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Up in the Air?

Goodwin Drone
There has been discussion lately (and some enthusiasm) about the use of drones to photograph and video real estate properties for sale. According to Wikipedia, a drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) without a human pilot on board. Its flight is controlled either autonomously by computers in the vehicle, or under the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle. As recently as January of 2012, drones were said to violate Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules and were banned from U.S. public airspace. However, the FAA was instructed by Congress late last year to open the nation's airspace to routine commercial drone use and the FAA is in charge of issuing permits for drones that operate at 400 feet or higher.

The FAA says drones that operate below 400 feet are subject to the same rules that govern model aircraft. Those rules essentially say the drones cannot be flown near populated areas, must stay within eyesight of the user, and cannot be used for commercial purposes; at least until the rules are finalized, which is not expected until 2015. With real estate agents and journalists using drones, it appears those rules are being put to the test. An FAA spokesman said the agency "has investigated operations that appear to be commercial in nature,” and at least one drone photography business has been shut down.

Outside the U.S., some photographers are legally making a living by utilizing drones for real-estate photography. Accredited Australian drone photographer Saul Goodwin is considered a pioneer in real estate drone photography. He uses an I-Phone app to setup interval shots on his drone.

Saul Goodwin2
While aerial photography can be quite pricey, drone photography is considerably less expensive. The drones themselves are extremely versatile, and can go out in almost any weather. Though high-flying drone photography may set Realtors’ marketing apart from their competition, it remains to be seen what guidelines for their use will be authorized by the FAA and if this practice will “upset” affluent consumers and communities, who feel that drones create privacy issues.

Saul Goodwin
The FAA is still currently debating drone regulations and privacy concerns. How do you think drones may impact the real estate market if allowed for commercial use?

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