BEWARE of Unlicensed Drone Pilots

Aerial photo of Gaines Bend

Ignorance Is Not The Best Defense

It is almost common knowledge at this point that flying a drone for commercial purposes without a license is illegal. The biggest challenge is determining whether or not your purposes are commercial or hobby. As one man in Philidelphia found out, drone use, even if just used for a YouTube channel, must have a license. But did you know that if you hire an unlicensed pilot you could get fined up to 10X what the pilot is fined? The FAA won’t accept “I didn’t know” as an answer either.

What about my Real Estate Agent?

In today’s world, every agent knows that a stunning drone photo is almost paramount for getting buyers to come look at their listing. The real estate market at Possum Kingdom Lake emphasizes that even further. “You have to show them a view from the water, overhead, and to the water. Every angle matters.” But if you’re agent is doing it themselves in order to “save money” and they’re unlicensed, they’re putting you, the client, in the crosshairs. If an agent/pilot is investigated, they will go back and look at previous flights. That means that even if you get your home sold quickly you may still be at risk.

Why would an Agent risk it?

The simple answer, they probably don’t know. Everyone knows that you need it for commercial purposes, but many agents do not consider photos for a listing a commercial purpose. The FAA does not agree. Even if it’s below the weight restrictions for reporting the drone. Additionally, some agents have the mindset of “the FAA has bigger problems than finding me for taking photos.” Or they think that because they’re at PK, that the FAA doesn’t really care about rural flights. Again, not true. It is not a matter of IF the FAA inspects agents and pilots at PK, but WHEN. Recently, a volunteer firefighter in Graham was using his drone to help track a fire’s growth and spread. He was reported by someone who didn’t realize he was part of the fire team and ended up having to have a talk with the FAA about his flight.

How do I Protect Myself and Sell My Property?

There are plenty of ways to get around this. Primarily, you make sure that your agent, or whoever they hire to come take drone photos, is a Part 107 license holder. You can even ask them for a photo of their license. Many great agents at PK have licensed pilots that they use often, so this should be a simple photo for them to obtain. In some cases, the agent themselves are licensed,  Possum Kingdom Real Estate has two full time agents who are licensed drone pilots, (Matthew Renfro and Jonathan Fowler).

Protect Yourself. Protect Your Investments – Stay informed.

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Other Outside Links on the Topic

Forbes – FAA Has Busted Multiple Drone Flyers. Here Are The Expensive Results. (

Dronetelligence, LLC – The FAA Can Fine Realtors for Hiring non-Licensed Drone Operators — Dronetelligence, LLC (

Drone Academy – Hiring Unlicensed Drone ‘Pilots’ Can Result In Penalties – Drone Academy

Aerial photo of Gaines Bend


Photo of Matthew Renfro, Drone pilot and real estate agent.

Written and photographed by Matthew Renfro, all rights reserved.