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Using Drones to Buy or Sell Real Estate: Is it Legal?

using drones to buy or sell real estate: is it legal?

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Published date:

January 18, 2016

Last updated date:

January 18, 2016

By Manny Manriquez

Imagine being able to capture every nuance of a piece of property from high above and allow a potential buyer to clearly visualize the parcel in his or her mind. It's the proverbial “bird's-eye-view” and it's quickly changing the way real estate is marketed and highlighted across the world. That view is provided today by drones (technically referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles) and while some land owners and real estate companies already use the technology, the vast majority of folks involved in the process of buying and selling land in the U.S. have not yet availed themselves of the opportunity. There's little doubt this is about to change drastically and it's highly likely that in a matter of a few (very) short years – probably three or four – nearly every single parcel of land offered for sale will include drone photography in the listing. Aerial photography provides not only a unique view of the property for sale, it also allows the buyer to view the surrounding area and gain a bit of perspective on how the property fits into the landscape, painting a wider picture and providing buyers with a view of where the property is located within the neighborhood, proximity to parks, public transportation, and stores and schools. While the advantage is obvious for the sale of a house, the same positive attributes hold true for the sale of any property, be it farmland in Minnesota, commercial development property in New Jersey, ranch land in Montana, office parks in California, or a tower in St. Louis. Planning on building a structure on the property you've bought from a lisitng here on Drones can help with the construction process, also. These unmanned aerial vehicles are serving gallantly in construction management, property management, facilities management, and other sectors of commercial development, doing everything from tracking the progress of a construction project to offering security surveillance. They've proven very useful in asset evaluation operations, especially in the inspection of buildings. Want to ensure structural integrity? A drone offers engineers a clear view. Want to snake through an HVAC system without calling in a team of technicians? Drones can do that too.

Is Commercial Drone Usage Legal in the United States?

As of January 17, 2016 (the writing date of this article) all drones used in the United States weighing 0.55 pounds or more must be registered and licensed with the Federal Aviation Administration. This license allows for recreational or hobbyist usage only and can be procured online. Laws in the U.S. for commercial drone usage (which includes real estate) require the owner to file for a commercial exemption with the FAA and receive special approval. This must be done via paper application. Real-estate businesses won nearly a third of the first 500 commercial drone permits granted by the Federal Aviation Administration, an industry study obtained by USA TODAY found. Of course, you may hire a drone photography company to fly over your property and record it for you, but it's vital you ensure that the company or any individual you hire to do so is properly licensed and holds the necessary FAA permissions. The basic point is that laws and regulations concerning the legality of real estate drone photography are very much “up in the air,” evolving constantly, and will continue to do so for the near future. At, we recently added full video capabilities to each listing and are very excited at how drone photography will make it easier for you to find and buy the land of your dreams, while our sellers have a cool new tool to better showcase their properties. But, while the legalities are sorted out, we urge you to stay abreast of the rules and regulations and consult the FAA website for further questions and answers.

Federal Aviation Administration Registration Service


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