Realtors Liable for $11,000 FAA fines for Hiring Unlicensed Drone Operators

Come on... Make my day! We all know that famous Dirty Harry line. Well, that's what the FAA is telling real estate agents with their new drone regulations. It's been a long time, those long awaited rules that give us all the freedom we want to use these new toys to sell our listings.

We want this view for our listing and love how beautiful it looks and shows the surrounding area. I can get Jimmy to do this for me. He knows me and has a drone. I can throw him a few dollars. Or I have my own drone that I can use. I am sure it will be ok as I do it all the time.

We can come up with all kinds of excuses, but we don’t usually take the time to learn the rules and regulations that governments impose on us, trying to control our lives, forcing us to walk like sheep at their own pace. So let me help you figure it out. I belong to several major groups of professional photographers in the US and around the world, many of whom are licensed pilots and drone operators. We have been discussing and sharing news, information and ideas over the years.

“As an update, the FAA confirmed in writing the penalties that may apply. For an unlicensed pilot, the fine is $1,100 per event/flight where the images are used commercially. Perhaps more importantly, the fine for the real estate agent who hired unlicensed pilot is $11,000 Of course, if you’re an agent who bought the drone and took the photo or video yourself, you’ll be liable for both fines.

Let me put it in simple terms for you. Whenever you take “Jimmy” (a kid from a local high school) with you to shoot “commercial” (that’s you) drones, he is subject to a $1,100 fine and you are subject to a $11,000 fine. So, what’s worse, you’re giving them evidence just by posting those photos on the MLS.    

All you need is a competitor to sue you. We all know that this never happens. None of you have ever received an anonymous complaint sent to the board of real estate agents about any advertisement or website that unknowingly slightly broke the rules. That never happens, does it?  

Did you know that if you fly any of these drones within 5 miles of the airport perimeter, you must call the control tower and give them all the information (be prepared to get your drone license ready when you talk to them, by the way)? 

Licensed drone operators are insured and provide reasonable service. Use them when it makes sense. Hire only legal, safe, insured, licensed and authorized operators. 

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