Drone Landscape Still Evolving as Realtor, Other Commercial Use Grows

"Commercial drones represent an opportunity to create jobs and businesses, as well as to support the business of real estate"

SAN DIEGO, Nov. 15, 2015 -- The Federal Aviation Administration continues its work to integrate unmanned aerial systems, also known as drones, into the National Airspace System, and Realtors stand ready to take advantage of their many benefits.

That's according to panelists at the "Using a Drone in Your Business: Knowing Your Risk" session held as part of the 2015 REALTORS® Conference & Expo.

"This technology is an incredible tool for real estate professionals, but can be dangerous if the wrong person is in control," said session moderator Kolleen Kelley, Realtor and 2015 Risk Management Committee vice chair.

Other panelists included Eric Myers, vice president of Victor O. Shinnerer & Company; Lesley M. Walker, National Association of Realtors associate counsel; and Dean Griffith with FAA's Office of the Chief Counsel.

The panelists spoke about the extensive benefits of using drones in real estate, but also warned the audience that following the rules is of critical importance to mitigate potential risks and liabilities.

Wide-scale commercial use of drones is currently prohibited, but the FAA has streamlined a waiver process for individuals and businesses interested in using drones for commercial purposes. So-called Section 333 waivers are already in use by dozens of Realtors and other operators currently using drones for their business.

Panelists widely agreed that the use of drones for commercial purposes will only grow with time, even as issues related to safety, privacy, insurance and the regulatory framework continue to evolve. They advised the audience about the importance of hiring approved operators with strong risk management practices, sufficient insurance coverage and, most importantly, a Section 333 waiver from the FAA.

The speakers also reminded Realtors to be thoughtful about agreements with outside companies to ensure that ownership of any photographs taken is clear, as intellectual property laws and rules still apply.

Walker pointed to NAR's policy statement in noting that the association supports the integration of unmanned aerial systems into the National Airspace System, or NAS, and a clear regulatory framework for interested Realtors to responsibly make drones a part of their business.

This includes making safety a top priority, and earlier this year NAR joined an industry "Know Before you Fly" campaign and partnered with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's "Multistakeholder Process: Unmanned Aircraft Systems" to further highlight the importance of safety, security, and privacy in commercial drone use.

The FAA is currently moving through a rulemaking process to address the integration of drones into the NAS, which Griffith noted FAA hopes to complete by June 2016.

In September, NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker of 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Arkansas, testified before a U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the value of drones in real estate.

"Commercial drones represent an opportunity to create jobs and businesses, as well as to support the business of real estate," said Polychron. "NAR is pleased to see this important issue get the attention it deserves and will continue working with the FAA to advance clear regulations that are affordable for users, safe for their communities, and mindful of the safety and privacy of individuals."

The National Association of Realtors, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org.

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