Aerial Drone Use in Real Estate

Drone Header

Multirotor aircraft are increasingly accessible, but using drones in business, including real estate, is discouraged by the FAA and NAR.

In the last few years, there has been an explosion in interest in the use of drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles like quadcopters, multirotor aircraft, even model planes and helicopters). Technology that once cost tens of thousands of dollars, or required special equipment and training, is now readily accessible to almost anyone. Just this week, even Martha Stewart proclaimed her love for her drone.

And among the many industries that could benefit from this increasingly affordable technology, real estate is one of the most obvious. Aerial photography and videography is a powerful tool in selling property. Many agents, nationally and in Hawaii, have enlisted drones to capture spectacular images for their listings.

Unfortunately, the use of such aircraft in a commercial enterprise is not allowed under existing regulations. The Federal Aviation Administration has been tasked with revamping its rules to accommodate commercial use of drones by next year, and there have been legal challenges to the FAA’s current policy. But while the regulatory climate is in flux, we would like to urge our members to exercise caution when evaluating the use of drones in their businesses.


Here are a number of helpful citations and links that we hope will provide additional background and guidance on this issue.

  • Drones in Real Estate: Not so Fast (REALTORMag, March 2014)
    “The FAA is slated to issue rules on the commercial use of drones next year. To that end, the agency has authorized tests around the country to help it determine what restrictions are needed to ensure safe operation and to protect national security and people’s privacy. In the meantime, NAR says, members should not use drones for real estate marketing purposes or hire companies to do so.”
  • FAA says real estate agents’ drone use illegal (USA Today, July 7, 2014)
    “The Federal Aviation Administration considers it illegal to fly drones for commercial purposes, including real estate photography. A judge earlier this year struck down the FAA’s ban on commercial drone flights. However, real estate agents could still face a $10,000 fine from the FAA, which appealed the ruling.”
  • Brokerage Giant Warns Agents Against Drones (REALTORMag, July 14, 2014)
    “The National Association of REALTORS® has advised its members not to use drones until the FAA clarifies its regulations.”
  • Busting Myths about the FAA and Unmanned Aircraft (FAA)
    “In response to inquiries, we are providing additional information on UAS operations and the regulations that apply to those operations. Here are some common myths and the clarifying facts.”
  • Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft [PDF]
    This is the FAA’s official clarification of its policies regarding the use of model aircraft, including drones. It notes that such use is allowed if the aircraft is “flown strictly for hobby or recreational use.” Among the example definitions provided:

    • Hobby or Recreation: Taking photographs with a model aircraft for personal use.
    • Not Hobby or Recreation: A Realtor using a model aircraft to photograph a property that he is trying to sell and using the photos in the property’s real estate listing. [or] A person photographing a property or event and selling the photos to someone else.

MLS Policy & Next Steps

Hawaii Information Service cannot and will not monitor the MLS for the use of aerial imagery captured by aircraft covered by the FAA’s current restrictions, nor will we take any action against brokers or agents using drones or hiring drone operators. However, as with all images, copy, and other listing content, brokers remain liable for all content submitted to the MLS.

We strongly advise members to conduct thorough research prior to considering the use of drones or hiring operators to use such aircraft to acquire aerial photos and videos for the purposes of selling real estate. Brokers may wish to consider developing policies and guidelines and ensuring their agents are aware of the issues involved.

The public comment period for the FAA’s Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft ended on July 25. More details and clarifications from regulators are expected. HIS, along with other real estate associations and professional organizations, will continue to follow this evolving regulatory issue and will provide updates as needed. In the mean time, we encourage you to sign up for updates from the National Association of Realtors if you are not already receiving them.

August 2014 Training Schedule

Go To MeetingBelow is the schedule of upcoming online training classes for the month of August. If you’re new to REsearch, we strongly encourage you to attend an “Orientation” session on August 4. Even if you’ve participated in a session before, it’s often a good idea to get a refresher. Our live trainers can answer your questions and help you get the most out of REsearch. Descriptions of each HIS webinar can be found here.

