by Sean Hansen
The FAA & DOT have recently finalized rules for the use of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), which are commonly referred to as drones. Realtors® have struggled with the pros and cons of using video drones for home marketing since they first came out. If you feel that a drone is worth owning, it’s probably still worth using, but be sure to keep the new rules in mind. Here are some of the things you need to know and how they’ll affect your real estate business.
1. The operator will need to be a licensed with a remote pilot certificate rated for a small UAS or directly supervised by someone with these qualifications.
In order to get this certificate, you’ll be required either to take a test at an FAA approved center or have a non-student part-61 pilot certificate and pass an online quiz. As a result, if your firm doesn’t invest in the relevant training for your staff, it means you’ll be going out of pocket on a contracted professional who may end up costing serious cash.
2. Before any flight, the operator must ensure the UAS is safe and in good working order.
The FAA is not currently forcing operators to comply with FAA standards for airworthiness or even making sure the UAS’s are certified by the agency. That being said, an inspection of all flight and communications system is necessary before takeoff, as the operator of that drone will be held responsible for any damages caused by malfunction. If your UAS crashes due to a failure of inspection or an equipment malfunction, then you’ll end up being liable for damages and could face other consequences as well.
3. All UAS drone flights must be performed within line of sight of the operator for the purposes of safety.
You are allowed to operate the UAS during the day, and if you have anti-collision lights, you’ll be able to fly it at dusk or dawn. It’s also forbidden to fly your commercial-use drone over groups of people not involved with the operation of the craft. If you need to use your drone in a way that may violate these terms, you should be able to get a waiver, but only if you detail specifically how you’ll ensure the safety of others while doing so. The waiver process can take a while and there’s a pretty big waiting list, but it’s doable with a little bit of patience. The biggest takeaway here is that if you don’t want to abide by the rules set forth by the FAA, you’re going to have to deal with the resulting red tape from a large bureaucratic government agency.
4. The FAA currently hasn’t released any privacy rules regarding data or image collection throughout their program.
The agency has left those rules in the hands of individual states and municipalities. As part of the registration process for UAS certification, the FAA does provide some basic guidelines with regards to privacy best practices, but the information will be far from authoritative. Before using your drone for anything, you need to bone up on your local laws and ordinances to make sure you’re well within the bounds set by the law. If you’re not, you can seek an exemption from your local city government, but otherwise it’s best to just stay inside the lines.