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Aerial photography using a drone for real estate - is now legal!

Mortgage and Lending with and for 1st Time Buyers, Move Up Buyers & Investors 207897nmls# DOC#207897

Aerial photography using a drone for real estate - is now legal!

So getting footage like this and impressing your sellers and using it to get more fabulous listings is now legal!


So why an aerial shot of a home?

Well, if the above isn't reason enough - can your static ads do that? Can they show scale, lifestyle, emotion in your flat boring MLS pictures? Can you show a 360 visual representation of amenities and views as you enter or leave the property?  NO! Of course not...

That's why you need aerial photography.

As I say on my FaceBook Page Extreme Aerial Productions Aerial Photography for Real Estate, Lifestyle & Adventure. Looking for a different view on life, a different angle, a changed perspective - Aerial Photography is for you!

I don't care if you have a 200k listing in a congested subdivision - An aerial video of the community and a fly-by of the home - opens up another world for local, but most importantly out of state visitors to you, your site, and your client base.

Aerial photography is a no brainer for luxury homes, but don't miss out on the little guy - think of this medium as your electronic business card, you're living breathing portfolio, and utilizing it here on Activerain will ensure your dominance in your community and is the perfect tool to use to blarm with.  And if nothing else how many listings can really say GREAT views - with aerial photography you can now prove it like the example below!

extreme aerial productions

But only if you can hire a drone company who has the correct documentation.

I put this checklist together as the confusion from NAR (especially after this article was sent to you all Field Guide to Drones and Real Estate) and your brokers are understandable - but so muddied is the confusion that it is ruining the opportunity for agents to take real estate to the next level visually, technologically and emotionally.

This Checklist must be used before you hire an operator, do not skimp, do not forgive, do not allow any deviation from this list - if they say I applied for what you are asking for below... Tough unless they send it to you it isn't real!  

Companies are trying to dodge the regulations right now by telling you to take the footage - I won't charge you for it - only for editing time and when you post don't put any identification on it of the operator or of you! WRONG It is still deemed commercial use and you will be fined, this is how this whole thing started in the first place! 

$2 million fine imposed by FAA


But don't worry - I have you covered!

Unless the company you want to hire has the following you Must Not hire them to video your homes!

The Operator or Company...

  1. Must Have an FAA 333 Exemption

    The operator must have an FAA 333 Exemption  You can check 3 ways:

    o   Regulations.gov http://www.regulations.gov/#!home

    o   The FAA’s Automatic Exemption Database http://aes.faa.gov/

    o   Section 333 page https://www.faa.gov/uas/legislative_programs/section_333/333_authorizations/

  2. Operator flying for you must have an Airman's CertificateThe pilot flying for you must have at a minimum of a sports pilot license. A student pilot license will NOT work.
  3. Operator must have an FAA approved in their name Motion Picture and Television Flight Operators Manual
  4.  If the drone flying is going to be within 500ft of people (other than the visual observer, the pilot, or necessary personnel), the operator must have closed-set tv/movie approval. If you request the exemption from the operator, line two of the restrictions will say if they are approved for it or not. Note: husband and wife walking the dog around the subdivision while you are filming this now makes the MPTFOM apply!

  5. The Aircraft they are flying must be Registered with the FAA and have an N number clearly displayed (just like your car and the DMV)
  6. This N number must match their certificate, their 333 exemption and be the registered aircraft cleared for flight that day by the local air traffic control
  7. The Aircraft being flown must be listed on the exemption. This is in restriction 1 of the exemption. If the type of drone is not listed there, the operator is not approved to fly it.
  8. The company must have a Specific COA over and above the blanket one issued with the 333 exemption to fly in that airspace where your property resides and within 500 feet of other buildings. Remember if you are in restricted airspace or within 5 nautical miles of any airport you have to have a specific COA approved. 

    Unless the operator has a special certificate of waiver or authorization (COA), they cannot fly within 5 nautical miles of a towered airport, 3 nautical miles of an airport with a tower not in operation but with an instrument approach, or within 2 nautical miles of a heliport or airport.  The turnaround time on special COA’s is around 30-90 days depending on the complexity of the airspace and airport.

