Drones in Real Estate: Not so Fast

The legal landscape surrounding commercial use of drones is constantly shifting.

March 19, 2014

Some real estate companies are champing at the bit to incorporate drone photography into their marketing, as news reports make clear. But the commercial use of drones is currently permissible only on a case-by-case basis. So unless you have a certificate of airworthiness from the Federal Aviation Administration, you should keep your drone on the ground, NAR says. 

“The FAA, in a 2007 statement, very clearly stated that any commercial use of drones without a permit is not permissible,” says NAR Senior Policy Representative Russell Riggs.

In a closely watched case, a photographer for the University of Virginia in Charlottesville was fined $10,000 late last year by the FAA for flying his drone for commercial purposes. The court has since thrown that case out, raising questions about whether the FAA has the authority to take enforcement actions. But caution remains the prudent course.

The FAA is slated to issue rules on the commercial use of drones next year. To that end, the agency has authorized tests around the country to help it determine what restrictions are needed to ensure safe operation and to protect national security and people’s privacy.

In the meantime, NAR says, members should not use drones for real estate marketing purposes or hire companies to do so.

Editor's Note: Recently the FAA issued an update that reasserted the agency's authority to regulate drones and restated their previous assertion that unmanned aerial vehicles are not allowed for any commercial purposes, unless expressly authorized by the agency. Read the full update here.

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is the former director of multimedia communications at NAR.