Relaxed Drone Regs’ Impact On Realtors Weighed

OCEAN CITY — Now that the Federal Aviation Administration has eased regulations on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), local Realtors may be adding drones to the list of tools they use to sell the region’s real estate. Then again, in more densely populated places like Ocean City, maybe not.

The recently announced regulation easement seemingly opens the door for real estate agents and companies to utilize drone technology to show off that proverbial “curb appeal” of a property from an aerial view.

Joe Wilson, chairman of the Coastal Association of Realtors’ (CAR) Government Affairs Committee, praised the FAA’s decision.

“We feel these new rules strike a nice balance that protects the safety of individuals, while also ensuring real estate professionals can put drones to good use,” he said. “With this new technology becoming more affordable and readily available, it’s important that Realtors are able to utilize it to better showcase clients’ homes. This is just another tool that our members can use to be more effective, more professional, and more modern.”

In the past, commercial drone operators were required to hold a pilot’s license, but while that provision is now null and void, operators must still obtain a certification for “remote pilot in command” in order to fly the drone for real estate purposes. The test that drone operators must take is based on an approximated 20 hours of study time and is administered at FAA testing centers. The three-hour test costs $150. Additionally, operators will still need to pass a background check that is administered by the Transportation Security Administration.

Realtors who choose to use drones, and get the operators certification, can only fly them during daylight hours within a visual line of sight, and not over non-participants below 400 feet and at a speed less than 100 mph. Drones must weigh less than 55 pounds. These new regulations will take effect in August.

CAR believes drones are useful in a number of real estate related applications, including appraisals, insurance claims, marketing properties and even facilitating insurance claims.

Yet, the National Association of Realtors is unsure whether these new regulations preempt state, county, and municipal law. However, since the FAA has sole authority over public airspace, locals should be able to operate drones as long as they adhere to the new rules.

“With airports in Ocean City, Salisbury, and Crisfield, our members and other professionals really need to be sure they are in compliance, and not operating within that five-mile radius without a waiver,” Wilson said. “We encourage our members to follow the rules and use drones responsibly.”

Ocean City town officials had a recent debate about drones prior to the Ocean City Air Show, and essentially determined that much of Ocean City was a “no-fly zone” for drones.

Because of the Ocean City Airport in West Ocean City, the five-mile radius rule specifying “no fly zones” for drones would essentially wipe out the majority of Ocean City’s downtown for drone usage, and the longtime presence of banner planes over the city’s coastline could be another confusing twist on whether drones are allowed to fly in the resort.

Councilman Dennis Dare said enforcement would be vital regardless of what the rules read.

“The police are going to have to enforce it,” he said. “They are going to be getting calls about drones buzzing overhead.”

According to a recent survey from the National Association of Realtors, only 44% of Realtors currently use drones to show properties, but of the 56% who said they didn’t, almost 20% plan to use them in the future.

About The Author: Bryan Russo

Bryan Russo returned to The Dispatch in 2015 to serve as News Editor after working as a staff writer from 2007-2010 covering the Ocean City news beat. In between, Russo worked as the Coastal Reporter for NPR-member station WAMU 88.5FM in Washington DC and WRAU 88.3 FM on the Delmarva Peninsula. He was the host of a weekly multi-award winning public affairs show “Coastal Connection.” During his five years in public radio, Russo’s work won 19 Associated Press Awards and 2 Edward R. Murrow Awards and was heard on various national programs like NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, APM’s Marketplace and the BBC. Russo also worked for the Associated Press (Philadelphia Bureau) covering the NHL and the NBA and is a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter and composer.