Navigating the FAA’s New Drone Rule

Real estate professionals hoping to use drones in their business got some big news last week when the Federal Aviation Administration released a final rule governing the commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems. This final rule, effective August 29, 2016, includes some hard-fought wins for the National Association of REALTORS®, and a clearer path for people to put drones to use in their businesses.

The new rule will no longer require a small unmanned aircraft operator to hold a FAA-issued pilot’s license.  Instead, the final rule requires a person operating a small uas to either hold a remote pilot certificate with a small uas rating or be under the direct supervision of someone who does.  This new remote pilot certificate will be less expensive and less time-consuming to obtain – a major victory for aspiring drone users..  In general, small UAS may only be flown during the daytime, and cannot be flown over non-participants, and the small UAS must be within the visual line of sight of the operator at all times.

To learn more about the rule, and the significant change the rule will have on how people will be operating drones by the end of the summer, start by visiting NAR’s helpful FAQ for the Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule.

Then, take a look at the helpful links we’ve compiled that will help potential drone users get started.

  • A pilot’s license is no longer required. Instead, operators will be required to obtain a remote pilot certificate with a small uas rating, which involves passing an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.  Those interested in taking the test are encouraged to contact an FAA-approved Airmen Knowledge Testing Center. Individuals with existing non-student Part 61 pilot certificates will not be required to obtain a remote pilot certificate, but will be require to pass small uas training course (which you can find more information on here).
  • Waivers from some of the rule’s operational limitations may be requested. Although the new rule does not formally allow for some of the activities that are important to commercial use in real estate, a waiver process will soon be available for practices like beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights and flights over non-participants (meaning flying commercially over people who aren’t involved in the flight). In order to obtain the waiver, the FAA Administrator must also confirm that the operation can be safely conducted. Visit the FAA’s waiver section for information.  the waiver process under the new rule.
  • Remember, the new rule isn’t in effect yet. As written, the FAA’s drone rule goes into effect August 29, 2016.
  • Also, there’s still more to come. An FAA rulemaking for the “micro” category of drones is expected either later this year or in early 2017. That means anyone flying in the “micro” category may have even clearer skies ahead, and the National Association of REALTORS® is continuing to advocate for these additional possibilities.
  • Be patient. Although the rule has been announced, many of the final details (such has the process for attaining a waiver, as above) are still coming together. It’s advisable to check the FAA’s website frequently, beginning with their “Getting Started” website. Potential operators might also want to read the FAA’s frequently asked questions on the new rule.

For all the changes that are coming to commercial drone use, one thing remains same: it’s critically important to know the rules before taking flight. Keep checking at Faa.gov and REALTOR.org/drones for more information in the days and months ahead!