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Flying Drones and Cranky Neighbors

Published: 09/06/2020

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There was a recent question posted on PFRE’s Community page that I’d like to put out to all of you as I think it’s very relevant to our industry:

“I have a home that needs aerial photos and would like a nice sunny exposure on the front, but the sun is only on the front of the home until about 7am. It feels wrong to be flying around a quiet residential neighborhood at 6:45am, even with a quiet drone. What are your thoughts on an acceptable time to fly?”

It’s an interesting question for me because it speaks to more than just answering the specific question the reader was asking. To me, it felt like the question was opening the door to a broader concern which I think is probably more important, and that is: Should we have very specific terms of service (TOS) for our drone work?

It’s my sense that a majority of our community has a formal TOS for our photography work as it relates to what the agent and homeowner can expect from the photographer but more so, about what the photographer expects from their client in terms of ensuring a smooth and efficient photoshoot. It’s also quite clear that a photographer going into a home for a typical real estate shoot is rarely at risk of upsetting a neighbor. Most of the time, the neighbors don’t even know that a photoshoot is taking place.

This usually isn't the case for our drone work. I’m sure anyone who’s used drones in their REP business has a story to tell about neighbors who come up and ask very pointed and at times, angry questions about why someone is flying a drone in their neighborhood--regardless of the time of day! Anyway, the reader’s question prompted me to go through PFRE’s archives to see if we've covered this topic in the past. While I found a number of good articles over the years, most of them are focused on the basics of operating drones i.e., federal regulations, licensing, insurance, which drones to buy, etc. But I didn’t find anything related to general best practices, including best practices when it comes to dealing with nosy and often cranky neighbors.

I’m hoping that the community can comment on two things here:

  1. How would you answer the reader’s specific question about flying a drone so early in the morning?
  2. Do you have a TOS for your drone work, and if so, what are some key items that you would suggest to someone who is starting out in the drone/aerial business?
Brandon Cooper