Unmanned aerial vehicles also known as drones are some amazing pieces of engineering. The photographic and videography capabilities of these units offer a unique view of our world. Real estate agents are naturally drawn to this technology as an exciting way to show a property, especially large acreages and expansive buildings. When these units first came out I immediately started shopping for a unit for our business. However, we received very quick warnings from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to not use them.
Recently I have seen agents around the country and locally advertising and promoting the fact that they offer this service to prospective sellers. I sent an email to MAR legal counsel Linda Gifford, asking her if the FAA had lifted the ban. She told me without a doubt, as of this date the FAA prohibits the use of these vehicles for any commercial use, including the promotion of real estate. Linda advised me not to use them. As a Realtor, I am thankful for my affiliation with the Maine Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors. These two organizations keep its members up to date on rules and legislation both state and federal.
The commercial use of UAV's could draw the attention of the FAA with expensive fines for the real estate agent and their agency, but what kind of liability do their sellers have should an investigation take place? What if one of these agents accidentally crashes the UAV into a home, moving vehicle or another aircraft while using a tool that the federal government tells us not to use? I am no lawyer, but I would wager that the lawsuit the agent (and vicariously the property owner who hired them) would have filed against them would be a slam dunk for the plaintiff.
So why is it that we are seeing blatant violations of FAA and NAR warnings? Non Realtor agencies and agents may have an excuse (though not a very good one) because they could be ignorant of the rules. But for the Realtors who are using the devices, shame on you. As Realtors we should be setting the example.
United Country McPhail Realty will continue to get its aerial photography the old fashioned and legal way by hiring professional pilots and shooting photos from FAA approved aircraft. Once the FAA lifts the bans and approves the use, we will begin using this exciting tool.
I welcome your comments.
See the video from NAR explaining the FAA position and that of NAR.