Real Estate Talk: As drones take off, use caution, assess risks

Marty Kovacs is the 2017 Chairman of the Santa Clarita Valley Division of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors. Courtesy photo.

Following the recent release of the Federal Aviation Administration’s final rule on commercial drone use, more real estate professionals are looking to add drones to their business to capture aerial photos and videos of listings. But they still need to take to the skies with caution.

The process for getting cleared to fly a drone for commercial purposes is being clarified, said Danielle Corbett, an FAA spokeswoman, at a panel session during the 2016 Realtors Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida.

Operators now are required to obtain a “part 107 certificate” – which replaced the former Section 333 waiver. That has eased the process considerably, Corbett said. Operators also no longer are required to hold a pilot’s license.

Still, Corbett said that operators must take a test before flying, and they must retake that test every 24 months in order to continue to operate a drone. Also, there are some restrictions on the number of activities that can be done with a drone. For example, FAA prohibits flying a drone over a person or flying one at night.

Realtors continue to advocate for greater clarity on drone use by, for example, stressing the need for a drone strategy that allows for “beyond visual line-of-sight” flights, and guidelines for when the drone travels beyond what an operator can physically see during an operation.

Corbett said the FAA expects to release a proposed rule for extended line of sight operations, as well as for flights over people, within the next year.

Steve McIrvin, who heads the U.S. offices for Autel Robotics, urged those taking flight to consult their insurance agents about what kind of additional coverage they may need. Insurance companies also may require additional training and the earning of a safety certificate to use drones, added Casey King of the Unmanned Safety Institute.

“Businesses are more and more finding opportunities to utilize drones as a way of cutting costs and better serving customers,” said Tom Salomone, NAR’s past president. “That’s true in real estate and other industries as well. As application of this technology picks up, the regulatory landscape will likely continue to evolve.”

Marty Kovacs is the 2017 Chairman of the Santa Clarita Valley Division of the 9,500-member Southland Regional Association of Realtors. David Walker, of Walker Associates, co-authors articles for SRAR. The column represents SRAR’s views and not necessarily those of The Signal. The column contains general information about the real estate market and is not intended to replace advice from your Realtor or other realty related professionals.

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