Flying a Drone for Appraisal Use

The appraisal industry can benefit greatly from using a drone in practice. Whether it is a roof inspection, fly-over of a creek or a 360 degree panoramic view of the surrounding properties, a drone is an additional tool an appraiser can use. Satellite images can only be zoomed to a certain level before they begin to blur and distort. A drone can capture images up to 400 feet high. The current 4K cameras can take multiple images that can be processed into 2-dimensional orthomosaic maps or even 3-dimensional models. Properties can be accurately evaluated in different stages of construction. Topography can be almost precisely calculated and various aspects of land can be identified. The use of drones is such a new technology that uses are still being discovered.

One question that typically pops into your mind when you think about flying a drone is “Do I need permission from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to fly a drone?” The answer is NO, if you are flying for fun or recreation. However, if you decide to use a drone for real estate services you will need an AIRMAN CERTIFICATE with a SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM rating.

The new 107 rules came into effect on August 29, 2016, and have already had a positive impact on the unmanned vehicle industry. It is estimated that there will be approximately 1.3 million drone operators by 2020.

There are two ways to receive a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate of Authorization to fly a drone for commercial use. The easiest way is to already hold a part 61 pilot certificate basically, a current pilot’s license. Since most of the general public does not hold a Part 61 Pilot Certificate, they can demonstrate their understanding of all areas of knowledge by passing the FAA Unmanned Aeronautical General Knowledge Test and then completing a training class.

To be eligible for a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate you must be at least 16 years old, able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language, be in a physical and mental condition that would not interfere with the safe operation of the drone and fulfill training and testing requirements.

The knowledge test includes airspace classification, operating requirements, flight restrictions, aviation weather sources, radio communication procedures, effects of drugs and alcohol, aeronautical decision-making, judgment and general airport operations.

Once you pass the exam and complete a training class you will receive a certificate of completion and then be issued a temporary AIRMAN CERTIFICATE with a SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM rating. The certificate is only temporary until you have passed a Transportation Security Administration screening. There is no expiration on the certificate. The only additional requirement is that you pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.

Remember, you are not allowed to fly for commercial payment unless you have the AIRMAN CERTIFICATE. The FAA is in the process of developing punishments for various offenses ranging from a friendly phone call to a cease and desist letter. As the use of the technology continues to grow the punishments will be more defined. My suggestion is that if you meet the requirements take the test.  The worst case scenario is that you are 10 business days away from having a temporary AIRMAN CERTIFICATE which would allow you to fly a drone for commercial purposes.

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About Lamar H. Ellis III

Lamar H. Ellis III
Lamar H. Ellis, III is from Atlanta, Georgia and holds the prestigious MAI and SRA designations with the Appraisal Institute. He is also an approved instructor. Lamar was an early adopter of Drone Technology for real estate. He is a current holder of an FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot of Small UAS certificate. From the first day he became aware of drones he realized the impact on valuation and a way for appraisers to use it in their practices. He is a consultant, published author, speaker and blogger for drone technology and its applications to real estate.

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