Drone Regulations for The Modern Day Real Estate Agent

By September 6, 2016 Technology No Comments

Guest post by Rob LeRoy, co-founder and marketing director for The Real Estate Video Guys, a marketing agency specializing in photography, videography, and drone footage for real estate listings.

After years of input from hobbyists and professionals, lengthy debate, and copious night sweats from amateur videographers, the FAA has finally instituted its revised rules for commercial drone use.

This is great news for the real estate community, as it means that it is now possible for professional videographers to not only comply with FAA performance regulations, but, far more importantly, acquire the necessary licenses in an affordable, expedited fashion.

Prior to the new ruling, the only people legally allowed to use drone photography and video footage commercially were required to hold an actual pilot’s license. You know, like the kind you would need to fly a plane. With people in it. This was not exactly practical or accessible for professional videographers who generally only charge a couple hundred dollars for their services.

Of course, many videographers, both professional and amateur, went ahead and shot drone footage for commercial use anyway, but with the nagging fear that they might one day get a call from the FAA accompanied by a hefty fine.

The updated rules will usher in an exciting new period for aerial photography in general, and real estate marketing, in particular. Affordable, legal drone footage is about to be far more accessible to the real estate community, and is expected to become a given for any quality listing marketing package. Agents and brokers would be wise to know the rules, so that they can be sure they’re hiring qualified, licensed drone operators.

Drone footage for real estate listings

Here’s what real estate agents and brokers need to know about drones:

The legal term for a drone is unmanned aircraft system (UAS). Not as cool sounding, that’s for sure. Don’t worry though, that won’t be on the test.

Licensing requirements:

  • Commercial drone operators* using a drone no larger than 55lbs must register their machine(s).
  • Receive a Remote Pilot Certificate.
  • Be at least 16 years old.

*The kind real estate professionals might hire. Not the kind that shoot bad guys in foreign countries or that shoot Michael Bay movies.

Operator performance requirements and restrictions:

There are a lot of these. Many of them are obvious, like “don’t use drones to spy on naked sunbathers in their own private yards. You probably could have guessed that. Generally speaking, you should not use footage of naked sunbathers in your listing videos, even if they do give consent, and you should probably not re-hire any videographer who includes it. Just a thought.

  • Must yield right-of-way to manned aircraft. If this rule baffles your drone operator, go ahead and find a new drone operator.
  • Class G airspace, only. Mainly, this means you can’t fly within 4 miles of an airport. For excruciating details on the various airspace classes, click HERE.
  • Do not fly more than 400 feet from the ground. This one is important. It’s also easy, since most commercial drones have built-in software that actively prevents the machine from breaking the 400ft limit.
  • Operator must maintain line of sight at all times.
  • Do not fly over crowds. This eliminates events like the Super Bowl, concerts and my birthday parties. It’s a safety issue, obviously. Drone blades spin really fast, and could really mess up somebody’s hair.
  • Must only operate during daylight hours.
  • Maximum speed of 100mph. Again, this is most-often regulated internally, by the drone’s software.
  • Do not engage in shenanigans. This means, don’t play chicken with birds (including actual chickens) or other drones, unless you’re at a drone racing event, with necessary safety precautions in place. In which case, AWESOME!
  • Do not carry dangerous materials. This is one of those that seems like it should be pretty obvious, but you just KNOW there’s some redneck out there who would think it was awesome to drop M-80s onto his backyard bonfire to watch it explode. And, to be fair, that does sound pretty bad ass…but not safe, and also not especially practical in a real estate marketing context.

That’s about the gist of it. For agonizingly thorough details, you can see the entire set of rules on the FAA website, HERE.

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