It’s all very enticing.
A Realtor can walk into a Radio Shack this afternoon, buy a drone, and by the end of the day have some sweet footage of a new property on his or her website. In a competitive real estate market, Realtors need to constantly surprise and delight their customers and drones provide a perfect way to do that.
Capturing stunning footage is what a drone does best. With its ability to fly up and around a property recording sweeping views of a home and its surroundings, at a much cheaper cost than hiring a helicopter, the footage a drone can capture simply showcases a piece of real estate in a spectacular way. Drones have the potential to be a slick and powerful marketing tool.
So what’s the downside? It’s currently illegal for Realtors — or anyone else outside of a select few industries — to use drones to make money. Period.
It is confusing for anyone looking to buy a home in Indianapolis. If you’re a potential homeowner just starting the process, you will indeed see some companies using drone footage in their marketing. They are doing so against guidelines set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA.) The enticement comes in because there is a widespread lack of enforcement and different rules for commercial and recreational use that make it quite tempting to add drone footage to a Realtor’s marketing mix.
There is also some confusion on what a drone is. All drones, or Unmanned Ariel Vehicles, (UAVs), operate the same way: They are part of an Unmanned Ariel System, and include the drone itself, a payload of some sort (usually a camera,) a communications system, a ground control device, and a human to operate it. They are technically flying robots, and all of them — from the very large military fixed-wing, gas-powered versions to the 2-lb battery powered type — are currently regulated in some fashion by the FAA.
A QUICK HISTORY LESSON ON DRONE LAW
The current law in Indiana, and the rest of the US, is that since 2007, the FAA mandated no commercial use of drones. Today, unless you own one of the specifically named companies granted an exemption (and those include a couple of construction site monitoring companies, a couple of oil rig flare stack inspection companies, and seven TV and film production companies in Hollywood) you can’t use a drone to make money. Plain and simple. Here are the details of the recent FAA announcement.
Public agencies can apply to the FAA to receive a Certificate of Authorization to use a drone.
Based on the 2007 mandate, last year the FAA slapped a $10,000 fine on an Austrian entrepreneur, Raphael Pirker, for operating a drone in a ‘careless or reckless manner’ in a film he made for the University of Virginia. A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) law judge then overturned the fine, citing the fact that Pirker’s drone was a model aircraft, not under the FAA jurisdiction. The FAA appealed this decision, and just last month, the NTSB announced it is sending the case back to an administrative law judge for further review.
CONFUSING LEGAL PROCESS
Signs point to all drones being regulated the same as any other aircraft. Although, proponents of this multi-million dollar industry are hoping for some differentiation in the future guidelines. Without different rules, that Realtor may have to take flying classes just as a pilot would, and file an incident report with the FAA if his or her 2-lb drone crashes into a hedge. That seems silly, although the FAA does have jurisdiction over anything that flies in the air.
It’s a classic case of technology developing faster than the laws needed to govern it, but Congress has told the FAA to solidify guidelines by September of 2015. Guidelines for drones 55 pounds and under are expected soon for commercial use. These little wonders of technology are actually very sophisticated pieces of machinery, and there should be some oversight. It’s striking the right balance that is what the FAA, hobbyists and those wishing to use drones for commercial use are hoping for.
RECREATIONAL VS COMMERCIAL USE
Hobbyists, like the members of the Indianapolis Area Drone User Group, have much more leeway than their commercial-use counterparts, but they do have some oversight. The guidelines that hobbyists need to abide by have air safety as their main goal. (Think about the danger of a drone getting sucked into a plane’s engine, resulting in a Miracle-on-the-Hudson-esque incident.)
Targeting hobbyists due to the incredible growth in sales this year, the FAA released a safety video just last month. It even mentions the fact you can’t use the new drone Santa brought you for commercial purposes. (You also can’t fly one over the Indy 500. That, and any other large race track or sporting venue is prohibited for national security reasons.)
So what about real estate? Drones are poised to become to the real estate industry what Segways are to the security industry. Makers of the Segway – the 2-wheeled self-balancing transportation machine – didn’t set out to become a standard mode of transport for security personnel. But they have found a profitable niche there. The drone is well on its way to doing the same in the real estate market, depending on a large part on the future FAA guidelines.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR REALTORS (or anyone who wants to use a drone in their business)
- Learn all you can about drones. Buy one, and become comfortable using it as a hobbyist. You’ll be ready when firm guidelines are released for commercial purposes.
- Keep up to date with what Amazon is doing. Their impatience with the rate of progress was recently outlined in a letter to the FAA. They have the most at stake financially in what the FAA decides to do.
- Move to Canada! Commercial use of drones is not regulated there.
Rest assured, the moment it is legal to use drones commercially, Newkirk Realty will be doing so. Providing homebuyers and sellers, with the best information available, including the latest marketing technology and tactics, is something we do every day — with or without drones. Give us a call!