What the New Drone Rules Mean for Real Estate

Renae | July 5, 2016 | Best Practices

What the New Drone Rules Mean for Real EstateYou’ve probably heard that the FAA has finally issued its drone rules surrounding commercial use. After much public debate and proposals, they finally decided on a list of drone rules that would accommodate most parties’ affected by drones – or at least they hope to. So, what do the new FAA regulations on commercial uses of drones mean for the real estate industry?

The General Drone Situation

These rules, it should be said, are meant to cover commercial use of drones. A separate and more lax set of rules governs amateur use. So, real estate naturally falls under commercial use and, therefore, these new rules.

According to the FAA, more than 5,300 permits have been issued amongst the many thousands more submitted. They estimate that about 22 percent of the commercial use of drones will actually come from the real estate industry. No surprise, as aerial views of properties are becoming more and more popular for listings.

The Drone Rules for Commercial Use

The rules, verbatim from a Yahoo! Finance article, are as follows:

  • The pilot. You must be over 16 and speak English. You have to pass a knowledge test at an FAA-approved test center, which are listed here. (If you already have a pilot’s license — a “part 61 certificate” — you can take this test online.) You also have to get a drone operator certificate (a “remote pilot certificate” that never expires) or be supervised by someone who has one. You have to take a flight-knowledge test every two years.
  • The drone. You have to register the drone with the FAA, which costs $5. The drone must have “aircraft markings” (an ID number that can be traced back to you, the owner) and weigh less than 55 pounds. There must be at least one pilot for every drone.
  • The site. You can’t fly the drone while you’re under a roof (of a building or a parked car, for example). You also can’t be in a moving vehicle if you’re in a populated area. You have to keep the drone within your sight at all times, or at least within the sight of an observer who’s in communication with you.
  • The flight. Before you fly, you have to inspect the drone to make sure it’s safe. You can’t fly at night unless the drone’s lights are visible for three miles. Once you take off, you have to keep the drone below 400 feet, unless you’re within 400 feet of “a structure.” (That loophole lets drones inspect towers and buildings.) You can’t fly the drone over people (except your own team), you have to avoid other flying craft, and you can’t exceed 100 miles an hour.

What This Means for the Real Estate Industry

Thankfully, much of these drone rules will be easy for you to follow as a real estate agent.

  • You’ll likely be the operator, and, therefore, be the only person to take the required test. Bonus if you are already a licensed pilot, so you only need to take the test online.
  • While there are prodigies out there, you are likely over 16, so “check” there.
  • Registering the drone is cheap and easy.
  • You want to capture the property from its best angles. This will be much easier for you to do if the property has a good sized front or back yard or a large open space nearby for you to capture the entire listing. Plus, it makes total sense for you to follow the rule on having your eyes on the drone at all times (you don’t want to mess up your listing!).
  • You probably don’t need to go over 400 feet of the house (the only structure you are likely capturing) and nighttime is just not conducive to your capturing video of the property anyway. Plus, 100 miles? Too fast to get good footage!

It’s important to note, the entire process can take four months or more but could be faster depending on how efficient the FAA is at processing applications.

Some things for you to note as a real estate agent:

  • Always ask permission before shooting a property, even if its for the benefit of the seller. Have it in writing in at least an email just to be sure.
  • Avoid doing aerial photography with your drone if you expect a number of people to be in the area (i.e. an open house).
  • Stick to the property itself to ensure that you do not infringe upon others’ privacy as well as no-fly zones per the FAA (near an airport, stadium, etc.).

If these drone rules sound too much for you to handle, you can contact a number of businesses cropping up in cities across the country offering this service.

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