Friday, January 9, 2015

Real Estate Agent Successfully Obtains Permission to Use Drone for Aerial Photography

Want to use a drone to capture aerial photos of your listings? Douglas Trudeau of Tierra Antigua Realty in Tuscon Arizona has become the first Real Estate Agent permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use a drone in connection with real estate brokerage.

As you may recall, a previous Lieb at Law Blog discussed the FAA rules which requires all sorts of licenses, certificates and flight plans in connection with "commercial" drone flights.  In that blog, we explained that the FAA specifically targeted real estate agents using drones to take aerial photos as an example of regulated commercial flight.  Remember, we are talking about two to three pound quadcopters, not full sized aircraft here.

Douglas Trudeau has waded through the tiresome process of obtaining the necessary approvals for such a commercial flight and amount of red tape is undeniably absurd. First, Mr. Trudeau had to petition the FAA for an exemption.  The FAA's response is a daunting twenty-six page analysis of the various rules, statutes and regulations which much be examined and excused prior to permitting Mr. Trudeau to use his drone.  Read the FAA's response for yourself here.

In granting Mr. Trudeau an exemption, the FAA analyzed each of the following factors:
  1. The type of aircraft used, including: size, speed, payload and weight;
  2. The qualifications of the pilot (Mr. Trudeau has a private pilot's certificate, but not a commercial license);
  3. The operating parameters of the anticipated flights, including: height, duration, range, tracking, interference with regulated airspace, and emergency contingency planning; and
  4. Public Interest
After deciding that it was as basically harmless for Mr. Trudeau to fly a toy, the FAA granted the exemption with a measly thirty-three conditions and limitations on his flights, including the following:
  1. The drone must remain in Mr. Trudeau's unassisted vision at all times;
  2. Mr. Trudeau must utilize a visual observer who also must maintain unassisted vision of the drone at all time;
  3. Mr. Trudeau, as the pilot, must maintain a private pilot certificate and at least a third-class medical certificate;
  4. Mr. Trudeau, before operating the drone to take photos, must log a minimum of twenty-five hours of flight time with a drone and at least five hours with the specific drone he is going to use for the flight.
  5. Prior to any commercial operation, Mr. Trudeau must have successfully executed at least three take-off and landings with the drone within the past ninety days;
  6. No night flights;
  7. Not within 500 feet below or 2,000 feet horizontally from a cloud;
  8. Mr. Trudeau must obtain an Air Traffic Organization issued Certificate of Waiver or Authorization prior to any operation and must request a Notice of Airman not more than seventy-two hours in advance, but not less than forty-eight hours prior to any operation; and
  9. Flights cannot take place within 500 feet of non-participating persons, vessels, vehicle or structures unless it will be "safe" for those non-participants;
Here's to hoping that the FAA changes its stance on small drone operations because the current process is cumbersome, to say the least.