FAA Issues Drone Warning Again to Real Estate

December 24, 2014

The Federal Aviation Administration, joined by other industry and hobbyist groups, has launched a new safety public campaign on the use of drones. But in reminding recreational enthusiasts about the safe use of drones, FAA is also pointing out that drone use remains unauthorized for commercial reasons, and specifically mentions those using it in the real estate industry as still on the do-not-fly list.

Drones have gotten a lot of attention in recent years as they’ve become more available and affordable online and in stores. Many in the real estate industry have sought to experiment with drones to capture aerial photos and videos of their for-sale listings. However, the FAA has put the brakes on using drones for commercial purposes, except on a case-by-case basis, until it drafts safety guidelines on the use of small commercial drones. Those guidelines have been delayed and now are not expected to be finalized until 2017, grounding commercial drones until then. 

The FAA’s new education campaign, “Know Before You Fly,” is geared to the permitted recreational use of drones, and provides operators with information and guidance on flying unmanned aircraft systems safely and responsibly.

It also reminds those who are not permitted to fly. “When it comes to unauthorized flights, many well-meaning individuals and prospective business operators want to fly and fly safely, but they don’t realize that, just because you can buy a UAS, doesn’t mean you can fly it anywhere, or for any purpose,” according to the campaign’s website.

On the website, the FAA lists “professional real estate or wedding photography” as examples of what constitutes commercial or business drone use that is not permitted. 

This is the second time that the FAA has called out real estate as a commercial sector not allowed to use drones. In June, the FAA released an interpretation of model aircraft use that stated “a REALTOR® using a model aircraft to photograph a property that he (or she) is trying to sell and using the photos in the property's real estate listing does not constitute hobby or recreational use. … [Also] a person photographing a property or event and selling the photos to someone else” also does not constitute the hobby or recreation exemption of permitted drone usage.  

The National Association of REALTORS® has instructed its members to neither use drones nor hire photographers or videographers who use drones for capturing aerial images of listings until the FAA issues its final guidelines. NAR continues to participate in an ongoing work group with the FAA to address the use of drones and unmanned aerial systems with the FAA.

Source: FAA and “FAA Drone Rules Delayed to 2017,” REALTOR® Magazine Daily News (Dec. 12, 2014)