Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, are growing in popularity. Originally developed for military use, drones can be used to survey crops, deliver products, or explore Mars. Currently, commercial use of drones is prohibited by the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), but several companies are applying for exemption to that rule.
Tuscon Realtor Douglas Trudeau acquired his exemption earlier this month, though he initially applied for it in July of 2014. Trudeau intends to use his drone for real estate photography, attempting to provide more information about homes to potential buyers. Of course, as with any government regulation, there are conditions to Trudeau’s use of the drone. Each flight must have a pilot and an observer, and Trudeau and anyone he hires to fly the drone must obtain private pilot’s licenses. The drone may only be operated for three to seven minutes at a time, at an altitude below 300 feet, and within his direct line of sight. If Trudeau plans to fly within five miles of an airport, he must notify the airport ahead of time.
“People often use drones to advertise the property a little more completely and comprehensively than they could in the past. The use is more cost effective; you don’t have to go out and hire a helicopter,” said Brian Haggerty of Haggerty Real Estate Services located in Southern Florida. “These days, many bigger firms are using them as a recruiting incentive to hire more Realtors for their firm to send the message that they are tech-savvy.”
Bryan Smith, executive producer of 8th Avenue Studios, which uses drones to make luxury real estate videos, has no intention of applying for an exemption from the FAA. He also stated that he does not intend to stop flying his drones.
“Right now, the waters are a bit murky,” Smith told the Palm Beach Post. “My philosophy is I don’t need any sort of permit or special use paperwork with the FAA to use a 100-foot crane to execute a shot and I don’t feel that I need to do anything special to have my drone go up 100 feet.”
The FAA states that, as of January 6th, 2015, it has received 214 requests for exemptions. At the time of this writing, they had granted 14, including Trudeau’s. Part of the problem is that commercial drone use is still widely unregulated. The FAA had expected to release proposed rules for the use of small drones (under 55 lb.) by the end of 2014, but have not yet done so.
It would appear that final regulations for drone use are still far from being realized. Until then, companies may keep applying for exemptions, and if they are very lucky, their request might just get approved.