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Elevating Real Estate with Drones: The Sky's the Limit

In the realm of real estate, the utilization of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), for capturing aerial photography has become almost a standard. This trend goes beyond mere property listings; drones are increasingly pivotal in property inspections, appraisals, and even legal proceedings.

However, operating a drone isn't just a recreational activity; it requires understanding and adhering to specific rules and regulations. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees the operational guidelines for safe drone flight (details at It's crucial for professionals, like appraisers using drones for property analysis, to stay updated on these regulations to ensure compliance.

The role of a remote operator is critical; they are essentially the pilot in command, accountable for the drone’s flight and any incidents that may occur. Gaining FAA certification as a Part 107 remote pilot is mandatory for commercial drone use. This certification requires passing a knowledge test and enrolling in a safety class. Additionally, remote pilots must undertake a refresher training class every two years to maintain their certification and compliance.

In drone operations, every crew member, including observers and camera operators, must be well-versed in their roles. This ensures not only the safety of the operation but also the quality of the aerial footage captured.

When it comes to appraisers, using drones for property inspection classifies as commercial use. Therefore, they must register their equipment with the FAA. This registration is influenced by the drone’s weight, but all sizes used for commercial purposes need commercial registration.

Understanding airspace rules is another critical aspect. Drones share the sky with manned aircraft, which have priority. Remote pilots must be proficient in reading airspace charts to recognize various classifications and know when and where permission is required for drone operation. For example, Class A airspace is reserved for commercial aircraft at or above 18,000 feet mean sea level and is entirely off-limits for drones.

Safety extends beyond regulatory compliance. Helicopters, sharing airspace with drones, have been involved in numerous drone-related incidents. Hence, remote pilots must be vigilant, using not only their eyes but also their ears to detect other aircraft like helicopters.

Adhering to visual line of sight and height regulations is imperative.

Drones should generally not exceed 400 feet in altitude, except in emergencies. In urban areas, flying within 400 feet of structures is permissible. However, over densely populated areas, pilots need explicit permission from individuals over whom the drone flies.

With the FAA's implementation of the Remote ID rule, drones flying at night must have a beacon displaying their unique ID, location, and velocity, along with a time mark. This requirement applies to new and retrofitted older drones. Anti-collision lighting visible for three statute miles is also mandatory, and pilots must complete a course on night flying safety.

These outlined rules are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to drone regulations. Appraisers and other professionals considering drone usage must thoroughly educate themselves on these guidelines. The FAA has increased its scrutiny on remote pilots, with dedicated teams monitoring for non-compliance, making adherence not just about safety, but also about legal responsibility.

As drone technology continues to evolve, its applications in real estate and other industries are bound to expand. For professionals looking to leverage this technology, a deep understanding of regulations, safety, and operation is crucial for successful and compliant usage.

Source: Lamar Ellis, MAI, SRA, President of Drone Education Services in Atlanta, Loan Analytics


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