What Are the Rewards, Rules and Risks of Flying Your Own Drone for Real Estate Photography?

The FAA recently announced that total drone registration in the United States has passed one million drones!

The million drone registrations are NOT the total number of drones since many registered drone users own multiple drones. Estimates are that the number of drones in the US exceeds 5,000,000!

Drone users are identified as being “hobbyists” or “commercial users.” The FAA has deemed that real estate photography is a “commercial use.” It is estimated that real estate photography accounts for 22% of drone use!

Drones are the perfect tool to capture breathtaking videos and still photography for your listings. The question is:  Should you fly your own drone for real estate photography?

To begin with, it’s fun to fly a drone! For less than $1,000 you can own a quality drone that could pay for itself very quickly.

To fly a drone for commercial use, you MUST have an FAA-issued “Remote Pilot Certificate” — commonly called a “107,” referring to the part of the FAA regulations that govern drones.


To become an FAA “Unmanned Aircraft System” or Drone Pilot, you must:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Be able to read, speak, and write in English
  • Be in a physical and mental condition to safely operate the aircraft
  • Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam at an FAA-approved testing center


As a former Navy pilot and licensed commercial instrument rated pilot, I can tell you that the written test for your Part 107 drone pilot license covers most of the same technical points as does the written test to become a civilian airplane pilot. It is NOT a simple test!

Flying a drone for real estate photography without a Part 107 drone pilot license by a licensed real estate agent is a clear commercial use and is illegal.

Does the FAA chase down real estate agents and prosecute for illegal flight activity? No, and they do not need to since the FAA makes it easy to report illegal or dangerous flight activity at

If reported for illegal drone activities, you will most likely be given a warning unless the activity is considered dangerous.

If your illegal drone activity causes property damage or bodily injury to others, things go bad very quickly. The illegal drone pilot seeking insurance coverage to cover the cost of damages or injury finds they are in a situation much like when a meth-head blows up his home while cooking meth! Insurance claims made while performing illegal acts are difficult to collect on!

The same risks can come your way if you are hiring or referring photographers or home inspectors who are not licensed for commercial use of their drones. This situation is much like hiring unlicensed contractors to do home repairs; it is what’s commonly referred to as, “aiding and abetting unlicensed activity.” Not good!

Want to learn more about becoming a licensed drone pilot or how to confirm that you are hiring a licensed pilot for your photography or home inspection?… Call Residential Inspector of America at (904) 590-1306 to schedule a presentation for your next sales meeting!

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