Browse Tag: faa

Drone Hopefuls Still Getting Mixed Messages From Lawmakers

When National Association of RealtorsⓇ President Chris Polychron recently testified before Congress on the topic of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), he called for a commitment to privacy and personal safety to go hand in hand with the responsible use of drones by the commercial property industry.  But the legislative climate around the topic of drones shows anything but clear skies.  Federal and state efforts to make rules have been uneven, leading to a bumpy legislative ride.

Take the case of California, whose governor recently came down on the side of drone use and FAA approved commercial users.  It was days ago that Governor Jerry Brown vetoed legislation that would have stopped the flying of drones at altitudes lower than 350 feet, sending a somewhat garbled message to potential drone users, including the real estate industry seeking to legally use the aircraft for survey and inspection of commercial property.

As law blog JD Supra writes, the governor’s reasoning was to avoid exposing “the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation.”

The life and death of the California flight-level restriction legislation is an example of a legislative process being played out in several states across the nation. In light of the rapid expansion of the drone industry, lawmakers, at both state and Federal levels, are scrambling to enact legislation governing the use of drones. But as we just learned from Governor Brown’s veto, there is considerable controversy about what to do about flight-level restrictions. Why? Privacy considerations suggest that drones should be as far away as possible, for obvious reasons. Nobody wants to see a drone equipped with high-definition cameras hovering outside one’s window or lurking above what would otherwise be a secluded back yard or vacation spot. Privacy considerations are what motivated the authors of the California bill.

Business Applications vs. Privacy And Safety Concerns

Equally burdensome to real estate business plans that hinge on legal operation of drones is the question of jurisdiction. Does state or federal law apply first?  The answer appears confusing even though the FAA seems pretty clear on who’s got the regulatory muscle. The FAA web page “Busting Myths About The FAA And Unmanned Aircraft” says airspace at any height is the domain of the FAA and that any aircraft looking to fly in US airspace needs some form of FAA approval.   From the link:

Myth #1: The FAA doesn’t control airspace below 400 feet

Fact—The FAA is responsible for the safety of U.S. airspace from the ground up. This misperception may originate with the idea that manned aircraft generally must stay at least 500 feet above the ground

Section 333 Waivers

The FAA may be petitioned by aspiring drone operators for a waiver called Section 333, which grants authorization for certain unmanned aircraft to perform operations on a case-by-case basis.  An FAA pilot’s license is a required piece of such an application.  The FAA page for Section 333 exemption applications is here.

Missed Deadlines

August 2014 is the latest self-imposed deadline the FAA has missed in developing comprehensive rules for small commercial UAS.  While permission to operate lies in regulatory limbo, a set of industries, including real estate, that could use inexpensive and comprehensive surveys and inspections of property are biding their time while the bureaucratic wheels turn.

“We all agree that the project is taking too long,” Peggy Gilligan, a top FAA safety official, told a congressional House panel in 2014.  Here’s hoping the balance between safety, privacy and commercial use is found soon.

Download: NAR Commercial Regulatory Report

I’m not sure how I missed this, but miss it I did.  NAR’s June 2014 Commercial Regulatory Report is available for free download, containing updates and summaries of  recent NAR actions in the regulatory space, including FAA, EPA, SEC, GSA and SBA.  If any property in your portfolio involves air, ground or finance (find me one that doesn’t!) you need to check out the report.

Check it out below or download a PDF from

June 2014 Commercial Regulatory Report_SAS


A Drone Of Your Own: The Commercial Drone Era Begins

English: InView Unmanned Aircraft for use in s...
InView Unmanned Aircraft for use in scientific, commercial and state applications. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Potential commercial real estate applications for low-flying aerial vehicles abound: these include mapping, surveying, traffic measurements (vehicle and foot), hyperlocal weather reporting, parking availability reporting and competitive research and analysis, just to name a few.  There isn’t a sector in commercial real estate that couldn’t use an eye in the sky at one point or another.

The plummeting price of the drones themselves (note: link is to a hobby device only) plus the steady onset of hardware and software solutions for collection of visuals and presentation of data from those visuals are together creating a new set of tools that were previously available only to governments and militaries.

Drones are a little bit like the internet in that way.

None of which means anybody should run out and buy a drone or a drone fleet tomorrow: there’s the little matter of airspace management to consider. And for that, we have the Federal Aviation Administration, whose work in the area is going to set the tone of the impending era of commercial, private drone traffic.

The good news for drone enthusiasts is the FAA is well underway in researching the issue.  The Baltimore Sun reports that the FAA has selected test sites in six states for the purposes of researching the widespread introduction of private (and law enforcement) drone technology into US airspace:

Drones, best known for their use in war, are expected to transform American life in the coming decades. The FAA has issued more than 1,400 permits for unmanned aircraft since 2007, mainly to police departments and civilian federal agencies; the agency estimates that the number of small commercial drones will grow to 7,500 within five years.

Research conducted at the six test sites will help the agency develop regulations to allow unmanned aircraft to fly safely among manned jets, airplanes and helicopters.

Other countries already are using drones to dust crops and monitor oil spills. Florida is testing a system that can spot mosquito larvae in difficult-to-reach mangrove trees. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has described plans to use unmanned aircraft to deliver orders — just as the U.S. military has shipped cargo to troops in Afghanistan.

News organizations have spoken of using drones to produce footage of natural disasters, police chases and crime scenes. Real estate agents want them to take aerial photographs of properties.

Maryland already has established itself as a center of the growing industry. The state is home to several manufacturers. The University of Maryland, working closely with the Navy and NASA, is developing vehicles. And the military has long tested drones at Pax River.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the main industry group, estimated this year that drones would add 2,500 jobs and $2 billion to the Maryland economy by 2025 — part of an $82 billion impact nationwide.


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