Put down that drone! FAA cracks down on realtors using aerial drone photos

You probably know by now that the Federal Aviation Administration hates the use of drones in aerial photography – at least until it can come up with regulations to enforce it. But now, according to Forbes, one group has gotten some heat from the FAA, and it’s not one that first comes to mind: real estate agents.

Forbes’ Gregory McNeal reports that NRT, the largest residential real estate brokerage firm in the U.S., is telling its agents not to use aerial drones to photograph houses for sale, thanks to intimidation by the FAA. NRT, which owns and operates familiar brands such as Coldwell Banker, ERA, and Sotheby’s International Realty, said that until the FAA comes up with clear guidelines, agents “will not be procuring drone photography from any vendor, nor will we process and distribute any drone photography provided to the company by an affiliated sales associate.” That means a video like the one below, created by a Coldwell Banker realtor, are no longer allowed.

When it comes to drone photography as a hobby, the FAA doesn’t have any jurisdiction over that (although you could still get in trouble with local authorities, depending on where and how you’re flying a drone). But in the case of NRT, using aerial drones for real estate purposes is considered a commercial activity – and because of that, the FAA has a say (it prohibits it).

The thing is, as Forbes points out, the FAA prohibits only the use of drones, but not the use of images or video taken from a drone. But it’s somewhat of a confusing chicken-or-the-egg dilemma: While realtors could use aerial drone footage, it can’t create them or hire anybody to it, as the FAA has the power to sanction any drone operator in a commercial situation.

As a way around it, homeowners could photograph their property under the guise of a hobby, and pass along the footage to their agents. But rather than trying to tiptoe around the situation, the NRT has ordered all of its members to avoid using drone photography, in any manner, whether it’s having homeowners do it or hiring drone videographers who specialize in such work. According to a letter written by Bob McCauley and Mark Daaleman, attorneys for NRT’s Coldwell Banker Preferred division, “the FAA has indicated that it is actively investigating suspected violations, a position that appears to be verified by media reports of the recent subpoena of drone-related records from a New York area real estate company and its photography vendor.” Despite the lawyers recognizing the difference between using images from a drone versus operating a drone to shoot photos, the FAA’s “aggressive stance regarding the use of drones specifically for real estate marketing purposes” is forcing NRT to ban drone photography.

McNeal, who is also a law and public policy professor at Pepperdine University, points out that NRT’s “sweeping decision” and the FAA’s intimidation are setbacks for the benefits of drone photography, as the agency goes about in hammering out regulations. Some real estate agents have started using aerial photography drones – using a DJI Phantom quadcopter and a GoPro cam, for exampole – as a way to add stunning shots that highlight a property they’re trying to sell. NRT’s “decision to prohibit the use of drone footage will have a chilling impact on thousands of realtors, and may set back efforts to convince the FAA to allow the safe use of drones for commercial filming,” McNeal writes. “If people can’t see the value the technology provides, it will be much easier for the FAA to prohibit the use of drones in commercial settings.”

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Mobile

Apple’s iPad lineup is confusing. We break it all down for you

Trying to decide which iPad is right for you is a chore. What generation is the latest iPad? Which ones have been updated and which ones are collecting dust? Check out our iPad guide and we’ll break it down.
Mobile

Yubico has a new Lightning-based YubiKey to lock down your iOS devices

Yubioco announced at CES 2019 that received approval for a Lightning key that is currently in private testing, which means there will soon be a safe and secure way to use a physical security key with your iOS device.
Photography

What to look for and what to avoid when buying a camera

Looking to buy a new camera? Our comprehensive camera guide for 2016 has answers to any camera or photography questions you might ask, whether in regards to pricing, image quality, or weatherproofing.
Photography

Authentic, holistic, retro photography is in: Here are 2019’s predicted trends

What types of imagery are we most drawn to? According to recent stock photography data from Adobe, StoryBlocks, and Shutterstock, authentic, holistic, and humanitarian content will be in high demand in 2019.
Social Media

No yolk! A photo of an egg has become the most-liked post on Instagram

Until this weekend, the most-liked post on Instagram was of Kylie Jenner's baby daughter, which has around 18 million likes. It's now been knocked off the top spot not by a stunning sunset or even a cute cat, but by an egg.
Photography

Going somewhere? Capture more than your phone can with the best travel cams

Hitting the road or doing some globetrotting this year? Bring along the right camera to capture those once-in-a-lifetime vacation memories. Here's a list of some of our current favorites.
Photography

From 4K powerhouses to tiny action cams, here are the best video cameras

Although not as popular as they once were, dedicated video cameras still have their benefits. From travel vlogging to home movies to recording your kid's little league game, here are the best video cameras you can buy right now.
Photography

Starting your very own vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability. When it comes to putting your life on YouTube, here are the best cameras for the job.
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Photography

This A.I.-powered camera follows the action to produce epic selfie videos

Want to capture more epic action selfies? The Obsbot Tail is a camera-gimbal combo that uses artificial intelligence to follow the action. Using a handful of different modes, the camera works to keep the action in the frame.