FAA Reply

The FAA has finally published requirements for using a drone commercially (Part 107).

Now that it’s legal to use a drone for aerial photos of a property, there are a few things to keep in mind. Pilots must pass a test to be licensed and aircraft must have a registration number on them for identification. Hiring somebody that doesn’t have a license could put an agent at risk. (update 23 May 2017. A letter from the FAA confirms that an agent that hires an unlicensed UAV operator may be subject to fines of $11,000 per violation; considerably more than the $1,100/violation that the operator may be fined.)

When and where to use highly elevated images is up to an agent, but there are some things to consider. First is whether an aerial image has any value. For tract homes with minimum spacing between properties, an aerial image will only highlight how tightly packed the development is. Secondly, many images just show the same view as the satellite view on Google Earth, a whole bunch of roof. For many of these homes an elevated view can be taken from a ladder or using PAP (Pole Aerial Photography (camera on a stick)) much more quickly and for less cost. Good candidates are large properties with outbuildings, horse arenas/corrals, etc. Homes built on a hillside can often be difficult to photograph from ground level and some excellent images can be made by bringing the camera up the the elevation of the home with an aircraft.

Adding aerial images, video and 3D scans are all secondary to having a professionally produced gallery of still images. High quality still images will entice a buyer to view more of the listing and video/aerial will be more likely to be watched if they are already drawn in with high quality stills. Just like all marketing, aerial photos need to add value. A view of the front yard from 40ft in the air is novel, but not particularly useful. A view into a neighbors backyard full of hoarded junk might put buyers off. Seeing all 7.5 acres of garden, barns and home might get the right buyer to pick up the phone.

An aerial provider that started as a photographer and added aerial services to their repertoire is going to be much better than somebody that bought a drone and is looking to make some money taking pictures.

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