To Drone or Not to Drone in Real Estate Photography? (Tip: Do Not Drone)

  • August 25, 2015
  • devinlucas
In Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Orange County real estate, those aerial shots of high-end properties sure do look fantastic.  But most sellers, photographers and REALTORS® might not realize it’s a blatant violation of current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules to operate drones for commercial purposes (i.e. real estate photography) without a waiver from the FAA.  If you use a drone for real estate photography, you and/or your photographer are taking a significant risk each time a drone goes up, especially near airports (such as Newport Beach’s close proximity to John Wayne Airport), where federal regulators are taking drone usage extremely seriously following several recent “near miss” events between drones and commercial aircraft.
Putting those photos on the MLS or other advertising materials is then publicizing the violation, making any subsequent government crack-down pretty easy for the feds to prove if they pursue a violation.  NAR has weighed in on this with a clear recommendation: “Given the current FAA prohibition, the National Association of REALTORS® recommends that its members not use this technology for any purpose related to selling property.”  (See:
Currently, the FAA is expanding its waiver program to flights at or below 200 feet; however, even with a waiver obtained, such flights must still be a minimum of five nautical miles away from any airport operational control tower (i.e. five miles away from John Wayne), not in any restricted space (such as a “major city”) and other requirements making use in Newport Beach and surrounding areas very questionable, even with a waiver.  (See:
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-Devin Lucas

Author Devin R. Lucas is a Real Estate Attorney, Broker and REALTOR®, specializing in Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Orange County, serving individual, investor and small business interests in real estate.  Active with the Newport Beach Association of REALTORS® and Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce, Devin R. Lucas Real Estate is an independent real estate brokerage and law practice located in Newport Beach, California.

Devin R. Lucas Real Estate
Real Estate Attorney | Real Estate Broker | REALTOR® | | BRE No. 01912302
949.478.1623 office | 888.667.6038 fax

2901 West Coast Highway Suite 200
Newport Beach | California | 92663-4023

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