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Realtors Being Fined for Illegal Drone Use?

25 Apr 2017

It is no secret we are seeing a large amount of real estate being bought and sold with the help of drones.  This tool gives buyers a new perspective on potential commercial and residential real estate.  Per MLS statistics, homes with aerial images sold 68 percent faster than homes with standard images.  According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 73 percent of homeowners say that they are more likely to list with a real estate agent who uses video to market their home, however, only 9 percent of agents create listing videos. 


With these statistics, it is obvious why realtors are turning to drones to increase their sales but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is warning these agents who fly their own drones are not engaging in the hobby or recreational flying.  This means if you are not commercially certified by the FAA and actively taking photo or videos to sell real estate you open yourself up to potential enforcement actions.  What are these enforcement actions?  It is not apparent what actions the FAA will initially take but several cease and desist letters have been issued to people and companies.  Some of these have been posted on  There has not been an official process on how the FAA will deal with illegal drone operators but it seems that fines will follow the cease and desist letter.

Is the FAA taking action?  Has anyone been fined?

Although there is not a large amount of legal action taken by the FAA, there are instances out there.  A man in Minnesota is being fined $55,000 for five separate violations at $11,000 each by the FAA.  A drone photography company by the name of SkyPan International Inc is the highest-profile enforcement action taken by the FAA in which they settled to pay $200,000  to settle the case.  In Seattle, a man who accidently knocked someone out with his drone has been given a 30-day jail sentence and fined $500.

What is the risk for me as a realtor?

  • The National Board of Realtors warned its members they could lose their real estate license if caught using the illegal footage. 
  • Hefty fines by the FAA
  • Potential jail time if someone is injured or property is damaged.


It appears the FAA is only dealing with “bigger fish” to create awareness that action could be taken from illegal drone activity.  This does not mean they will not come after realtors using illegal drone footage.  They simply just don’t have the manpower to investigate thousands of realtors.  If you are using your drone for real estate and aren’t certified at this point, now is your chance to become legal before there is a “crackdown” by the FAA.  For more information on becoming certified visit


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Last Modified: Tuesday 25 April 2017 17:55
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