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.