Know the Law: New Rules Make it Easier for Professionals to Use Drones

Headshot - John Weaver
John F. Weaver
Director, Corporate Department and Chair, Real Estate Practice Group and Chair, Artificial Intelligence Practice
Published: Union Leader
September 26, 2016

Q: I’m a real estate broker and want to use a drone to take aerial pictures of the properties I’m selling. What do I need to do to legally use a drone that way?

A: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently finalized new rules for light weight drones, that is, drones weighing less than 55 pounds. The new rules make it easier for real estate brokers, photographers, event planners, and anyone else to use drones for commercial purposes. Prior to the new rules, operators needed to petition the FAA for a specific waiver before using a drone in their businesses. The waiver process was time consuming and onerous, creating a backlog of unfulfilled applications from business owners.

Now, operators who want to use light weight drones for commercial purposes may do so as long as: (1) the drones comply with certain operating criteria; and (2) the operator holds a remote pilot certificate or is under the direct supervision of someone who holds a remote pilot certificate.

Among the operating criteria are requirements that drones fly within the line of sight of the operator, only during daylight hours, at a maximum groundspeed of 100 miles per hour, no higher than 400 feet above ground, and within G Class airspace, i.e., airspace that is not classified as controlled airspace due to proximity to airports and other relevant factors. Drones may not fly over people and may not be flown from a moving vehicle. Drones may fly within Class B, C, and D airspace (i.e., airspace near airports) with permission from the relevant air traffic control. Additionally, the drone must be registered with the FAA’s Small Unmanned Aircraft Registration Service.

Unless you hold a part 61 pilot certificate, in order to obtain a remote pilot certificate, an operator must: (1) demonstrate aeronautical knowledge by passing an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved testing center; (2) be vetted by the FAA, and (3) be at least 16 years old. There are FAA-approved in Gilford, Keene, Manchester and Nashua. Operators may be vetted by the FAA after they have passed the knowledge test by submitting an online application through the FAA IACRA system.

Please note that anyone seeking to operate a drone should consult with the FAA or materials produced by the FAA for a complete list of drone and operator requirements. Depending on your location, experience, and activities, the requirements may vary.