A successful real estate agent is always looking for a new way to convey the unique attributes of a property. As video becomes a strong part of an integrated online marketing strategy, we’re seeing real estate agents popping up from the crowd by taking to the skies. The tactic of using remote-controlled aircraft, or drones, to conduct bird’s-eye views of home, land, and commercial properties is emerging as a great way to interest potential buyers. Drones create the potential to convey the beauty of unique waterfront homes and their views in South Florida, for example. If a picture speaks a thousand words, video is the next frontier. There are endless possibilities for how drones could benefit the real estate industry.
But not so fast. The widespread use of drones has created a number of critics, particularly with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA has proposed and established numerous regulations that restrict and regulate who can use commercial drones for commercial purposes. The FAA has taken a very expansive and aggressive stance on their ability to regulate and restrict commercial drone use; e.g. the FAA’s position is that anyone who wants to fly an aircraft for commercial purposes, manned or unmanned, in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval.
Earlier this year, a judge overruled the FAA’s enforcement on a number of drone violations, while at the same time upholding a$10,000 FAA fine that was issued to a real estate agent for using drones in their business. The path forward is pretty murky, as both legal precedents and regulations are sometimes conflicting with each other. Real Estate interests are struggling to balance safety, compliance, and privacy while satisfying the client hunger for the “cool factor” benefits provided by the sky views and HD-quality videos that often go viral online.
The FAA says that they have been working to clearly define rules as drones become cheaper and more widely available globally. Others point out that the agency has been working for a decade on safety regulations to allow commercial drone flights, but has yet to offer any. And while the FAA deliberates, nations like Canada, Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom are green lighting the practice.
The National Association of Realtors officially recommends that real estate agencies not use drones “until the FAA issues further guidance or regulations.” Stay tuned.