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Unmanned drone technology has decreased in price recently and become more user friendly leading many with no flying experience to take to the skies for fun, and even for profit.  As the New York Times reported recently, radio controlled model helicopters and aircraft are now being deployed by real estate agents and brokers to provide potential home buyers with a bird’s eye view of the house of their dreams.

But if you are a real estate broker responsible for a team of sales associates there is good reason to pick up the phone and call your insurance agent before you order the latest model unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from Team BlackSheep.  The reason is that personal injuries and property damage are probably not covered under your brokerage’s errors and omissions (E&O) policy.

A real estate professionals E&O policy is not designed to protect agents with poor flying skills or an agency whose drone malfunctions and crashes through the backyard greenhouse, carves a hole in the sunny breakfast nook, or worst of all, slices off the right ear of a potential buyer your associate/pilot didn’t see up there on the roof deck.

Real estate E&O policies typically exclude coverage for bodily injuries or property damage of the sort that drones inflict. Furthermore, drone use, especially for commercial purposes, may be prohibited by FAA regulations, and most E&O policies don’t cover the steep fines that FAA could assess against you once the details of an unfortunate accident come to light.

So, no matter how skilled a flyer your real estate agent may be, there is good reason to leave aerial photography to the pros.  Professional photographers and videographers generally carry insurance that does cover the risks associated with their business, and are typically skilled at their job and therefore unlikely to damage or injure your seller or potential buyer.

Furthermore, as the latest RedFin study again confirmed, professional listing photos taken by professional photographers sell homes for more money.  Since many aerial photographers take interior photos as well, it may be less expensive and more effective to hire a professional for all your real estate photography needs.

We routinely work with members of Real Estate Photographers of America & International and the Association of Independent Architectural Photographers and recommend them highly.  Another great resource for real estate photography and the use of UAVs is the Photography for Real Estate blog.

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Joel B. Rothman represents clients in intellectual property infringement litigation involving patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, defamation, trade libel, unfair competition, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and commercial matters. Joel’s litigation practice also includes significant focus on electronic discovery issues such as e-discovery management and motion practice relating to e-discovery.