Drones are increasingly being used in commercial applications, but federal regulations have required commercial drone operators to apply for a "Section 333" waiver from the FAA before they can fly. Over 5,000 waivers were issued to commercial entities, a significant portion of which were used for the real estate business, but only licensed pilots were eligible to fly commercially.
FAA rules released today 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 for the National Association of 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 eliminating 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 are useful in a number of real estate-related applications, including marketing properties, assisting with appraisals, facilitating insurance claims and overseeing utility work. While many real estate professionals with pilot's licenses have already put drones to use in these arenas, the new rules are expected to open the door for additional operators to do the same.
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 rule released today.
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.
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