Drones – the Appraiser’s Next Great Tool

The following is a guest post by Greg B. Mays.

After years of consideration, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finally published rules on how to integrate drones safely into the National Airspace System (NAS). There is now an easy to understand system and set of rules which anyone flying a drone must follow. This booming and exciting new technology is making its debut in many different fields of commerce and real estate is no exception. An interesting question arises from all of this. Should real estate appraisers consider using this technology when appraising real estate? The simple answer is, absolutely.


(aerial drone)

It’s been a long time since a new technology, other than software and gadgets that can measure and take notes in the field, has been available to us and I find it very exciting.

Our office has utilized aerial photographs in an appraisal on more than several occasions. Here are some examples: pictures of a new roof system installed on an older improvement; large acreage tracts that the client wanted in order to know more about forestation and topography; proximity to surrounding properties or features such as rivers, lakes, commercial buildings, and power lines – just to name a few. This bird’s eye view can provide the client with a much better idea of the neighborhood surrounding a property and physical characteristics of the property itself. To coin a phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”


(birds-eye view of a property taken by aerial drone)

While the ability to fly a drone for commercial use cannot be learned overnight, no longer are commercial drone operators required to hold a pilot’s license that is expensive and time consuming to obtain. Any interested appraiser should look at the FAA’s website. I can’t stress enough doing this the right way. It is important to not think of a drone as a flying camera but as an aircraft requiring knowledge and certifications to fly.

Until we have cars that are driving themselves while you write your report this is as good as it gets.

 Greg B. Mays is the owner and operator of Flying Fish Aerial Photography, LLC. He has been a licensed drone operator since 2015 and a REALTOR® Appraiser for over 25 years.


  1. Thanks for the post. In the UK in particular we are starting to see some agents dismiss the idea and advantage of drones outright; whilst others embrace it and allow themselves to stand out from the crowd.

    The best examples I have seen are used to show the position of the home in relation to the local area.
    Perfect for anyone interested in the property who isn’t familiar with the area.

  2. Dennis McMillen

    Yep here comes something else for scope creep. Will now be required to make aerial video by Fannie Mae for no more additional fee.

  3. Drones for appraisers will be wonderful, especially for viewing all of a large acreage tract of land. Land values can vary in so many ways based on type of soil, water, ect. This will allow them to view property as a whole – even where they can not reach by foot.
    Tamra Provines Realtor
    Smith & Co Auction & Realty
    Woodward, OK

  4. Appraisers, home inspectors and realtors must take advantage of drones.
    Amazing technology

  5. Very well written article. Thank you for the information. I will keep this in mind when speaking with appraisers.

  6. A lot of realtors are using drones now!

  7. Clearly, this a possible solution to a friend’s concern. His estate is surrounded with thick forrest and its a challenge to inspect and assess its real value. This tech can really be used by estate planners http://estateplanaz.com/ in estimating the real value of an estate.