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A Few Things To Know About Using Drones In Real Estate

February 6, 2014  |  by Ellen

DroneThere has been no shortage of news coverage (even a brief appearance in last night’s episode of Modern Family) about real estate agents turning to drones to take aerial pictures, but as this new technology takes off a few cautionary tales have begun to emerge. One of them comes from Bethesda, Md where a team of agents did successfully use a drone to film a tour of a neighborhood, but as Inman News reports it was not without a few lessons learned along the way. Tall trees, curious neighbors, and the need for the operator to stand in the middle of the street are just a few of the obstacles they had to overcome. The New York Times also ran a story that mentions drones used for commercial purposes are in a legal gray area with FAA regulations (the article also includes a video with the memorable tag line Drone It. Own It.). Just last month NAR put up a quick video with some legal experts explaining the parameters real estate agents should abide by. Go here to watch the four minute clip.

We’re very curious if anyone has had success using drones to market properties. Or if you are thinking about using them but have some concerns. Please let us know your questions and/or thoughts as we continue to follow this new trend.

Posted in Blog, Featured, Industry News, Marketing Tips

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5 responses to “A Few Things To Know About Using Drones In Real Estate”

  1. David says:

    For those of our customers that use this technology, I would be most interested to learn why you believe this is so effective. I surely see this as a means to better communicate the complete "picture" of an extraordinary property. But for the remaining 99%? Seriously? Inman seems to be over the top on the potential for this technology for real estate. Despite my reservations, would appreciate your opinions.

  2. I am a RE photographer who has a drone but shelf'd it due to FAA regulations and the concern of being fined (up to 10k). When I started marketing this extra service (b4 I knew) I was set apart from other photographers and RE agents were extremely excited to be able to uniquely market their properties, especially the high end ones. But now it seems that mixed messages are being sent and some companies/people are using them….I am very interested to know if the writers of MF knew of these regulations when they wrote this episode…..

  3. George says:

    About 15 years ago, I met a gentleman whose house I appraised had about 15 "drones" in his house that he used in the real estate business and so, this is old stuff. FAA regulations are being updated and thus I would check on your 10k note above.

  4. Ken says:

    While the NTSB and the FAA go through the court system to determine if the FAA guidelines are enforceable regulations, states and local municipalities are formulating and passing their own restrictions on the use of Remote Controlled Model Aircraft (RCMA). Some of this has come about from accidents involving aerial photography RCMA’s injuring people. In one case, the pilot of a craft was operating just a tiny bit to close to himself and died after he sliced himself in the neck. While marketed as toys, the exposed propellers on these craft are very sharp and spinning very fast.

    The biggest concern for real estate agents and brokers should be the fact that insurance companies are not writing policies to cover commercial use of RCMAs. Should a property be damaged, the craft fly into power lines or somebody get injured, the exposure to uninsured liability could be very expensive. One insurer was claiming to offer RCMA insurance to professional operators, but the fine print read that only craft operated according to FAA guidelines (not regulations or laws, but guidelines) would be covered. The current guidelines prohibit commercial use which renders the insurance null and void. Take from that what you will about the ethics of insurance companies.

    I have worked with the FAA as an aerospace engineer and from my experience I expect that they will have a set of regulations formulated and set in place within the year given the pressure being put on them from numerous groups including congresscritters. I hope that the manufactured “privacy” issues don’t slow down the process. There are already plenty of peeping tom laws on the books and non-commercial perverts are not prohibited from flying RCMA’s.

    Not every property is going to benefit from an aerial view. I will go as far as stating that very few properties will be worth the investment in the equipment or hiring of a service for such photos. There are alternatives such as Pole-Aerial-Photography (PAP or camera on a stick), a tree trimmer’s bucket truck and the old fashioned hiring of an airplane or helicopter. For the times when an aerial shot would give a great view, the PAP approach will probably suffice and will be the cheapest, if not a free, option. For estates and other high-dollar properties, hiring a piloted aircraft can be money well spent as it allows the photographer and/or videographer the ability to use their very best equipment and not just something that is light enough to be lifted by a RCMA.

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