Drones Offer Promise in Real Estate—Once Rules are Out

The excitement around drones is increasing and for good reason: the technology is steadily getting to the point where commercial applications are increasingly possible, including for use in marketing real estate. Being able to hoist a camera on a drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle, has the potential to be a cost-effective way to get dramatic shots of property you have listed for sale, particularly for large, high-end homes or big expanses of land.

But while the technology is falling into place, a lot still needs to be done on the regulatory side, because drones present very real and very difficult issues, including safety and privacy issues. The safety issues are clear: people operating drones have to be trained and systems have to be built to help protect people nearby should something go wrong. On privacy, a regulatory system has to be in place to help reduce the chance of drones being used to take unauthorized photos and video.

Along with these two concerns is the bigger national security concern, since a weaponized drone is a danger of national importance.

The Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of developing rules that would address these three concerns. It’s working against a timeline by Congress to have something ready by next year, although with a matter like drones, it’s important for the FAA to get it right and not just get it in a hurry.

As it is, drone use by hobbyists is already allowed, although there are strict limits to what constitutes hobbyist use. How high a drone goes up is one of the criteria for determining whether a use is hobbyist or not. For non-hobbyist use, the FAA authorizes drones for research, public safety, and, to a more limited extent, commercial use, but all of these uses are approved on a case-by-case basis. The rules that FAA is developing are intended to give commercial and other drone uses more clear-cut guidelines for what’s okay, a different approach than today’s restricted case-by-case approval system.

To fill you in a bit more on what’s happening with drones and where they might fit in with real estate once the FAA comes out with its rules, REALTOR® Magazine sat down for a video interview with NAR Government Affairs to learn about the rules and the timeline. The video is four minutes long.

The bottom line is, the regulatory environment hasn’t yet caught up with advances in drone technology, so as of right now, drone use outside of hobbyist use is limited. But it makes sense to start familiarizing yourself with the potential for drones in your business so when wider commercial use gets the green light, you’ll know whether drones has a place in your business model.

“Is That a Drone in Your Bag?”

Robert Freedman

Robert Freedman is director of multimedia communications for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. He can be reached at rfreedman@realtors.org.

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  1. Remote-controlled model aircraft are perfectly legal to use for both pleasure and profit, right now. The FAA is simply “claiming” it’s illegal. However, there exists no statute, regulation or case law to back up its claim. See: dronelawjournal.com for more information.

  2. Henry Silverio

    The only people that have weaponized drones and spied on their neighbors is our government. They are the ones who gave drones a bad name. Civilians use them for positive uses like agriculture, inspecting oil derricks, and mapping. Commercial drones are being used in Europe right now and have been for years and so far there has not been one instance that I am aware of that involved a terrorist with a drone. Video and camera drones will be important tools in our industry in the very near future and so far, only governments use them to kill and spy.

  3. You truly can beat a property youtube video with some drone shots.. check out our latest listing in Hermosa Beach, CA – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvZyjD03mrE

  4. Great potential for real estate, but I see a lot of potential for some mischief as well with drones.

  5. They aren’t very cost effective and require some technical ability, but the results are very cool… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMZ9iRekoR0

  6. Balloons are OK— why not drones with a limit on altitude? The view from 100 feet is amazing and for some properties it makes a lot of sense. Check out this drone video