FAA OKs Aerial Photos for Arizona REALTOR®

An Arizona REALTOR® has received the Federal Aviation Administration’s go-ahead to use a drone to capture aerial photographs of listings, as long as he follows regulations set out by the FAA, the first such permission granted to a real estate industry member.

Douglas Trudeau, an associate broker with Tierra Antigua Realty in Tucson, Ariz., will need to acquire a private pilot’s license and medical certification before his camera-equipped unmanned aircraft vehicle, a Phantom 2 Vision+ quadcopter made by DJI, which has North American headquarters in Los Angeles.

He must also obtain Certificates of Waiver or Authorization and agreed to abide by a number of operating conditions, including:

  • Operating his device below 300 feet and within a radius of 1,000 feet to aid in direct line of sight;
  • Operating for between 3 and 7 minutes per flight;
  • Using the device’s GPS module to let the drone land slowly if communication with his controller is interrupted;
  • Conducting all operations under safety protocols, including posting signs warning, “Attention Aerial Photography in Progress – Remain Back 150 feet”;
  • Contacting airports within 5 miles to advise them of details of his flight and obtaining permission before operating the device; and
  • Having procedures in place to abort flights in the event of safety issues or danger.

Trudeau told ABC News that he expects to include aerial photos as a free component of his listings. “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.”

The National Association of REALTORS® released a statement saying, “The FAA has taken a positive step by approving a REALTOR®’s application for an exemption to fly a UAV for commercial purposes. Images captured using UAV technology will provide residential and commercial property buyers with more information and visual insights than they’ve ever had before. NAR looks forward to the release of the FAA’s proposed regulations for UAVs, but in the meantime, the exemption process is a way for REALTORS® to take advantage of the new technology. We are now compiling resources for our members who might want to apply for the Section 333 exemption so that they can legally use UAVs for their real estate businesses. NAR will continue to educate our members about new technology and innovation that can enhance the experience of buying and selling real estate.” NAR has been working with other groups and the FAA to work out rules and procedures for commercial UAS use.

Trudeau’s exemption expires on January 31, 2017, “unless sooner superseded or rescinded,” according to the FAA’s 26-page document (PDF).

Sources: “Why This Guy in Arizona Can Fly a Drone And You Can’t,” ABC News, and “Arizona Realtor® cleared to use drone to show homes,” HousingWire (Jan. 7, 2015)

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