Realtors Push For Continued Drone Usage In Resort

OCEAN CITY — While the conversation continues about deeming Ocean City essentially a “no fly zone” for unmanned aircraft, the resort area’s real estate industry is pushing for a continued use of drones in their property marketing arsenal.

The discussion began last month when the Recreation and Parks Committee got their first look at the prototype for signs declaring much of the resort area as a “no fly zone” for drones and similar aircraft. At that time, it was decided the issue more appropriately fell under the purview of the police department, and the Police Commission is scheduled to pick up the conversation on Monday.

According to Ocean City’s interpretation of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines concerning drones and remote-controlled aircraft, much of the resort area is already off limits. For example, the FAA regulations prohibit drone use within five miles of an airport, which would cover much of Ocean City with its municipal airport just across the bay in West Ocean City. In addition, the proliferation of banner planes, parasailing and other uses in the skies over the resort would likely prohibit drone use according to the FAA regulations.

However, the Coastal Association of Realtors (CAR) has its own interpretation of the FAA regulations and is pushing for the continued use of the unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft in practical, common sense real estate applications.

On Tuesday, Joe Wilson, chair of CAR’s Government Affairs Committee, told the Mayor and Council the FAA recently eased some regulations on drones that would make real estate applications still plausible.

“As you know, the FAA recently announced new eased regulations regarding commercial use of unmanned aerial systems, or drones,” he said. “These sweeping changes are expected to open the door for expanded drone use in the local real estate industry.”

Wilson explained in a tech-savvy world, the use of drones to aerially photograph properties for sale had become a valuable tool for Realtors. He explained one local instance when the owner of a waterfront property viewed the drone coverage of a similarly situated and sized neighboring property and found his listing to be at a distinct disadvantage.

“Drones are useful in a number of real estate-related applications including marketing properties, assisting with appraisals, facilitating insurance claims and overseeing utility work,” he said. “As this technology becomes more affordable and more readily available, it’s imperative that our members be able to utilize drone photography to enhance their professionalism and give them a leg up over the competition.”

Wilson presented the council with a detailed list of new regulations handed down by the FAA last month and urged the elected officials and its sub-committees to consider the practical use of drones if and when they make any rules of their own concerning drone use.

“We understand that conversations are ongoing in Ocean City regarding a city-wide restriction on drone use and we’d like to confirm that real estate professionals who follow FAA rules are able to utilize drones for commercial purposes,” he said. “As we are educating our members on these new regulations and encouraging them to utilize drone technology, we want to ensure they are following the rules and utilizing drones responsibly. We feel these new regulations strike a perfect balance that protects the safety and privacy of individuals while also ensuring real estate professionals can put drones to good use.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

Alternative Text

Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.