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July 2016

FAA's new rules for drones will enable more uses by Realtors®

DroneNew rules released by the Federal Aviation Administration in late June create a clearer pathway for the use of drones in real estate businesses and other commercial purposes. National Association of Realtors® president Tom Salamone described the FAA's announcement as a "win" for the industry, culminating a long-fought effort during the rulemaking process.

In a news release from the Department of Transportation's FAA, that agency said its first operational rules (PDF) for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drones) will open pathways towards fully integrating UAS into the nation's airspace. "These new regulations work to harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives," the release stated.

The new rule, which become effective in late August, regulates unmanned aircraft drones weighing less than 55 pounds that are conducting non-hobbyist operations. Despite eliminating a requirement that operators hold a pilot's license, anyone looking to fly drones commercially will still have to comply with strict requirements designed to protect people on the ground.

"We've worked hard to strike a responsible balance that protects the safety and privacy of individuals, while also ensuring Realtors® can put drones to good use," said Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida. "The rules unveiled today will help more real estate professionals take flight, making the efficiency and innovation that drones have to offer available to a much broader base of operators."

In praising the ruling, NAR officials noted it culminates a campaign that dates to 2014. Salomone said it marks a big step forward, but he also emphasized more work is needed despite the significant progress. NAR is calling for eased restrictions on a "micro" category of drones, a classification that covers drones weighing less than four pounds. NAR says these devices present a much smaller safety risk than certain drones in the under-55 pound category covered by the new rule.

NAR wrote to the FAA on numerous occasions to weigh in on the final Small UAS Rule and testified before Congress to support the use of drones in real estate. Among uses the trade group cited were marketing properties, assisting with appraisals, facilitating insurance claims, and overseeing utility work.

The NAR president praised the FAA for listening to the concerns of real estate professionals and pledged to continue educating its members on the safe, responsible use of drones in serving their clients.

In its own statement, the FAA said the new era in aviation and potential for unmanned aircraft will make it safer and easier to do certain jobs, gather information, and deploy disaster relief. It estimates this new rule could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs over the next decade.