  9. The operator must have filed at least 24 hours before a notice to airman (“NOTAMS”). You can check on your operator remotely by calling 1-800-wx-brief or going to the website    1800wxbrief.com (https://www.1800wxbrief.com/Website/mapViewer?&locationName=CONUS) and searching for NOTAMs in your area. (think of it as a flight plan) Flight Zones see why here!
  10. They must fly within the granted time frame and locations approved by ATC.
  11. The company must have a Night Time COA if flying during sunset and after twilight and have been granted permission so you can get those amazing sunset vista shots. No night flying (flying after civil twilight) unless they are approved.
  12. The company flying must make you a spotter for them or bring a spotter - you must be safety briefed also.
  13. The company must have a UAV Insurance Policy, not just a liability policy you should demand a minimum of 1 million or preferably 2 million in coverage if you focus on luxury.
  14. And if that isn't enough the operator must file all flights and logs with the FAA within 5 days of the flight having taken place.

Yes, all of the above is incredibly complicated.

Yes, it's incredibly expensive to obtain for the operator. But boy does it set you apart as the elite of the elite when you can show all the detailed preparation - a movie production as it were to your seller at the listing presentation?

So now you know what goes into making sure your listings, your sellers are given the best of exposure, sales opportunity, and results.

Don't let the water cooler gossip prevent you from taking away market share from the big hitters in your office. Don't have your broker who may not be up to date prevent you from tearing it up in your farm areas -  have your broker contact us or read this blog.

This medium is much less expensive than static ads, impresses new clients, makes you competition proof, helps you go viral very easily, and is an incredible way to build your listing inventory at any price point quickly and permanently!

The best part is after reading this you don't have to do anything - except ask the questions above or call us to help make sure you are doing what you need to - to be an industry leader in real estate marketing.

See more examples here

So don't miss out on hiring a local drone operator or UAS Operator.  If you want to screen a 333 operator or someone who says they have one:

How to screen 333 operators.

  1.       Ask for previous COA report they sent into the FAA. Ask how many closed-set operations they did and where. Call the local FSDO and ask if they received a COA for their operations.
  2.       Get a copy of the 333 and look them up in one of the 3 databases.  Automatic exemption database and the Section 333 page on the FAA’s website are the most up to date. Keep in mind that if they just received their exemption within the last 2 weeks, it might not be posted yet.  Regulations.gov is sometimes 1-3 months in posting.
  3.       Get a copy of their certificate of insurance.
  4.       Get a copy of the pilot’s pilot license and driver’s license.  Use this info to check the airman’s registry and see if the license is not suspended. https://amsrvs.registry.faa.gov/airmeninquiry/
  5.       Check registration paperwork matches with N number and FAA database. http://registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/NNum_Inquiry.aspx

So now that you know what is involved and why Aerial photography and using a drone for real estate - is now legal!  Don't be afraid to hire an operator and take your real estate photography, SEO, website and results to the next level.

To get the latest and simplest info on what is really going on check out this article on flying a drone for photography

If you are not familiar with what this medium looks like - or the possibilities aerial footage has to offer, check out this cool sizzle reel by Extreme Aerial Productions 

Don't be afraid to use this incredible medium and reach out to me here for help - or by referring you to a company that is operating legally in your area.


Please like the Extreme Aerial Productions Facebook Page for updates, legal news and examples of work to inspire you for your next few listings.


Thanks for stopping by and reading: Aerial photography and using a drone for real estate - is now legal!


Article and FAA References and Procedures sourced and verified by:

Jonathan Rupprecht, Esq. 
Commercial Pilot & Flight Instructor
Rupprecht Law, P.A.
2811 Grande Parkway, Suite 113
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410
Phone: (561)222-6979
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, KW Diversified - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

Our government has given itself far too much power.

Nov 02, 2015 05:04 AM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, KW Diversified - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

Unfortunately we let them get away with making these kinds of anti business laws far too often.

Nov 02, 2015 05:06 AM
Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

Your headline is a misleading.  Aerial photographer is legal for those who have the proper permit but very few have taken the steps to get the exemption. It is not legal for anyone who bought a drone at the store yet those are the majority of videos we see on-line.

Nov 02, 2015 05:10 AM
Fred Griffin Florida Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

With respect... drone photography may NOT be legal, unless you meet Federal Aviation Administration criteria.   See a qualified attorney for legal advice.

