Drones are increasingly being used in commercial applications, but federal regulations have required commercial drone operators to apply for a “Section 333” waiver from the FAA before they can fly. Over 5,000 waivers were issued to commercial entities, a significant portion of which were used for the real estate business, but only licensed pilots were eligible to fly commercially.
“We’ve worked hard to strike a responsible balance that protects the safety and privacy of individuals, while also ensuring real estate professionals can put drones to good use,” said National Association of Realtors® President, Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida. “That effort just took another big step forward. The rules unveiled today will help more real estate professionals take flight, making the efficiency and innovation that drones have to offer available to a much broader base of operators.”
The final rule encompasses much of what was contained in the proposed rule, and NAR is pleased with the overall outcome. The rule will lead to more predictability in the market for drone-based services and will create a broader base of trained operators and service providers. Specifically, the new rule:
- Education Provision: New certification for ‘remote pilot in command’ authority which is less burdensome than a pilot’s license. The test is administered at the FAA testing centers and is knowledge-based only. The cost is about $150, and will take about 20 hours of study time to prepare for. The test itself is 3 hours long. Operators will still need to pass a background check performed by the TSA.
- Flight Operations Permitted: Flights may be conducted during daylight hours, within visual line of sight, not directly over non-participants, altitude limit 400’, and 100 MPH max speed.
- Provisions for flight over non-participants will be addressed in the next rulemaking, microUAS, which was the subject of the March 2016 Aviation rulemaking committee.
- Daylight-only operations, or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
- Many of the operational requirements can be waived, which leaves room for innovation and experimentation with the technology.
- No provisions for notice to bystanders. This could present problems for operations in more dense areas, but REALTORS® can work with UAS service provider to find a solution.
- Rule will go into effect in August 2016.
Here are a few of FAA’s basic standing guidelines/rules, though not enforceable laws for drone use according to Peter Sachs, Esq. of the Drone Law Journal blog:
- Don’t fly above 400ft AGL
- Don’t fly within 3 miles of an airport/landing strip
- Keep you craft within line of sight
- Don’t fly in NOAA zones and obey all TFRs/FRZs (Temporary Flight Restrictions/Flight Restricted Zones)
- Fly safely (not near pedestrians, wildlife, buildings/property, etc. – common sense)