Let’s fly away: Using a drone in real estate

REALTORS® and their clients across the country are using remotely piloted drones to take aerial photos and videos of real estate, survey land, manage property, monitor heat loss in buildings, inspect the status of construction projects and more. If you are using the services of a drone pilot or want to operate a drone yourself, do you know the rules about how to register and use them?

The Federal Aviation Agency regulates safety issues relating to drones as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and requires drones that are used for these and other commercial purposes to be registered.  Register a drone here.

The FAA treats drones used for commercial purposes differently from drones used as a hobby. See the FAA’s website for tips on getting started.  You can apply for a license from the FAA to pilot a drone here.

If you’re planning on using a drone, follow the  rules:

  • Federal
  • Rhode Island: Rhode Island law allows only state government and the Airport Corporation to regulate drones.

Also, encrypt your data. Photos, videos, GPS coordinates, and other data gathered by drones can be hacked or spoofed.

Finally, limit your liability. As drones become more popular, expect more challenges about invasion of privacy and voyeurism, trespassing on others’ property, and accidents caused by flying a drone too close to airplanes, cars and people. Check with your insurance agent to see whether your drone is covered under your liability policy.

Questions? Contact the RIAR Legal Department at 401-432-6945 or email

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