High Country Association of REALTORS News

Latest rules to know before flying that drone

Drones have grown in popularity, not just for scenic photos but as an innovative tool for real estate. Drones can capture striking pictures of listings from unique vantage points, whether overhead or from several yards away. Yet their use takes more than an investment in the latest flying technology and a few lessons with the controls. You also have to check in with the Federal Aviation Administration.

In its weekly Q&A column, to the NC Association of Realtors outlines what property owners and listing agents need to know before letting their cameras fly.
DroneOne thing that has not changed is the general rule: the commercial use of drones, including for real estate marketing, is prohibited by the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") unless the person or entity operating the drone has secured what is known as a "Section 333 waiver". That waiver will allow you to operate the drone in what are known as "low-risk, controlled environments". Operating without a waiver will subject you to the risk of substantial fines. You can find the application procedure described on the FAA's website.

One thing that has changed is the adoption of new rules requiring the registration of most drones in a national database. The FAA announced these new registration rules on December 14, 2015. Under these rules, owners of drones weighing between half a pound and 55 pounds are required to submit their names, home addresses and email addresses to the FAA. Registration is free if completed before midnight on January 20, 2016. After that, the fee is $5 for a three-year certificate of registration. Anyone who owned a drone before December 21, 2015 must register that drone by February 19, 2016. Anyone obtaining a drone after December 21 must register it before their first flight. Once registered, users must put their registration number on their machine, and have their registration card with them whenever they fly a drone. Failure to comply with the registration rules can result in criminal penalties, imprisonment and fines of up to $27,500. 

Registration of recreational drones can be completed online. Online registration of drones to be used for commercial purposes is scheduled to open by March 31. Currently registration for commercial purposes is done only by paper.