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Question: Our real estate broker says he can now take a video of our home from a drone high overhead. Aren’t there rules that prohibit such flights?
Answer: Drones are a widely enjoyed hobby, but when it comes to their commercial use, the government largely banned drones-for-hire until it could finalize regulations. The good news is that rules have finally been issued so we are likely to see photos from the sky for millions of homes in the next few years.
For all their good points, drones make government officials nervous. Nobody thinks it’s a good idea to fly a drone anywhere near an airport or in crowded airspace and nobody wants an unlicensed drone flying thousands of feet overhead. Drones also raise real privacy issues because not everyone wants their property viewed from above.
In 2014 the Federal Aviation Administration issued interim rules and one of their key points was directed toward real estate brokers.
While “taking photographs with a model aircraft for personal use” was OK according to the government, “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” was not allowed. Also, “a person photographing a property or event and selling the photos to someone else” was a no-no.
A single drone on a single flight taking pictures from the sky could run afoul of government rules, depending on whether or not the photos it took were free souvenirs or pictures to be sold.
In June this year, the FAA issued final regulations that allow the commercial use of drones. In basic terms the rules say that an operator need not be a licensed pilot if the drone and its cargo weighs not more than 55 pounds, flies below 400 feet, is used only during daylight hours and does not exceed 100 mph.
As to privacy, the FAA says its new rule “does not specifically deal with privacy issues in the use of drones, and the FAA does not regulate how UAS (unarmed aircraft systems) gather data on people or property, the FAA is acting to address privacy considerations in this area. The FAA strongly encourages all UAS pilots to check local and state laws before gathering information through remote sensing technology or photography.”
Translation: We’re as stumped as you are.
As a result of the June rule, you can now expect to see many more real estate sales that involve the use of drone photography. Such photos provide a useful perspective and may be especially valuable for rural properties when brokers want to show boundaries that may be difficult to see from the ground.
Things will get much more interesting the first time a 55-pound object falls several hundred feet. Who is responsible if there is damage? The drone operator? The broker who hired the service? The owner who hired the broker? Speak with insurance brokers for details.
Peter G. Miller is author of "The Common-Sense Mortgage," (Kindle 2016). Have a question? Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.View Foreclosure Article Archives
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