It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s … a REALTY DRONE!?

You might be asking yourself, “What is a realty drone?” It’s only the newest and hottest item in some REALTORS®’ arsenal! Drones — the official term is unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) — were once solely associated with military applications but today they are being used all around us. Companies such as Amazon and Google are even experimenting with drones that will deliver your latest online purchase to your doorstep.

REALTORS® are also seeing the potential in the added services drones can help offer their clients. From encompassing aerial views of properties that unveil entire neighbourhoods with proximity to amenities and local developments, to indoor fly-throughs that give internal 360 views, drones have the ability to change how real estate is showcased.

However, there is an added complication: Transport Canada and its regulations.

As is the case with many new technologies, drone use is advancing faster than the law. While few regulations apply to recreational use, commercial application of drones is subject to more stringent regulations.

Under current regulations, to operate a drone for a commercial purpose, one must obtain a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada. It can take up to 20 days to get the SFOC and an operator has to provide details of how and where the drone will be flown and get approvals for flying in urban centres.

However, since November 2014, commercial applications of drones under 25 kg have had slightly less onerous requirements because Transport Canada introduced two commercial exemptions (valid until December 2016), reducing SFOC requirements for drones operating within specific conditions. However, both these exemptions have a requirement that drones must be flown “five nautical miles (or nine kilometers) away from a built-up area.” This can include houses, factories, plazas, service stations, grain elevators, apartment buildings or airports. It would be quite difficult for REALTORS® or their photographers to satisfy this requirement in their commercial activities unless they were taking pictures and/or video of a remote property such as a farm.

In any case, change is on the horizon. Transport Canada is in the midst of carrying out public consultations that could replace – and in some cases even simplify – the current regulations as early as next year. Some of the regulatory changes being considered include new rules that would consider how a drone is used, aircraft marking and registration, licensing and training, minimum age limits and pilot permits.

The proposed changes will likely be the first of many as realty drones of the future flirt with super-human abilities like thermal imaging, telescopic vision, super speed and enhanced hearing. Combined with their stealth and ability to fly, REALTORS® know the implications and applications for the real estate industry are limitless as the technology reaches new heights.

Need to showcase a property of the future? That looks like a job for REALTY DRONE! Up, up and away!

The article above is for information purposes and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

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Dil Puar

Dil Puar, Law Clerk, provides ancillary support to CREA’s lawyers on a wide-range of issues including DDF® and trademark enforcement, researching and analyzing federal legislation and special research projects/ surveys for the Board of Directors or committees. Before joining CREA, Dil worked on Parliament Hill as a Special Advisor. He enjoys playing sports – volleyball, floor hockey and softball – as well camping and spending time outdoors.


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