How Drones are Changing Real Estate


Drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are the latest tech innovation that real estate agents are leveraging to help market and sell homes quickly. The aerial photographs and video footage shot by a drone can give potential buyers a visual perspective that traditional photography cannot provide. With all of the stories in the news lately about drones, we thought it might be helpful to capture some of the benfits, and answer a few questions, about how we’re using drone photography and video to help our clients sell their homes quickly.

The ability to see the big picture

Drones have the ability to capture all the external details of a listing. The structure of a roof, the health of the landscaping, the surrounding neighborhood can all be seen in ways that they never could before. For buyers that are searching remotely, these images provide a better overview of the property. Some agents have reported that with the use of drones, they have closed deals without an in-person buyer visit. Until recently, this type of photography had to be taken via manned flights, which are very expensive and not capable of the quality and close up shots that a drone can capture.

Are they legal?

Yes, drones provide amazing images of a listing, but are they legal? In the past drones have been used on a very limited basis for law enforcement, national security and forscientific purposes. Recreational drone use is also allowed.  However this could be changing in the near future. In February, The Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed a framework of safety rules for small UAS (under 55 pounds) conducting commercial operations.

These rules include the following:

  • A small UAS operator must always see and avoid manned aircraft. If there is a risk of collision, the UAS operator must be the first to maneuver away.
  • The operator must discontinue the flight when continuing would pose a hazard to other aircraft, people or property.
  • A small UAS operator must assess weather conditions, airspace restrictions and the location of people to lessen risks if he or she loses control of the UAS.
  • A small UAS may not fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight.
  • Flights should be limited to 500 feet altitude and no faster than 100 mph.
  • Operators must stay out of airport flight paths and restricted airspace areas, and obey any FAA Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs).

A picture is worth 1,000 words and when selling real estate in today’s market, it is worth even more. The majority of buyers are starting their searches online significantly increasing the importance of the listing’s visual components. Although the approval of the FAA rules may be a year or more away, the real estate industry is ready to take advantage of the benefits that drone photography can provide.