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Cleared For Take Off

Tuesday, August 16, 2016  
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Drone in flight
Effective August 29, 2016, real estate professionals can operate drones for real estate related purposes. NAR was heavily involved in lobbying efforts to permit its members' drone use.
Orlando REALTOR® | September/October 2016

NAR advocacy efforts result in rules permitting REALTORS® to use drone technology for real estate related purposes

Commercial drone use in the real estate business got a big lift in June with the release of the Federal Aviation Administration’s final rule governing small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in the national air space.

Effective August 29, 2016, the elimination of a requirement that drone operators hold a pilot’s license means real estate professionals can take full advantage of drone technology for purposes such as capturing imagery of property listings. However, anyone looking to fly drones commercially will still have to comply with strict requirements designed to protect people on the ground.

An Advocacy Victory for REALTORS®

The new FAA rules create a clearer pathway for real estate professionals to use drones for commercial purposes, a prospect that National Association of REALTORS® President Tom Salomone called a win for the industry.

The FAA’s announcement marks a long-fought victory for REALTORS®. Since early 2014, NAR has worked with the FAA and industry partners to integrate drones into the national airspace for commercial use. NAR wrote to the FAA on numerous occasions to weigh in on the final Small UAS Rule, and testified before Congress to support the use of drones in real estate.

Despite the significant progress made in the FAA’s final rule, NAR’s work on this issue will continue. NAR is calling for eased restrictions on a “micro” category of drones; drones in this category weigh less than four pounds and present a much smaller safety risk than certain drones in the under 55-pound category covered by the new rule.

NAR also believes there is an ongoing need for a drone strategy that allows for “beyond visual line-of-sight” flights, or those where the operator cannot physically see the drone throughout the entire operation. These flights are particularly important for aerial photography across large buildings or tracts of land.

What's It Mean To Me? - Drone FAQs

What is a small unmanned aircraft system (the technical term for a drone)?

A small unmanned aircraft system (“sUAS”) is defined in the sUAS Rule as an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds. The weight limitation of a sUAS includes all of the associated elements required to operate the sUAS, and anything onboard or attached to the sUAS.

How does the sUAS Rule change my ability to use a sUAS?

Pursuant to a set of operational and safety requirements, as well as a remote pilot certificate requirement, the sUAS Rule integrates sUAS into the national airspace, and permits the operation of sUAS for commercial purposes. Once the sUAS Rule becomes effective on August 29, 2016, and provided a person operates the sUAS within the limitations set forth in the rule, an exemption or waiver will no longer be required prior to operating a sUAS.

Can sUAS still be operated for real estate related uses?

Yes, provided the sUAS operation meets all the conditions for hobby or recreational use. The sUAS Rule prohibits model aircrafts from operating in a manner that endangers national airspace. Effective August 29, 2016, real estate professionals can operate drones for real estate related purposes.

What should an individual consider when hiring a company to conduct a sUAS operation?

Items to consider when selecting a company to conduct a sUAS operation include whether:
a sUAS operator has either a current remote pilot certificate with a sUAS rating or a current pilot’s license and successfully completed the necessary training courses;
the company has insurance coverage in the event of an accident or other related legal issue; and
the contract indemnifies you for any claims related to the sUAS operation, including privacy, personal injury, and property damage claims.

Is a pilot’s license required to operate a sUAS?

No.  A FAA-issued pilot’s license is no longer required to operate a sUAS.  

Is any license required in order to operate a sUAS?

Yes.  In order to operate a sUAS, an individual must obtain a remote pilot certificate with a sUAS rating from the FAA.

Are there any eligibility requirements for a remote pilot certification?

To obtain a remote pilot certificate with a sUAS rating, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • be at least 16 years old;
  • be able to read, write, and understand the English language;
  • be in a physical and mental condition that allows for the safe operation of the sUAS; and
  • pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test.

Can a sUAS be operated any time of day?

No.  The sUAS may only be flown during daylight hours.

What is the permissible altitude at which a sUAS may be operated?

In general, a sUAS may be flown no higher than 400 feet above ground level. However, a sUAS may be flown within a 400-foot radius of a structure provided the sUAS does not fly higher than 400 feet above the structure’s uppermost limit.

Can a sUAS be operated over persons not involved in the sUAS operation?

No.  A sUAS may not be operated over persons not directly involved in the sUAS operation, unless those persons are located under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that would provide reasonable protection in the event of an accident.

Does a sUAS have to be registered?

Yes. If the sUAS is over 0.55 pounds (250 grams), the sUAS must be registered. Registration information may be found on the FAA’s website.

Does the sUAS Rule have any privacy-related provisions?

No. The FAA’s focus is on the safety of the national airspace, and therefore, the sUAS Rule does not have any privacy-related provisions. It is important that sUAS operators be familiar with relevant state and local privacy laws.

In addition to state and local privacy laws, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration published a set of voluntary best practices for unmanned aircraft systems privacy, transparency and accountability.

> Source: NAR

Learn more about drones in real estate:
FAQs, videos, field guide, advocacy efforts and position statements

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