LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: Realtors Flying High After Victory on Drone Use

Philip Weiden | June 2016

Drones have become increasingly popular as an advertising tool for real estate professionals. Regulators have heretofore compelled drone operators to apply for a “Section 333” waiver from the FAA before they are ready to go airborne. With Google Earth and other live images already out there, it would have been unlikely for the government to establish a policy totally disallowing drones.

FAA rules that were released last week create a straight forward pathway for real estate professionals to use drones for commercial purposes, an outcome that National Association of Realtors President Tom Salomone called a win for the industry. President Salomone said, “We’ve worked hard to strike a responsible balance that protects the safety and privacy of individuals, while also ensuring Realtors can put drones to good use”.

The FAA decision marks a long hard fight by NAR and the real estate industry at large to permit drones for commercial use with reasonable regulations. Despite dropping the requirement that operators hold a pilot’s license, anyone looking to fly drones commercially will still have to comply with strict requirements designed to protect people on the ground.

Drones can be very important and useful in a number of real estate-related applications, including marketing properties, assisting with appraisals, facilitating insurance claims and overseeing utility work. Despite much progress made with this ruling, NAR’s work on the issue will continue including calls for easing restriction 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 rule released last week.

NAR believes there is an ongoing need for a drone strategy that allows for “beyond visual line of sight” flights, those where the operator cannot physically see the drone through the entire operation.

President Salomone also stated, “Getting here wasn’t easy, and the FAA is to be commended for listening to the concern of real estate professionals throughout the rule making process.”

Philip Weiden
Legislative Affairs columnist Philip Weiden is the Government Affairs Director for the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.