On June 21st the Federal Aviation Administration issued its final rule concerning the commercial use of small unmanned aircraft, commonly referred to as drones. This rule, titled Part 107, removes some particularly rigorous requirements for commercial drone use which were previously imposed by the FAA, including requirements that drone operators hold traditional manned aircraft pilot licenses and that all operators receive from the FAA a written exemption to the requirements of FAA Section 333 (which states that all aircraft operation in national airspace may only be performed with a certificated and registered aircraft operated by a licensed pilot and with operational approval of the FAA), a process which typically took several months. Pursuant to Part 107, commercial drone operators of devices weighing less than 55 pounds will no longer need to hold a traditional pilot’s license and receive an exemption to FAA Section 333, although they will be required to pass a written examination and receive a “Remote Pilot Certificate” from the FAA prior to commencing any flying operations, and operators will still be subject to commonsense safety and operation regulations set forth in Part 107. The new rules stated in Part 107 are scheduled to take effect by the end of this month and, according to industry estimates cited by the FAA, these relaxed regulations could generate more than $82 billion for the US economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs in the next decade.
Realtors and real estate professionals are among the groups celebrating the new FAA rules. Following the announcement of Part 107, the National Association of Realtors, which has lobbied for fewer regulations and restrictions on commercial use of drones since 2014, praised the FAA for providing a clearer path for real estate professionals to use drones in connection with their businesses. Drones are particularly attractive in the real estate world as they enable agents and their clients to quickly capture high quality aerial photographs and video footage of large, multi-acre properties, commercial complexes, industrial facilities and farm land (all forms of properties that may be difficult to comprehensively photograph from the ground) for a fraction of the price of traditional helicopter-based photography and videography services. The advantages presented by drones and their photography and videography capabilities are not strictly limited to marketing a property, however, as the speed and cost-effectiveness associated with drone-based aerial photography and videography can assist in the preparation of appraisals, surveys and maps and the surveillance and monitoring of large scale construction projects. Given that Florida trailed only California in the amount of individual applications filed for FAA Section 333 exemptions across the country prior to the announcement of Part 107 (and Florida actually led California in the number of applications granted for exemptions related to real estate uses), we can expect to see the use of drones continue to soar in the world of Florida real estate in the near future.