Using Drones in Real Estate

by Brian Murphy on 2017-12-06 3:50pm

Drone Your Own Home


While the debate rages on regarding the use of drones — also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV) — for military and intelligence purposes, some far less controversial uses have emerged in the real estate industry. With the new regulations implemented August 29, 2016, it is easier than ever to use a drone to video-record or photograph your listings. The NAR even participated in the writing of the new rules in anticipation of the opportunities this presents in real estate marketing.


Never seen a drone video on a property? Then check out the one on this page. Or check out the clips on this site.*


According to the NAR’s recent member survey, nearly 20 percent of realtors not already using drones say that they plan to in the future. (Read more about the 2016 National Association of Realtors survey here.) One likely influence in this development is the fact that the profile of today’s realtor is trending younger, bringing more tech-savvy members to the industry.


While more than half of realtors (56%) say that they are not using drones currently, 18% say they plan to use them soon, which will swing the balance to put those using drones for photographing their listings into the new majority.


So, what can you do with a drone that you can’t do already? For real estate agents, drone photography can show potential buyers a variety of details, including:

  • Sweeping aerial views of an entire estate or large acreage

  • What local commutes to work or the walk to school look like

  • The neighborhood and community around a property, including proximity to local amenities, such as shopping, recreation, and education

  • Civic developments or local improvement districts (LIDs) impacting or benefitting from the buyer’s property taxes

Real estate agents generally get their aerial photos from airplanes and helicopters, which can be a seriously imposing expense. Drones, on the other hand, may drastically reduce the cost of elevated photography. Some drone models start under one hundred dollars, and camera attachments are also moderately priced. However, other models can cost several hundred dollars. (Talk to an expert to see if the model you want will serve your purpose satisfactorily. Not all models will handle heavier or more sophisticated workloads. You can check out some models and prices here.*)

Drones can shoot still photos, video, or both. Capabilities depend on the equipment setup selected. Video taken can be edited and shared through a variety of tools that do not require extensive experience or expertise to use. For the do-it-yourselfer, drone operation mostly calls for a steady hand and a measure of self-confidence with the equipment — professional pilot not required. And, for those who choose to employ outsides sources instead, it should still be less costly than an airplane or helicopter.


Making the Decision to Go “Drone”


Sold on the idea of an enhanced approach to more polished and affordable elevated photography of your properties, but not sure how to do it? Here are some things to consider before buying or hiring out.

If you decide to “go drone,” either by buying and flying your own or hiring someone else to do it,  first familiarize yourself with the legal requirements and risks of using a UAS video-photography system. Some things to consider include:

  • Who is capable and qualified to fly the drone?

  • What are the registration and other legal prerequisites?

  • Where and how can a UAS/drone be flown?

  • What are the  risks and liabilities if something should go wrong?


To help answer this last question, you can download the FAA's safety app, which provides real-time information about airspace restrictions and other flying requirements based on your GPS location. The FAA also provides some simple tips for the amateur/newbie drone pilot:

  • Fly at or below 400 feet and stay away from surrounding obstacles

  • Keep your UAS within sight

  • Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports

  • Never fly over groups of people

  • Never fly over stadiums or sports events

  • Never fly near emergency response efforts such as fires

  • Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol

  • Understand airspace restrictions and requirements


Who Needs to be Licensed?


For those only planning to fly a drone recreationally, no certification is required under Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, the Section 333 exemption, or any other kind of UAV certification. Pilots just need to abide by standard safety guidelines as regulated per the FAA (listed above). The FAA also recommends consulting Know Before You Fly for recreational use guidelines.

Note: As of December 21, 2015, any drone weighing more than 0.55 lbs / 250g, must be registered with the FAA, even if only flying recreationally.

To operate commercially, however, where “commercial” describes any flight operation that can be tied to economic benefit, certification with the the FAA is required. (See Facts and FAQ here.) If hiring out for drone photography, it is wise to confirm that the vendor is properly certified.


Learning and Licensing to “Pilot” Your Own Drone


Here is some information from the FAA Website on UAS/drone training and usage.


As of August 29, 2016, testing centers nationwide are authorized to administer the Aeronautical Knowledge Test required under Part 107.


After you pass the test, you must complete an FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application in order to receive your remote pilot certificate. For more details on this, click here. They warn that it may take up to 48 hours for the website to record that you successfully passed the test, and that they expect to validate applications within 10 days. You will be sent instructions for printing your temporary airman certificate, which is good for 120 days, with a permanent Remote Pilot Certificate to be received within those 120 days.


* Links referred to for examples are not to be considered as an endorsement of any specific product or provider.