The Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday that it will expand its tests on the use of UAVs – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles systems or commonly referred to as "drones" -- for commercial purposes. FAA's studies will include tests over the safety of flights taking place over urban areas and over distances farther than the pilot can see.

FAA's latest announcement has been viewed by industry advocates, who have been awaiting to use UAVs, as a possible sign of greater openness by the FAA in permitting commercial use of drones.

The National Association of REALTORS® released a statement calling FAA's latest UAV announcement and initiatives "good for real estate" and it’s move could pave the way for greater use of UAVs in the future by real estate professionals in capture aerial photos and videos of their listings.

Access NAR's resource page at REALTOR.org for the latest UAV usage in real estate.

"REALTORS® believe that images gathered by unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, can enhance the experience of buying and selling real estate," Chris Polychron, NAR's president, said in a statement. "The FAA's intention to study the safety of UAV flights that go beyond the line of sight of the operator could lead to important benefits in the real estate industry, particularly for agents who wish to market rural and large commercial properties."

However, for now, NAR continues to caution its members against the use of UAVs to capture aerial photos and videos of listings until the FAA issues its long-awaited final guidelines on flight permissions.  

Drones in Real Estate

FAA Takes Big Step Toward Allowing Drones

NAR Takes a Seat in FAA's Drone Talks

FAA Issues Drone Warning Again to Real Estate

The FAA's latest announcement to expand its research into UAVs follows more than 4,500 public comments it fielded in response to proposed guidelines on UAVs that came out in February. In February, the FAA proposed rules on the use of UAVs, such as limiting its use to those who receive certification for flying as well as providing guidance on the speed, height, and times of day which they can fly. The FAA's guidelines on UAVs aren't expected to be final until late 2016.

Industry critics have been urging the FAA to expand its permissions' scope for flights, such as permitting flights that are farther distances out of sight of pilots, flights at night, longer range flights in busier areas, as well as flights under automated instructions.

"Integrating unmanned aircraft into our airspace is a big job, but it's one the FAA is determined to get right," agency administrator Michael Huerta told the Unmanned Systems 2015 conference in Atlanta sponsored by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. "We anticipate receiving valuable data from each of these trials that could result in FAA-approved operations in the new few years."

NAR has developed a resource page at REALTOR.org that covers the latest UAV usage in real estate. NAR has been serving on an ongoing workgroup with FAA to address to the use of UAVs.

"NAR continues to advocate for federal regulations that allow for the real estate industry's safe commercial use of UAV technology while also protecting privacy rights," Polychron says.

Source: "FAA Studies Drones Flying Over Urban Areas," USA Today (May 6, 2015) and "FAA Works with CNN, BNSF to Study Drone Flights," The Wall Street Journal (May 6, 2015)