Drone Rules: What Homeowners Need to Know

Posted at 5:45 AM, Oct 13, 2015
and last updated 2016-07-04 11:56:58-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – or drones – are everywhere these days. Ever since the FAA started granting exemptions for commercial use last year, more and more contractors have been using them in their work. But if someone uses one at your home or business and something goes wrong, you could be liable. Here's more in this Angie's List report.

David Beaudin has been inspecting homes and buildings with his lightweight drone for more than a year. He says it helps him get a great view of rooftops he wouldn't otherwise have. But the FAA recently grounded his craft because businesses can't fly them without a special exemption.

"Many of them think as long as they're not charging you for actually using the drone that they're allowed to do it without proper authorization from the FAA, but that's not the case. If someone's going to use one on your property, be sure to ask for their authorization and exemption from the FAA," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

Beaudin plans to file for his exemption, but the approval process could take up to four months.

"I want to find out what it's going to take to operate legally. I don't want to operate outside of the law. I want to be 100 percent good, and be able to sleep at night and not worry about odd letters coming to me out of the blue," said Beaudin, a home & building inspector. "I think their "one-size fits all" isn't working and it's really going to hold back something that could help people."

Many other inspectors, aerial photographers and real estate agents are using the new technology – some legally, some not.  The legal ones are happy to see the FAA cracking down.

"I think the best part about it is that it forces an operator to think through all of the things that they really need to be doing to operate safely," said aerial photographer Derek Hammer.

Meanwhile, homeowners should also be concerned about liability in case the drone crashes through a window or even falls on someone.

"I think there's some notion among some folks that just because it's an unmanned system that there's no danger involved and that, because I'm not a pilot that's flying in my aircraft, I can't be hurt, and quite to the contrary," said Hammer.

 Drone experts say the vehicles will help generate more than 100,000 jobs in the next 10 years as it grows toward being a $100 billion industry. The FAA is expected to issue new regulations in the near future, which will supersede the exemptions currently being granted.

Remember you can catch the latest Angie's List report every Tuesday morning on WTXL Sunrise.