78PROFESSIONAL REPORT | SUMMER EDITION 2015
Acommon sight for many on Christmas morning was family members and neighbors venturing outside to test their newest toy – an unmanned aerial system
(UAS) or “drone,” as they’re commonly referred to. Adults
of all ages could be seen throughout the country testing one
by remote or controlling it on their smart phone, making
it go up, down, fly around in circles, test its camera, and
possibly crash into a tree or get stuck in their gutters.
For a REALTOR®, such an inexpensive innovation seems
to present vast possibilities for marketing properties; UAS
can take dynamic photographs and videos of properties
that are not well-suited to conventional photography, due
to their size, height, or an unconventional shape. This is
especially applicable to large industrial and office spaces,
or large plots of land. They can allow the REALTOR® to
create a robust listing for clients that showcases the entire
property in one shot, previously unavailable unless they
undertake the hassle and cost of using a helicopter to get
the same vantage point.
So what’s the problem? The Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) currently prohibits the commercial use of drones,
which includes taking photographs and videos for marketing
purposes. What good is it then?
The good news is: the FAA is currently working through
the process of creating a regulatory framework to integrate
UAS into the national airspace, balancing the vast economic
opportunities they present with the need to protect citizen
safety and privacy. Additionally, people can apply for a
“Section 333 waiver” from the FAA, which will allow them
to use their drone for commercial purposes, within very
strict parameters, until that framework is finalized.
SECTION 333 WAIVERS
The Section 333 waiver provides a limited-use permit to
the applicant to use their UAS for commercial purposes.
It has very strict parameters, including who can operate
the UAS, where, when, and how high and how far up it
can go. Currently the FAA has issued over 400 such
waivers, including some to REALTORS® and professional
photography companies. For more information on Section
333 waivers, see http://www.realtor.org/articles/section-
FAA PROPOSED RULEMAKING ON SMALL UAS
In February of 2015, the FAA released its proposed rule
governing the commercial use of UAS. This rule would
govern UAS weighing 55 pounds or less, and include
operational limitations such as only allowing “visual line of
sight” flights, daylight operations only, a maximum altitude
of 500 feet off the ground, and of course limitations on
where they can be used (no use over people not involved in
the operation, or in areas near airports). A pilot’s certificate
would not be required of the operator; they would need to
simply get an “operator certification,” which would require,
among other things, passing an FAA knowledge test, which
would be renewed every two years.
WHAT IS NAR DOING?
NAR considers the FAA’s proposed rule for UAS to be
the first, positive step in the process of integrating UAS
into the national airspace. In light of that, NAR sent two
comment letters in the spring of 2015 – one to the National
Telecommunication and Information Administration, and
one to the FAA – addressing privacy and safety concerns,
respectively. NAR is also monitoring this issue in Congress,
where several bills have been introduced and hearings held
focused on citizen safety and privacy, as well as innovation
in UAS technology.
REALTORS® are excited about the opportunities
afforded by using UAS technology, and NAR supports the
government’s efforts to create operational standards that
allow for their use while still protecting citizen safety and
privacy. NAR will continue to advocate for common-sense
rulemaking on this issue. For more information on this,
please visit http://www.realtor.org/topics/drones.
Disclaimer: Given the current FAA prohibition, the
National Association of REALTORS® recommends that
its members not use this technology for any purpose related
to selling property.
The FAA is developing a regulatory framework that would
integrate drones into the national airspace, while ensuring
safety, privacy and national security.
By Erin Stackley
COMMERCIAL USE OF DRONES
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW