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Use of drones by REALTORS contrary to FAA regulations

Jun 27, 2014
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a clarification of their decision to regulate the use of drones (or Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAV’s) and model aircrafts) in commercial applications.  For some time now, REALTORS have been utilizing drones to take photographs and videos of properties being sold.  Over the past few months, there have been legal decisions and reversals of such decisions making the legality of the use of drones by REALTORS questionable.

The document released by the FAA, dated June 14, 2014, can be found on by clicking here.  As can be seen on page 10, the use of drones by REALTORS is specifically addressed:

“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. A person photographing a property or event and selling the photos to someone else.  As being one of the activities where the FAA can take enforcement action against the REALTOR for violating FAA rules concerning the commercial use of drones.”

Many REALTORS have contacted NYSAR claiming their use of drones is a hobby that carries over into their real estate business and they either do not charge for the use of the drone or the seller, when hearing of the REALTORS’ hobby, asked them to use the drone.  The FAA interpretation does not have any exceptions carved out for a ‘dual use’ such as this or if your client demands you to use a drone.  In this scenario, the REALTOR could operate the drone only as a hobby and not use it as part of the real estate practice.

REALTORS utilizing drones or UAV’s in furtherance of their business, or incidental to their business, will be subject to all existing FAA rules and regulations.  Any REALTOR choosing to continue such a practice is doing so at his/her own risk.  Brokers with knowledge of licensees utilizing drones should consult with legal counsel as to the potential for liability.

For those wishing to comment either for or against the interpretation are invited to do so.  Instructions on how to provide comments can be found beginning on page 1 of the FAA document.
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