The FAA is still finalizing a few of its rules for using drones, but has released some stop-gap measures to regulate drones until those rules are finalized. To date the FAA has issued more than 5,300 permits for commercial use; approximately 2,100 (39 percent) of them were granted to real estate-related companies. Luxury Real Estate agencies anticipate real estate to comprise about 22 % of the top markets, with the most popular application being aerial videos that display homes.
You might be asking yourself if using Aerial Photography in your real estate business is practicable — to stay competitive in your market. Whatever you decide, Aerial Photography is shaping up to be the next evolution in real estate marketing and photography.
Here are a few things to think about if you’re considering Aerial Photography for your Luxury Real Estate listings.
Drones Have More Uses than You Realize
Drones — also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) — are usually associated with military applications. For real estate agents, however, Aerial Drone photography can show potential buyers a mixture of details, including:
- Encompassing aerial views of the entire property and land
- What the drive home or the kids’ walk to school looks like
- The neighborhood and surrounding area, including the home’s proximity to amenities
- Civic developments or local improvement districts (LIDs) that the buyer’s property taxes might contribute to
- Property maps and surveys
Drones Make Elevated Imagery Affordable
A wide range of Luxury Real Estate agents obtain elevated photography using airplanes and helicopters, which can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per flight and limit the number of properties you can afford to shoot. Aerial Photography can drastically cut the cost of shooting elevated imagery, and enable you to use aerial footage on many more listings, regardless of price range.
Licensing and Regulations
To begin the process for commercial drone (or other UAS) operation, users must file a petition to Section 333 of FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012; the process takes approximately 120 days. Once you get an exemption number from section 333, you must register the drone with the FAA and obtain a civil Certificate of Waiver or Authorization for each “blanket” air space you plan to operate in; after this certification, you can apply for full airspace. The final step is to get your FAA airman certificate for private, recreational or sport pilot.
Drone operators must be 13 years or older and take a lesson prior to flying. Their UAS must weigh less than 55 pounds. Operators must fly under 400 feet — plenty of height to capture a home’s features — and only during daytime, keeping the drone within sight.
In general real estate use, you’ll most likely stick to residential areas, but there are some places you should be aware of where UASs are strictly prohibited. These include sports stadiums and racetracks, papal visits, the District of Columbia, forest fires and less than five miles from any airport. Furthermore, operators must also keep their drones away from children and animals.
Etiquette with Aerial Photography
The FAA’s official guidelines will address specific concerns regarding:
- Privacy: Even though the seller grants you permission to obtain drone footage of their home for your marketing purposes, how will you deal with neighbors who might feel under the microscope as well?
- Safety: What happens if a home you need Aerial Photography for is located near an airport — an FAA designated no-drone space with heavy fines for violation?
- Noise: How will Aerial Photography operation be governed so that their noise doesn’t interfere with life at ground level?
Until the FAA releases its guidelines, users can view a list of its proposed UAS rules in the meantime.
Aerial Photography is Here to Stay
Drones are already in the sky — being used for an assortment of applications, including law enforcement, telecommunications, weather monitoring and more — and they’re going to stay there. The FAA is currently issuing permits at a rate of more than 500 per month and is using summary grants to speed up exemption approvals — with photography being 50 percent of the usage requests — and predicts sales of commercial small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) to jump from 600,000 units to 2.5 million in the next year.
Using Aerial Photography for Luxury Real Estate listings will become increasingly common as agents ask the FAA to issue more permits and hash out the guidelines for commercial use. No matter what rules are in place, using Aerial Photography for your Luxury Real Estate listings will spark some degree of controversy.
Once federal, state and industrial organizations agree on the major points, drone adoption and operation will quickly escalate. If you’re considering using drones for real estate photography, be ready for it: You might be the first in your area to offer clients that service, making you stand out from the competition while adding a serious wow factor to your real estate marketing arsenal.
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