Arizona Realtor cleared to use drone to show homes

FAA grants first exemption for real estate photography

Here's the latest buzz in the real estate space.

An Arizona Realtor claimes he is the first to gain authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration to use an unmanned aircraft system, also called a drone, for real estate photography.

Under current FAA regulations, drones are prohibited for commercial purposes, but Douglas Trudeau, a Tuscon-based Realtor, petitioned the FAA to allow the use of a “Phantom 2 Vision + quadcopter” to take pictures and video of listings.

The FAA considered his request and granted Trudeau an exemption, making him the first to be allowed to use a drone for real estate photography.

“Mr. Trudeau’s exemption authorizes him to fly a Phantom 2 Vision + quadcopter to enhance academic community awareness and augment real estate listing videos,” the FAA said in a statement.

In September, the National Association of Realtors sent a letter to the FAA requesting an exemption from the FAA’s drone usage rules because their motives would not affect public safety.

"Realtors are showing tremendous interest and enthusiasm for new drone technologies that could help them market listings in an efficient and environmentally sensible manner," NAR said in an emailed statement at the time.

“While safety and privacy concerns presented by unmanned aerial vehicle technology are NAR’s primary concerns, our members are also concerned about current FAA policy that prohibits any commercial use of this technology and hinders the growth of many industries.”

According to an article from ABC News, Trudeau applied for a personal exemption in July of 2014, with the help of an attorney.

Now that he is approved to use his UAV, Trudeau told ABC News that he doesn’t plan to charge his clients more for aerial imagery captured using the UAV.

From the ABC News article:

"For $1 million homes, people can spend $5,000 or $10,000 for aerial photography, but for someone with a $200,000 home, they're not going to spend that much," he said. "I can do it as part of my service and not charge anything additional."

Trudeau isn’t free to use his UAV whenever he pleases though.

“(Trudeau) also must obtain a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization that ensures the airspace for their proposed operations is safe, and that they have taken proper steps to see and avoid other aircraft,” the FAA said. “In addition, the COAs will mandate flight rules and timely reporting of any accident or incidents.”

Additionally, the FAA lists the following stipulations for operation of the UAV. Trudeau must:

  • Operate the UAV below 300 feet and within a radius distance of 1000 feet from the controller to both aid in direct line of sight visual observation
  • Operate the UAV for 3-7 minutes per flight
  • Conduct all operations under his own personal and flight safety protocols (including posting a warning sign reading: “Attention Aerial Photography in Progress – Remain Back 150 feet”) contained in the operating documents and will actively analyze flight data and other sources of information to constantly update and enhance his safety protocols
  • Contact respective airports if operations will be within 5 miles to advise them of his estimated flight time, flight duration, elevation of flight and other pertinent information
  • Have procedures in place to abort flights in the event of safety breaches or potential danger

Trudeau’s exemption lasts until Jan. 31, 2017, “unless sooner superseded or rescinded,” the FAA said.

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