To sign up immediately, simply click on the links below. If you are going to participate/watch online classes as a group, only one person needs to sign up.

Aug. 4-8, 2014

Aug. 11-15, 2014

Aug. 18-22, 2014

Instructions on how to register for online classes:

  • To register, please click on the applicable link located below the class. The link will then take you to the registration site.
  • Please complete all the required fields marked by a red asterisk (First Name, Last Name, Email Address, Phone, Organization AKA Office Name).
  • Click “Register Now” to complete the registration process. Once registered a confirmation email will be sent to your email address to confirm your registration along with a unique web ID number and instructions on how to login to the session on that day.
  • If you need login assistance, please feel free to contact our Customer/Technical Support team at 800-628-3121, press # and then 457.
Remember, after you have participated, please make sure to fill out the survey or e-mail me your feedback so we can continue to improve upon our training efforts! Mahalo.
System Requirements for Online Classes
  • PC-based attendees – Required: Windows® 2000, XP, Vista, Windows 7
  • Macintosh®-based attendees – Required: Mac OS® X 10.4 (Tiger®) or newer
System requirements apply only to the GoToMeeting webinar service, not to the REsearch system.
Questions? Comments? Please feel free to contact us via or call (808) 599-4224 or (800) 628-3121.

Virtual Staging Offer from Obeo

Save 15% Today!
Order Now
to take advantage of this special offer.
Use promo code “StagingJuly2014
Offer ends
August 15, 2014!*

Make an empty house feel like a home! A picture is worth a thousand words. But you can make that picture even more compelling with Obeo VirtualStaging.

Don’t just take our word for it. Notes the Boston Globe: “Empty rooms don’t dazzle, nor do they speak to the masses. With only floors, walls, and windows, there’s no sense of scale, and when viewing a property online, it can even be difficult to differentiate the dining room from a bedroom. Plus, many folks have trouble envisioning where they would place furniture, especially in large, multipurpose spaces.”

Fortunately, Obeo offers industry-leading technology that can transform your listing photos from cavernous to cozy, from hollow to heavenly. Here’s just one example:

Above, a perfectly serviceable listing photo of a home’s… living room? Bedroom? With Obeo VirtualStaging, a few clicks of your mouse and you’ve filled the room with clear possibilities:

And there’s a wide range of interior decor styles and pieces to work with!

Check out Obeo VirtualStaging for more before and after photos and available furniture design collections. And when you’re ready to upgrade your listing photos, click “Order Now” and be sure to use promo code ‘StagingJuly2014‘ to save 15 percent off through August 15, 2014!* That gets you three rooms of virtual staging for only $179 (normally $209).

* Staging can be pre-purchased and used as needed.

For more information, contact:

Kristin Combs
RVP Hawaii Region
Office: (800) 729-6236 extension 5525
Mobile: (801) 637-4663

Server Maintenance on Sunday Morning

Servers by John Seb BarberWe will be conducting scheduled server maintenance in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 13, 2014. The maintenance window is from midnight to 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, but downtime will be kept to a minimum, and will likely last less than an hour for each affected system.

REsearch will remain running, but photos and maps will not load. In addition, CloudCMA and ZipForm updates will be paused for the duration of the work. Finally, the login page for REsearch 4.5 will be inaccessible.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and appreciate your continued support!

Photo courtesy John Seb Barber/Flickr.

Minor Service Outage at 3:30am on July 8

Hawaiian Telecom is performing an upgrade on the Internet circuit that serves our office at Dole Cannery in Iwilei. This brief Internet service outage should last no more than 10 minutes and will take place between 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 8. This will not affect REsearch nor most of our customer-facing systems. However, during this outage, the following may occur:

  1. REsearch users will not be able to update their profiles, but all other REsearch functions should continue to work normally.
  2. IDX updates will be delayed by no more than 15 minutes.
  3. RETS customers may not be able to reach our RETS server for no more than 15 minutes.

Should you experience any unexpected behavior during or after this upgrade window, please contact us.

We appreciate your patience and understanding, and thank you for your continued support.