As you have probably seen in the media, drone technology is beginning to transform many different industries in America and abroad, and it’s not always the ones you expect.
There are some obvious applications for drones as delivery vehicles and for hobbyists, but not many people think about real estate and drones as being a natural combination. However, since drones have begun to rapidly improve their ability to take video in the last few years, they have become good choices for realtors.
Just few days ago Business Insider published a report showing how the civilian commercial drone market will grow exponentially in coming years.
Ed: See our Best drones for real estate photography and videos – 2016 post to see which drone to get !
Why Use Drones?
The reason is simple. Drones in real estate are valuable because they let you get aerial video and photo shots of property in ways that the you would be completely unable to match without a drone.
Drones can fly around a house and the property, getting images and video from new angles and offering unmatched variety of viewpoints. For a realtor, drones can be powerful allies. Even though you need to understand the legal implications of operating a drone for a commercial business.
Here a good example of drone usage in real estate.
Regulation of Drones
The Federal Aviation Administration regulates drones and sets specific conditions on their use for businesses, and it is necessary to know these conditions so that you do not have to pay fines or run into other legal trouble as a result of using a drone. For now, in the US, you need a 333 exemption and a pilot’s license to be able to use your footage commercially. This may change soon but we’re still waiting for final info on this.
Ed: this has been simplified since the FAA implemented new regulation (29-Aug-2016).
The Legality of Drones: Overview
Because drones are such a new technology, the regulations governing their use by hobbyists as well as businesses is not final. The FAA is still in the process of deciding on how it wants to regulate drones.
However, despite being preliminary, the rules are still binding, and anyone who wants to operate a drone for profit needs to abide by them or risk fines and other penalties.
The Specifics of Commercial Drone Regulation
The current FAA rules for operating commercial drones are quite generous for the needs of real estate agents who want to take pictures of property.
First of all, the drone must be within unaided eyesight of the operator or a hired observer. This prohibits flying a drone out of sight for any reason, although in real estate contexts, the drone will be close to the operator most of the time anyway.
Next, the drone never has the right of way in the air. The operator is responsible for seeing other vehicles in the air and must always change course to avoid them.
Next, drone operators have the responsibility to end a flight if it appears to be about to cause damage to people, property, or aircraft. This is a catchall safety requirement- if for any reason the drone flight becomes unsafe, the operator must ground the drone.
The next part of the rule is that the operator is responsible for knowing the weather and flying environment as well as the location of any people nearby, just in case they lose control of the drone. This is important in real estate, because flying among houses, power lines, and tree branches can be a challenge, especially in windy conditions.
Next, drones are prohibited from flying over anyone who is not involved in the flight. That includes people on the sidewalk or in the road as well as curious neighbors. The FAA caps legal drone altitudes at 500 feet and legal drone speeds to 100 MPH: no real estate drone should approach these limits anyway, so this is not important.
Finally, drones are required to avoid all restricted airspace and airport flight paths and abide by any temporary flight restrictions the FAA may issue for the area. This part of the FAA’s drone regulations is important in the case of a property near an airport.
The Future Legal Environment
The FAA is currently seeking feedback on the current rules, as well as asking the public for suggestions about how to relax them and whether to expand testing grounds. In other words, the FAA is looking to lower the legal barriers to commercial drone flight in the future. It is clear that the FAA treats commercial drones as an important area for future growth in the economy and wants to balance safety with letting the industry grow.
The FAA currently requires commercial operators to obtain special certification to fly drones. The most basic form of certification is a Section 333 exemption, which allows you to fly a drone in the daytime under 200 feet, as long as the drone is less than 55 pounds, you keep it in visual range, and you are not near an airport.
Please note that this licensing is for commercial drone usage. This means that as long as you don’t charge for the videos, a license won’t be required.
- Fly in daytime under 200 feet
- Quadcopter weight less than 55 pounds
- Keep it in visual range
- Stay away from airports
- Don’t charge (unless you want to request the section 333 exemption)
Most realtors should fulfill these conditions and therefore won’t need the basic Section 333 exemption. For now, in the US, you need a 333 exemption and a pilot’s license to be able to use your footage commercially. This may change soon but we’re still waiting for final info on this.
How to Use Drones in Real Estate
Drones for real estate are the best ways to take dramatic pictures and video of a property. The key lies in staying close. If you fly the drone too high, the house will be difficult to distinguish as anything besides a flat shape, and the trees will dominate the shot instead.
Up Close and Personal
It is much better to stay close and keep it short. Real estate aerial photography with drones can allow realtors to show off the upper floors of a home in detail, give an aerial view of the yard and local neighborhood, or demonstrate a great view. Be creative with drone shots!
- Drone video can look cool, but overuse makes it turn into an annoying gimmick for a potential home buyer
- Make sure each shot is informative and useful
- Keep the needs of the buyer in mind: the video is for them, not you
Some tips in this video.
Best Drones for Real Estate Videos
Camera quality is increasing fast and the resulting videos are getting more and more professional. What a year ago was a decent video production, nowadays may looks cheap.
There are two quadcopters we can recommend at the moment for realtors.
Ed: See our Best drones for real estate photography and videos – 2016 post to see which drone to get for our latest recommendations!
DJI Phantom 3 Professional
With a camera capable of 4K videos, this quadcopter is the best option for aerial photography in the sub-$1500 price range. DJI is well known for their quality and the Phantom series has a raving fan base.
The Bebop offers a full-HD video resolution (1080p) and lots of technology packed in a smaller quadcopter. It’s more affordable than the Phantom 3, and more playful but we really recommend to buy the version with the SkyController if you’ll use it for real estate videos.
Use drones to get video and pictures you wouldn’t be able to get any other way. Just remember not to get carried away- drones are there to make your job easier and help your customers choosing they next house, not for you to have fun (this time!).