How to Know if Your Realtor is Using Legal Drone Photos

Back in June I wrote a post about how I passed my FAA Part 107 test, and I’m now making legal drone photos.  Drone photos and video were another service we wanted to begin providing our sellers, but first I needed to be fully certified and obeying the law.  Although studying for the test was some work, it turned out that a lot of what I learned has made me a better and safer drone pilot.

Plus, U.S. law is clear: As of August 29, 2016, a Realtor or photographer must possess a Remote Pilot Certificate before they can legally use a drone to capture aerial photos or video that will be used to market your home.  It doesn’t matter if no money changes hands; the FAA clearly defines real estate photography as a “commercial purpose,” and even uses it as a key example of the difference between commercial and recreational flight.  The same would be true of roof inspectors flying their own drones; the key phrase used by the FAA in these situations is “in furtherance of a business.”

To add further clarity, the FAA actually defines “recreational” and “hobby” use:  “Recreational or hobby UAS use is flying for enjoyment and not for work, business purposes, or for compensation or hire.  In the FAA’s Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, the FAA relied on the ordinary, dictionary definition of these terms. UAS use for hobby is a ‘pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.’  UAS use for recreation is ‘refreshment of strength and spirits after work; a means of refreshment or division.’”  As far as the FAA is concerned, fun is fun and work is work.

So if a Realtor or photographer is about to take aerial photos or videos of your home, make sure they’re doing so legally and safely.  When flying a small UAS for commercial purposes (and that includes anything related to real estate), pilots here in the U.S. are required by law to have their Remote Pilot Certificate with them at all times.  Liability for unauthorized operations can fall on both the pilot and the person who hires the pilot.  The pilot would face a fine of $1,100 per violation, and the “person who causes the operation” could be liable for a fine of up to $11,000.

Repeat violators who still haven’t heard from the FAA shouldn’t relax just yet.  The most recent figures show an average of 151 days between the date of the first violation and the initial notice from the FAA.  That number ranged from 0 to 1,294 days.

So…  How can you be sure your Realtor or their photographer is complying with the law?  Other than asking to see their Remote Pilot Certificate before signing a listing contract, is there any way to check ahead of time?  As a matter of fact there is.

The FAA makes it easy to verify that someone is a licensed drone pilot—and also to verify other pilot or aircraft maintenance certifications.  Just click here to reach the FAA’s Airmen Inquiry Search Page.  (Sorry for the rather dated term that’s not quite gender-neutral.  That’s the official name of the page.)  The answer to your question is just a few clicks away.

Of course, being a licensed drone pilot is just the beginning.  Drone photography is still real photography.  This isn’t a job for your neighbor’s teenager who loves drones, phones, and video games.  It’s a job for a skilled real estate photographer who occasionally uses a camera that flies.  Just as with terrestrial photography, there’s more to this than just buying a camera and clicking a button.

Check out my gallery pages for examples of the stunning images that can make your home stand out from the crowd.  For more still, check out my wife’s blog and website over at  And for fun drone videos, check out her YouTube channel at Jean Hedren, Your NW Wisconsin Realtor.

Posted in Photography, Real Estate, Uncategorized

Beautiful Lake Home on the Eau Claire Chain of Lakes (Barnes, Wisconsin)

Last week I had fun photographing this beautiful home on the Eau Claire Chain of Lakes in Barnes, WI.  It’s on a quiet side channel of the route between Middle Eau Claire Lake and Lower Eau Claire Lake.

If you live here, you’ll enjoy an short pontoon ride to Middle Eau Claire Lake.   Smaller boats can travel downstream to and from Lower Eau Claire Lake by locking through a miniature lock-and-dam that’s one of our unique local attractions.    (Impatient paddlers can bypass the lock-and-dam with a quick portage up and over the road.)

It’s a great location, and the house itself is not bad, either.  For more, just scroll on down.


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House on 20 Acres Overlooking Pond Near Solon Springs, Wisconsin

Last week I had fun shooting this home for sale near Gordon and Solon Springs.  It’s on 20 acres bordering the pond that’s just visible in the background of this first photo.  Although the sky clouded over just before I began capturing drone stills and video, I had great late-afternoon light for most of the other photos.   Plus, the interior was freshly painted and tastefully decorated.  This house was indeed ready for its close-up.

For more, just scroll on down.  And don’t miss the bonus butterfly shot at the very end.

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Cabin With Spectacular Views on South Shore of Lake Superior (Port Wing, WI)

On Monday I had the pleasure of photographing this charming cabin on the south shore of Lake Superior.  I didn’t really mind laboring on Labor Day.  It was a fun shoot, the seller was delightful, and it was a great day on the greatest of the Great Lakes.  And by the time we finished up that afternoon, most of the tourists were already on their way home after the big holiday weekend.  So on our own return journey, we had the roads pretty much to ourselves.

All in all, it was a truly Superior experience.  (And did I mention that the cabin is on Lake Superior?)  For more photos, just scroll on down.

And finally, if you’d like to schedule a showing…   Just contact the listing agent at  Meanwhile, you can visit her blog and website at For videos of this and other spectacular properties, check out Jean’s YouTube channel at Jean Hedren, Your NW WI Realtor.


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Lake Home for Sale on Lower Eau Claire Lake (Gordon, WI)

This lake home I shot the other day has a huge two-level wraparound deck overlooking Lower Eau Claire Lake.  In addition to the spectacular view, it also has a great waterfront with a sand bottom that’s perfect for swimming.

I made sure to show that in my waterfront photos, and was also careful to feature the swim ladder prominently in one of my dock shots.  Better yet, the angle of the sun and the size of the waves combined to create lovely “sunny wavelet” patterns on the bottom.  It made for one of my favorite sandy bottom shots of the entire summer.

I should explain that these shots are like kidnappers’ “proof of life” photos.  You just have to have them.  Although vegetation, gravel, and even mud might make for better fishing, many buyers are willing to pay a premium for lake homes and cabins with good swimming right in their front yard.  So whenever I’m photographing a lake home or cabin with a sand bottom out front, I make sure and get what I call the “sandy bottom shot.”

Sometimes that means crawling around on the dock and stretching over the edge to get just the right angle. So far neither I nor my camera have fallen in while doing this.  It may look odd if anyone’s watching, but the results are worth it.

For more, just scroll on down.  And at the very end…  Just about my favorite sandy bottom shot of the summer.  (So far, at least.  Let’s not rush things.  The summer isn’t over yet….)

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Life’s a Beach at This Home For Sale on Upper Eau Claire Lake

At this house on Upper Eau Claire Lake, your own private beach begins the moment you step off your front porch.  You can’t see much of this front yard from the air, but those tall pines mean your beach will have a little shade on warm summer afternoons.  (Plus, the lake is only a few steps away if you need a quick dip to cool off even more.)  And the view of the lake from the house is still spectacular.  For more, just scroll on down.

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Beautiful Waterfront Home for Sale on Nelson Lake (Hayward, WI)

The other day I had fun shooting this luxury lake home on Nelson Lake near Hayward, Wisconsin.  Above: a pretty good great room.  Next: a sunny sun porch.  In that photo, the sign above the window pretty much tells the story.  “By the Lake.”  Yes.  By the Lake.  For more, just scroll on down.


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