Real Estate Agents Guide To Drones

Before you fly a drone, make sure you read this guide.

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Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are revolutionising a number of industries in Australia including mining, agriculture and aerial surveying. Another industry that’s getting in on the action is the real estate industry, where drone use has allowed real estate agents to show off their properties to potential buyers like never before.

Why should real estate agents consider using drones?

Drone photography and videography offers a number of advantages to real estate agents over traditional methods including;

  • Time-saving. Large properties can be covered in detail in a relatively short space of time using a drone with a camera, which can also capture highly-unusual views of the property that traditional photography simply can’t get.
  • All-encompassing. Aerial photography from a drone allows a potential buyer to see a property in its entirety and in context with the surrounding area (ie, showing its proximity to amenities, coastline, major arterials etc).
  • Forward-thinking. Real estate agents who are able to offer such a unique perspective to their buyers are seen as progressive, professional and ahead of the pack.
  • Social media-friendly. With buyers nowadays preferring to shop online first for real estate, the ability to show a property from every angle from the comfort of one’s mobile device is a definite draw card.

CASA's 2016 changes

Prior to September 2016, only a drone pilot with a UAV Controllers Certificate was allowed to operate a drone for commercial purposes such as photography. The company they owned or worked for had to have a UAV Operators Certificate.

This meant that Australian air space was still strictly controlled regardless of the type or size of aircraft being used, carrying penalties of up to $8,500 for unlicensed activities.

However, in September 2016, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) decided that these regulations were too severe and the laws were changed to allow anyone to pilot a drone weighing under 2kg for commercial purposes without requiring a licence.

Operators still need to abide by certain restrictions such as notifying CASA whenever they planned to fly, only flying during daylight hours at less than 120m from the ground and not flying within 30m of people or within 5.5km of an airfield or helipad.

Essentially this means that anyone can now take aerial photography, so real estate agents can access drone technology at a much more affordable level and even attempt it themselves if they so desired.

Things to focus on when taking photos

Unfortunately, an increase in unlicensed drone operators does not necessarily equate to an improved level of photography and videography. Before engaging the services of an unlicensed operator, you should consider the following drone law implications:

  • Image quality. A drone weighing under 2kg cannot support a professional-grade camera such as an SLR or the accessories needed for quality photography, so image quality will be much lower.
  • Restricted flying. Unlicensed drone operators are prohibited from flying at night, or even at dawn or dusk when some of the best photographic opportunities present themselves. They also can’t fly near people or controlled air spaces. However, licensed operators have no restrictions in these areas providing they obtain permission beforehand from CASA and the relevant authorities.
  • Insurance. An unlicensed drone operator will not have public liability insurance (which is only available to licensed operators). So if a neighbouring property owner sues for invasion of privacy when your drone captures something it shouldn’t have, or it malfunctions and crashes injuring people or damaging property, it could turn out to be a very expensive exercise indeed.

So, using a licensed drone pilot for your aerial photography and videography projects makes sound business sense from a business insurance perspective. You can find an up-to-date list of licensed UAV operators on CASA’s website.

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