Nov 02, 2015 05:57 AM
Mark Taylor Mortgages

That is why if you read the article it is legal if you follow the steps in the blog when hiring - as a drone opearator I follow the above - the process for the flight is quite exhaustive for good measure - just want my felow realtor partners to be well versed. Hope it was imformative

Nov 02, 2015 06:45 AM
Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807
HomeSmart - Chandler, AZ
Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor

Mark - It sounds very complicated and expensive. I am sure eventually there will be drone pilots (specialists) you can rent to take aerial video of your listings.

Nov 02, 2015 10:54 AM
Mark Taylor Mortgages

Yes that's why I set up the compnay I did so we can do it correctly and protect my agent partners: www.extremeaerialproductions.com - let me know if you want a flight soon?

Nov 02, 2015 11:49 PM
Eileen Begley
Coldwell Banker, DelMonte - Carmel, CA
Monterey Real Estate

Hi Mark; Good info on how to check if they have the require licenses! I have a feeling there are lots of companies who are not really legal!

Nov 03, 2015 02:32 AM
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Burlington, MA
Metro Boston Homes For Sale

Mark Taylor Mortgages - considering the restriction we have, technically, it is still in the hands of some professionals only - unlike professional photographers who do not need license to take pictures!

It surely is a step closer in the right direction - however, agents who use drone cameras (now getting very popular), still can't take the aerial pictures. Am I right on that?

Nov 03, 2015 01:41 PM
Mark Taylor Mortgages
and for 1st Time Buyers, Move Up Buyers & Investors - Scottsdale, AZ
602-361-0707 #MarkTaylor #Awesomerates NMLS#207897

Absolutely not Praful you must have everything above like I have in order to do it
Aerial photography and aerial 3D mapping of homes is the most powerful sales medium in many years
If you have more questions call me happy to help

Nov 03, 2015 10:41 PM
Tyler Wenkins

The unfortunate part of this slightly desperate blog post is the FAA does NOT make law, therefore something cannot be ILLEGAL unless it is against the law.

The FAA has not successfully fined ANYONE, ever. They are in charge of safety in the airspace. If someone is flying recklessly and endangering people, etc. (such as the PROPOSEE $1.9M fine against the Chicago company, this is something that they do have control over. Of course, nothing has happened with this 'proposed fine' and presumably probably nothing will.

This is a very misleading blog post mostly used for clicks.... sounds like a desperate person trying to get business.

Dec 13, 2015 03:46 AM

Tyler - as you are anonymous and not part of ActiveRain you have missed the point of the article to educate my agent partners - as a top valley mortgage professional realtors are told by NAR and their brokers UAV flights of real estate are illegal - they aren't as long as they follow the above education when hiring a professional. It is not about clicks or being desperate it's about raising the standard of care - the fudiciary as it were of my customers who are real estate professionals - hope that clarifies the situation have a great day call me if you have more questions!

Dec 13, 2015 09:59 AM
Dave Halpern
Dave Halpern Real Estate Agent, Inc., Louisville, KY (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

Drone photography should be used only if it enhances the user's meaningful observation of the home. I'm not crazy about some of the drone photography I see out there. Some Realtors use drone photography for the sake of using drone photography. Buyers are looking for curb appeal. Overhead views of the roof and gutter system do not represent the true curb appeal.

Jun 14, 2017 01:11 PM
Lynn B. Friedman CRS Atlanta, GA 404-617-6375
Atlanta Homes ODAT Realty - Love our Great City - Love our Clients! Buckhead - Midtown - Westside - Atlanta, GA
Concierge Service for Our Atlanta Sellers & Buyers

Mark Taylor Mortgages 
THANKS for all the work you did!
Hopefully, it is still accurate for 2018.
All the best - Lynn

Jan 01, 2018 11:54 AM
Mark Taylor Mortgages
and for 1st Time Buyers, Move Up Buyers & Investors - Scottsdale, AZ
602-361-0707 #MarkTaylor #Awesomerates NMLS#207897

In 2018 some aspects are easier he airspace usage hasnt - call me if you have nay questions happy to help 480-744-5707

Jan 01, 2018 11:58 AM
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

Get Part 107 FAA drone licensed to be legal and safe capturing footage!

Nov 10, 2022 04:35 PM