South Florida Realtors rebel, won’t stop drone use as national association lobbies FAA

Posted By The Palm Beach Post
Kim Miller, author

The National Association of Realtors announced Friday it was invited to participate in an on-going Federal Aviation Administration working group on the use of drones _ a growing tool in the sale of high-end real estate in South Florida.

According to the FAA, drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, require special approval for use in commercial settings, such as filming a movie, surveying crops or making a slick video to showcase real estate.

“The FAA is on track to propose regulation in November that will establish a timeframe for integrating small unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace,” NAR’s statement said. “NAR supports regulations that would allow members to use this technology safely but that are not overly cumbersome or expensive.”

South Florida Realtors aren’t waiting for the regulations and have rebelled against NAR’s advice to stop using drones until something can be worked out.

“This will not stop me from hiring a vendor for images/video,” said Brian Saver, a principal with McWilliams Ballard in West Palm Beach. “I just hope vendors feel the same way I do. I don’t know how the FAA will discover a vendor or Realtors who is flying a drone over a single-family home in Jupiter or Wellington.”

Saver said real estate-related drone videos are taken in places where the operators are invited and aren’t spying on people.

“Aerial real estate photography and videography is nothing new,” Saver said. “It’s just been done from real helicopters for ages. Where was the outrage there? Drones simply make it more affordable/accessible to more Realtors.”

Here’s a sample of one of Saver’s listings advertised via drone video. He uses 8th Avenue Motion Picture Studios in Port St. Lucie to produce his drone videos.

It’s unlikely vendors, who are making thousands of dollars on a drone shoot, are going to stop.

Robert Stevens photographer, flying an DJI Phantom quad copter drone for an architectural video Monday Aug. 11, 2014 outside a home in Palm Beach. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)
Robert Stevens photographer, flying an DJI Phantom quad copter drone for an architectural video Monday Aug. 11, 2014 outside a home in Palm Beach. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

“From an economic standpoint, we can’t just stand by and let this business pass,” Paul Morris, owner of Miami Aerial, told the Palm Beach Post last month. “My bone of contention is an amateur can go fly when a professional can’t. Who is more apt to have a problem?”

As a hobbyist, a person can fly a drone all day long without permission and only a few airport-related restrictions.

Read the Palm Beach Post’s full story on drones here.

The FAA is expected to release a proposed rule by the end of the year on the operation of drones weighing 55 pounds or less, and 22 people, including one Arizona Realtor, have applied for a legal exemption to rules banning the use of drones for commercial gain.

Congress also asked the FAA to come up with a plan for the safe integration of drone use by Sept. 20, 2015.

For now, the National Association of Realtors is discouraging its members from using drones, or from hiring third-party vendors to get footage for them.

“It reminds me of the Do Not Call List and the fear it brought and still brings to real estate agents,” Saver said. “I make thousands of calls every month and have yet to run into an issue (knock on wood). On occasion a person will say ‘You know I’m on the DNC list’ and I say ‘Sorry about that, I will update my records, have a great day.”