FAA Approves First Real Estate Drone Permit in Tucson

The topic of drone usage, particularly in the real estate industry, is one that has been the subject of much debate, particularly over the last year. Now, word has been released that a real estate agent in Tucson has been the first individual to receive a real estate permit by the Federal Aviation Administration. With the issuance of the permit, Doug Trudeau will be allowed to use a drone to photograph and video properties for sale. The permit will also provide Mr. Trudeau with the ability to offer his clients a value-added service. In the past, aerial photography has frequently been limited to the marketing of higher-end homes, in the $1 million and higher range simply due to the costs involved. In order to take advantage of aerial photography, clients typically needed to hire a pilot. This is a service that is often simply not within the budget of a client who is selling their home for $500,000 or less.

With aerial photography, it is possible to display a subject property within its community and truly provide a sense of that home's surroundings. This provides real estate agents, such as Trudeau, with the ability to provide clients with the best possible presentation for their property. Homes that are marketed with professional photographs often sell for a higher price than a home without such photographs.

The Debate Between the FAA and Drones

The FAA has been slow to provide such permits, citing concerns about invasion of privacy. Mr. Trudeau, who began using his drone in latte 2013 to take aerial shots of Tucson and the surrounding area, was notified by the FAA several months later that he was not allowed to use his drones for commercial purposes. He immediately sought the assistance of an attorney and began the process of seeking an exemption from the FAA. While the process was begun last summer, he only recently received approval.

All is not smooth sailing; however. Along with the approval, Trudeau received a list of requirements in order to operate the drone within the parameters of the FAA's approval. Among those requirements is passing a medical examination and acquiring a pilot's license. Trudeau will also be required to undergo flight services training and testing.

Impact of Drone Permits on the Real Estate Industry

Now that the first permit for the use of a drone in the real estate industry has been approved, there will doubtless be many other applications for such a permit and could open up the industry to more widespread use of drones. Should the use of drones in the real estate industry become more mainstream, it could significantly enhance the ability of real estate agents to provide their clients with improved marketing services.

While there have been reports that other real estate agents are using drones for their businesses, the FAA has been quick to point out that doing so without approval is illegal. Furthermore, violations can carry fines up to $10,000.