Why you still can’t use a drone for your real estate business

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Drone flying in the air

02/24/2015 | Author: Editorial Staff

While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken a long-awaited step toward allowing commercial drones, you still can’t use a drone, or hire someone else to fly a drone, for your real estate business.

Why not? 
The FAA’s recent guidelines are draft rules, which mean they are open for public comments and may undergo revisions before being officially adopted regulations. The FAA’s prior direction on using drones for commercial purposes—which encompasses your real estate activities—still stands: A business must request permission from the FAA, and each request is considered and granted on a case-by-case basis.

But what about that one REALTOR®?
In addition to 23 other exemptions it has given for other commercial uses, the FAA has granted permission to one REALTOR®, in Arizona, to use a drone to capture aerial photographs of his listings. The REALTOR® must acquire a private pilot’s license, a third-class airman medical certificate, and meet several other conditions, including flying the drone between three and seven minutes per flight, and keeping the drone below 300 feet.

What do the proposed rules say?
The proposed rules limit the weight and speed of a drone, as well as the altitude at which it can fly. They also ban flying drones at night and near airports, and require the operator to have pilot certification and keep the drone in sight at all times. See an overview of the proposed rules on the FAA’s website.

How can I encourage the FAA to let agents fly drones?
You can provide comments on the proposed regulations on regulations.gov until April 24. In the meantime, NAR supports regulations that allow REALTORS® to use drones safely. However, it still discourages REALTORS® against flying them until the proposed rules are finalized, which could take some time.

Get an in-depth look at drones in "Are drones the next big thing in real estate?" from the August 2014 issue of Texas REALTOR® magazine.

Categories: Business tips
Tags: drones, industry news


Randy Newman on 02/26/2015

what about section 4 Texas HB 912 section 2 chapter 423 (6) and (13) sep 2013?

Bobby Galvez on 02/26/2015

The issue is more complex than it appears. While some flights are to be authorized, there are imitations which will severely limit the use of drones for residential aerial photography.
There is a list of 33 conditions and limitations presented by the FAA. At least three contain specifics which detail limitations as to where drones may operate. Quoting from a Washington Post article, here are three which specifically limit widespread use in real estate:

30) The UA may not be operated over congested or densely populated areas.

31) Flight operations must be conducted at least 500 feet from all nonparticipating persons, vessels, vehicles, and structures unless: a. Barriers or structures are present that sufficiently protect nonparticipating persons from the UA and/or debris in the event of an accident. The operator must ensure that nonparticipating persons remain under such protection. If a situation arises where nonparticipating persons leave such protection and are within 500 feet of the UA, flight operations must cease immediately and/or; b. The aircraft is operated near vessels, vehicles or structures where the owner/controller of such vessels, vehicles or structures has granted permission and the PIC has made a safety assessment of the risk of operating closer to those objects and determined that it does not present an undue hazard, and; c. Operations nearer to the PIC, VO, operator trainees or essential persons do not present an undue hazard to those persons per § 91.119(a).

32) All operations shall be conducted over private or controlled-access property with permission from the land owner/controller or authorized representative. Permission from land owner/controller or authorized representative will be obtained for each flight to be conducted.

In essence - no persons not involved with the operation of the drone may be within 500 feet of the drone. All operations are to take place over private property with permission from the landowner. This pretty much eliminates operating over the “quarter acre lot” in residential subdivisions. It’s nigh impossible to get photos with any worthwhile information while remaining over the single lot - oblique views are the ones we’d be after and these involve flight over neighboring private or public properties.
There are alternatives to drones for aerial photography in these settings, such as masts for mounting cameras in elevated positions.
Several years ago I began exploring the use of them and concluded that they are best suited for documenting large acreage tracts. In the typical subdivision setting there isn’t much more they can offer that can’t be seen on various aerial view options already in place. Some MLS offer a “bird’s eye view” with oblique views as well as straight overheads.

AJ on 02/25/2015

Since there are no fines in place, is it ok to proceed for now?

Ray Faragher on 02/24/2015

Yet we still continue to see aerial photos on numerous listings within the MLS..

Michael DeHart on 02/24/2015

I own several unmanned aerial vehicles…commonly referred to as drones.  I have applied for an exemption to the commercial use ban with the FAA.
Merriam Webster defies “drone” as, in part, “an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control or onboard computers”. 
Due to the use by the military of autonomous vehicles called ‘drones’ the term is commonly used for any remote controlled aircraft. 
What is the center of this issue are actually quad-copters.  There are some 6 and 8 rotor aircraft but the vast majority have four (4) rotors.  The largest market share goes to DJI and the Phantom series.  I own three of these.
Like a car or a boat they are safe when used responsibly.  Of course all you hear about in the media are the knuckleheads that are not very responsible.

Glenn Still on 02/24/2015

What is the difference between a model plane and a drone? Is it the camera?

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The material provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be considered as legal advice for your particular matter. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Applicability of the legal principles discussed in this material may differ substantially in individual situations.

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