of a consumer DJI drone; the Mini 3 holds that title at 50 minutes.

The Air 3 is rated to fly 46 minutes per battery.

Drone operators will rarely, if ever, get those types of flight times. However, when consistently flying down to about 25% battery on real estate work, I am easily able to get about 34 minutes of usage.

For real estate work, I suggest getting the fly more combo, as three batteries is a good number to have when doing multiple real estate jobs.

What makes the Air 3 battery setup so stellar is the all-new Air 3 battery charging hub.

Unlike any other DJI battery charging hub (as of this article’s writing), there is an option that allows you to press and hold the black function button (while the hub is unplugged) and transfer the remaining power from multiple batteries to the battery with the highest remaining power.

Instead of having three partially powered batteries as you head to the next real estate shoot, you can now have one fully (or close to a fully) charged battery for your next flight.

This is particularly useful if doing more than a few shoots during the day. I have had instances of not only taking pictures at multiple properties during a day but also filming 4k 60fps footage for each property as well.

Multiple batteries using the power transfer feature was a lifesaver.

» MORE: DJI Air 3 – Battery (All You Need to Know)

Remote Controller Options

Image Credit: Dan Bayne/Droneblog

Equally as important as the camera specs, battery life, and performance is how the Air 3 is physically controlled by the end user.

The Air 3 uses two different remote controller options, the DJI RC 2 and the DJI RC-N2, both of which are perfect for the Air 3.

Because the Air 3 is on a different transmission system than, say, the Air 2S or Mavic 3 series, the DJI RC-N1, DJI RC, DJI Smart Controller, and DJI RC Pro will not work with it.

For those who already own the DJI RC Pro, this may be a disappointment, as that remote controller is the absolute best professional control device for DJI consumer and prosumer drones.

Thankfully, both the DJI RC 2 and RC-N2 are viable options, options that both happen to work quite well for the Air 3.

Both controllers feel and behave like their predecessors, the DJI RC and DJI RC-N1.

Most times, when we are out doing real estate, we’ll use the DJI RC 2, as that controller is plenty bright, at 700 nits, for most of our sunny days.

Image Credit: Dan Bayne/Droneblog

If shooting ocean or gulf-front properties, we might opt to also bring along the DJI RC-N2. This would be to attach one of our 1000-nit high-brightness tablets.

Additionally, when shooting real estate video footage, we always bring the RC-N2 attached to a 7″ high-brightness tablet. The RC-N2 and tablet combination ensure I can get the best framing possible, due to the larger screen.

» MORE: How to Fly DJI Air 3 Drone (With DJI RC 2)

Obstacle Avoidance

Image Credit: Dan Bayne/Droneblog

When flying for real estate, it is essential to get the best-composed shots of the property as humanly possible.

Oftentimes, we might be so focused on the shot at hand that we ignore our surroundings.

This is where the new omnidirectional obstacle avoidance system plays a vital role. This 360-degree, omnidirectional protection includes:

  • Front
  • Back
  • Left/Right Sides
  • Top
  • Bottom

When not doing professional drone work, I am one to normally fly with all obstacle sensors off.

However, I will admit that there have been times when I was fully engaged in a difficult shot or two between a lot of trees and was so thankful that I had remembered to enable the correct safety features.

I have been spared from a few close calls using the omnidirectional obstacle avoidance system.

While, yes, the Air 3 benefits from the added protection of 360-degree obstacle sensing, we never suggest fully relying on automated obstacle avoidance.

» MORE: Obstacle Avoidance in DJI Drones (Explained for Beginners)

OccuSync 4.0 (Transmission System)

Image Credit: Dan Bayne/AISCF Photography

The Air 3 uses the upgraded OcuSync 4 (O4) video transmission system. This system is an upgrade over the Mavic 3 lines operating on the O3+ system.

With OcuSync 4, the video signal range has been extended to 12.4 miles on the Air 3, compared to the Mavic 3’s 9.3 Miles.

We never endorse or advise drone pilots to fly that far, as the law in the United States is to fly within visual line of sight (VLOS) at all times.

What the OcuSync 4.0 transmission system means for Air 3 owners using the Air 3 for real estate work is that the Air 3 has an even stronger and cleaner signal running between the drone and remote controller.

This is ideal for real estate photographers taking pictures in both highly congested urban and downtown areas.

» MORE: DJI Transmission System (Everything You Need to Know)

Geofencing Concerns?

Like all DJI drones, the Air 3 is also geofenced.

Unlike the professional drones of old (the Phantom Pro and Mavic Pro lines), this generation of DJI drones is easier to unlock in authorization zones.

When doing real estate shoots, being able to immediately unlock locations is important, as your client’s home just might be in an authorization zone, needing LAANC approval to fly.

With previous iterations of DJI drones, it was sometimes hard, if not impossible, to unlock the drone to do commercial work in certain areas. Because of this, many, myself included, had non-geofenced drones to fly in areas where LAANC was authorized for the pilot but denied by DJI unlock.

Since using the Air 3 for real estate work, we have had absolutely no issues unlocking the Air 3 while on location in authorization zones.

» MORE: Do DJI Drones Have Geofencing? (And How to Unlock Them)

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