The use of drones, or small unmanned aircraft systems, for real estate photography is becoming increasingly popular. It can provide unique angles and give buyer’s a better perspective of the property and surrounding area. The benefit is the greatest for waterfront homes, natural surroundings, large properties, and acreage. Home inspectors are also using drone photography to inspect taller buildings and roofs.

    Anyone can buy a drone, but it must be registered with the FAA, even if it used for hobby purposes only. If a drone is going to be used for any commercial purpose, including real estate photography, the drone pilot must have an Airman Certificate from the FAA. 

  Operating a drone is quite complex for a beginner, as it involves the drone, camera, batteries, a smart phone or iPad, the controller, and other miscellaneous parts. The pilot must be able to control the movement of the drone, see it all times, take photographs or videos, and be able to land it. 

  The training and testing for the Airman Certificate is for air safety and does not include training for drone operations. I worked with a pilot instructor at the Rush City Airport for my Airman Certificate. My sons taught me how to maneuver the drone, from their years of video gaming, I mastered the landing, and I was already an experienced photographer.

  There are many rules such as not flying over people, pets, or stadiums, staying at least 5 miles away from airports, unless air-traffic control provides permission, not flying over national parks or nature preserves, flying under 400’ and less than 1 mile away during daylight hours.

  When photographing a property, the pilot should be respectful of the neighbor’s privacy. Some neighbors are curious when they hear the buzzing of the drone and want to observe, but they must do so from a distance.  

  Drone photography is just one type of real estate marketing. A professional real estate agent can discuss the best marketing methods for selling your home.  

Ask the Real Estate Agent is a weekly column by Cheryl Kempenich of Coldwell Banker Burnet, who lives and offices in the Chisago Lakes Area. Submit your questions to All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For legal assistance consult an attorney.