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What Are the Requirements to Shoot Drone Video for Real Estate in the US?

Published: 18/04/2018

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Don in Florida asks:

I've recently bought a DJI Spark Drone and need to make it as legit as possible to add to my commercial real estate services. I've read that I need FAA registration but others have said I need a pilot's license? This is kind of confusing for me. I live in Florida and want to make sure I am operating without any legal anxieties. I'd love to know everything we are required to do in order to be legit, if you would be so kind.

I'm not an expert on drone operation so I can't tell you everything you need to know but I can point you in the right direction. Drone operation has become a specialty area. Here are some resources to get you started, and I'm sure readers will have more:

  1. Here is the FAA getting started page. As it says (under Part 107), to operate commercially, you need to register your drone and get a remote pilot certificate from the FAA; also, follow the other rules in that column.
  2. To pass the Part 107 test, get connected with one of the many drone training sites (e.g. to train for and pass the 107 test.
  3. Different states have their own unique drone laws. Florida is a bit more restrictive than other states. Here is a page that will get you started in researching the unique issues of flying a drone in Florida.

I'm sure other Florida readers that are already flying in Florida will be able to suggest more resources.

Larry Lohrman

7 comments on “What Are the Requirements to Shoot Drone Video for Real Estate in the US?”

  1. Get your Part 107 certification. No need for a pilot's license. That was true 3 years ago as knee-jerk reaction by the FAA. Things are much more reasonable now for those who wish fly drones for commercial purposes like Real Estate. It continues to evolve to make it even easier to get airspace authorizations and waivers for those who are are certified.

    First Step: You must study for the FAA exam which is only a paper test that is multiple choice. No practical flying for the test. I used the course to prep for the exam. I learned a lot of useful information in addition to learning how to pass the exam.This is an actual flight school who preps real pilots for their other exams as well, so they actually know how to interpret the information and present it to you intelligently so you not only understand it but understand the sometimes tricky questions that the FAA will throw at you. (and there can be many) I studied a few hours a day for a week in the lead up to my scheduled exam. Passed easily with the knowledge and practice fresh in my head. Don't bother with the free "how to pass the part 107 exam" clickbait that is all over Youtube. Some decent information but general lack of real understanding of what and why. These will not adequately prepare you to take the exam unless you are just lucky. You get you pay for.

    Next step: Fly safe and smart. Charge accordingly for your time, skill, quality and value AND my number one rule: Don't end up on the news.
    Good luck

  2. FAA Part 107 is indeed what you need.
    I did a 'prep' course for it and be warned that 75 to 80% of the test is the information on sectional charts. These 'maps' can be overwhelming because of the large amount of information in them, but it's not impossible.

    I would also recommend getting a better camera if you plan on doing this professionally. The DJI Spark is decent, but it falls flat behind the DJI Phantom Pro 4.

    I actually have one with very low hours I'm likely going to sell, because I decided in my position (as a part time RE photographer) it wasn't something I wanted to invest in.
    My email is in my website if anyone's interested.

  3. You definitely need the 107 Remote Pilot's License from the FAA to fly commercially. Just understand that there is a lot to learn that seems to have little with flying a sAUV. Lots of Section Chart reading (basically just charts for pilots), much on weather and knowing how to read the double Dutch of air meteorological reports, regulations on flying drones. But unlike getting a driving license, no one seems interested in whether you can actually fly a drone safely or at all. For a department that is concerned about safety, I find that a bit odd.

    Then while the FAA controls all US airspace, there is still room for local communities who may well make their own regulations that will affect where and how you can fly. And then those more nebulous ones with a lot of grey areas concerning privacy, trespassing and "nuisance". So I would make sure that if there is any chance that you may fly over a neighbor's property, that you visit and speak to the immediate neighbors telling them what you are doing and getting their permission. I have not found any neighbor who would not give permission but appreciated the civility and consideration of being consulted. I even have a short permission slip, much like a modeling release, that I ask them to sign. I also have a fuller form that I have either the owner or agent sign for drone shooting permission and the subsequent use of the photos and video.

    And be considerate of issues like horses and farm animals who may be spooked by the swarm of bees that a drone sounds like.

  4. I would suggest getting outside and learn to fly your bird" as often as you can.. Your drone will need to climb as high as 100 feet or more sometimes to get different shots and video and the winds can get quite erratic up there! You need flying skills as well for the times when there is a lost link between your controller and the drone. In this area flying skills, knowledge of FAA Air Space regulations, weather fronts, and wind conditions are just as important to know how to set exposure, and more. A drone falling 200 feet out of the sky is dangerous. So also, aviation liability insurance.

  5. I am already dreading having to renew my license this fall. Does anyone know what is required when the 2 yr license expires? A simple paperwork renewal form (like renewing a drivers license) or does one have to take the whole exam again to renew one's license?

  6. It's government Candace Kuzmarski.
    You have to re-take the test every two years....and lets not forget the $150.00 fee as well. Yep! Every two years. (although I'm sure the fee will go up)

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