Drone photo and video footage can add some cool and interesting views to real estate listings.  But to create them for real estate purposes, which is considered a commercial use, the person controlling the drone (the “Pilot in Command”) must be legal, which means they should have an FAA issued Remove Pilot certificate.  Failure to do so can mean fines as well as possible jail time. To get a certificate, you must pass the remote pilot knowledge test, which asks questions about airspace, weather, who qualifies, airport operations, emergency procedures and preflight/flight procedures, to name a few.

I just passed my test to get my remote pilot certificate, so I thought I would pass along my experience if you are interested.  I will say, I think it is a good idea that people have to go through this whole process, and in fact, I would almost suggest a hobbyist have to go though it as well, given the consequences of someone doing something stupid with another plane in the sky….but that is for another day.  I did learn a lot and have a good appreciation for why there is a need for this process.

Studying.  I started to read some different documents (like the Pilots Handbook), but could barely keep myself awake.  So I finally broke down and bought access to a video tutorial site.  I used these guys.  http://remotepilot101.com  Jason does a great job going through the material and emphasizing what is important and what is likely to be on the test.  It is $99 and well worth it because you will need to retake the test every 2 years and your initial purchase covers you for future years. After each section there are sample questions, that look very similar to the real test questions. There is a final exam at the end as well.  Here is my drone tutorial I created.  But to get the full effect you need to buy the video course and then you can understand what these are all about.

This is all I did.  I would suggest reading at least the summary to the Part 107 rules & regulations.  There are a few questions about eligibility.   Here are some helpful resources:

Taking the test.  You need to go to an official testing station to take the computer test.

  • Need to schedule the test first.  There is a list of testing centers below but I was told you have to call PSI to schedule it.  800-211-2754 – It costs $150.  They also said you need to be a member of www.aopa.org and you get $10 off if you are member too.  I signed up for the free student membership.  see the test centers here
  • The Test.  It was pretty much like the sample questions in the RemotePilot101.  They had some images as part of the questions.  Note…I was provided a test supplement, but I thought it was really more for a real pilot’s test as the lady also gave me some other measuring tools and she did not mention that the images ARE IN THE BOOK…so I did not even use it…but the images in the test questions ARE in the book, and this makes answering the questions a lot easier, as I could not really read some of the details on the computer.  So, while I did pass, I probably would have gotten at least 3 or 4 questions right had I just looked in the book!  It took me about 45 minutes. I answered most questions, I flagged a few and then went back through each question using the 1990’s style navigation…so you do have an opportunity to go revisit any question again.  When you are done, close out and the testing person gets your results, and then prints your certificate if you pass!

Getting the Remote Pilot License.  Register and then go through the process here iacra.faa.gov. Note – you need the Knowledge Test ID and this is not available until 48 hours after your test…I guess someone needs to put in a punch card or something into the old government computers…

I finalized my application at iacra.faa.gov.  The process was a little clunky, but it found my test and you digitally sign the documents. So, I believe at this point I am an official Drone Pilot!  Not that I will be doing a lot, but given I run the company I thought it would be good to have the knowledge and capability…and hey, I have to admit, it is fun (except when there is a fly away…which I did experience playing around at Weatherby Lake).  Remember the return to home button.

After a few days you can log back in and print off your temporary certificate!  You do not need to wait to fly to get yours in the mail.

One last thing I thought was funny.  One of the test questions involved my home town in Iowa – Onawa.  Population 3000.  What are the odds of that???  I thought it was destiny that I should become a Drone Pilot, aka DronebyCone.

Getting a Drone. I have looked at various ones.  I like the Phantom 3 Advanced.  It has a lot of good features with 2.7k video and 12 mp photos, and the key- a gimbal for the camera.  There is another version with 4K but I think for now that might be overkill.  The Phantom 4 is cool but not sure I need to spend that much for all of the other advanced stuff…maybe if you are flying indoors, it would be good to have as it does have avoidance sensors.  DJI also just came out with a smaller one this week, the Mavic..has collision sensors too.

Insurance.  To work with FloorPlanOnline, you need insurance. I would imagine the larger brokerages will require some kind of coverage as well.  I am investigating options, including a possibility to have an overall umbrella policy to cover all activities within our network. I was told this group www.modelaircraft.org comes with $2.5 million of liability insurance, but when you look at the details, it DOES NOT cover business pursuits.  So investigating other options.  I found an app called Verifly where you can buy insurance on demand for $10 for 1 hour within 1/2 mile radius of your flight.  So this might be a good option starting out.  I have read some other posts that insurance can run $800 to $1000 per year and one of our providers mentioned a renewal bill for $1500!  So, price accordingly!  Your break even on number of jobs at $10 each for insurance is 120 or so…

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Preflight Checklist.  As I am helping out as the PIC before our Seattle provider Christine gets certified, my first job was to be today.  Well, like a good certified PIC, I first checked the airspace, and low and behold, the area I was going to shoot in is a class D space that is controlled from the ground to 2500 feet!  So, I had to refresh myself on the process AND get approval from the Renton ATC.   Note…the new process is you have to submit an airspace authorization through the FAA’s website.  There is a small UAV button on the main page that takes you to this form https://www.faa.gov/uas/request_waiver/  you have to fill out IF you need airspace authorization. So I thought I would just include this in a checklist that could be used every time. See my Checklist.  Feel free to print it out or request a copy.

If the first item comes back you will be in a class G, then you can stop and go shoot after checking the Notams/weather, but otherwise, you need to get clearance.  It turns out a lot of high priced property (like all of Mercer Island, WA) is included in Class D airspace in the Seattle area as you can see.  The dashed blue line means Class D airspace and the [25] means it is from the surface to 2500 feet. So to fly in these areas you must get clearance to be legal.  It is a good idea to go to Skyvector and just look around the areas you normally will serve to get a feel for what kind of airspace you will be dealing with.  If we do a lot of Mercer Island stuff, it will become a pain in the butt fast having to call every time…and the 90 days in advance thing does not fly with real estate, so warn your clients of the possibility of reshoots!  But hey…we are being legal and I know I do not look good in an orange jump suit.

That is about it. I think there is lots of opportunity to provide some cool aerial images, videos and even expand the services of what we do and who we work with.  So get going, start studying and get your remote pilot license!

Cheers,

Kris Cone

Drone Pilot, FloorPlanOnline jack of all trades.